Meet Yale SOM’s MBA Class Of 2020

Gus Roman

Yale School of Management (Plus Yale School of Public Health – MBA/MPH Dual Degree)

“Tireless soul, curious about human nature, constantly saying yes to new adventures/building my own.”

Hometown: Randolph, New Jersey (My parents immigrated from Medellín, Colombia, which I’m a bit prouder of)

Fun Fact About Yourself: Can’t remember spending a full week in one bed in 2018—and for the first four months, it was no more than four days a week in the same place. My most memorable recent travel was going to a good friend’s Indian wedding in Bangalore, where we squeezed (literally, in many tuk-tuks) five cities in South India into a two-week period. One of the highlights was hosteling in Goa with the bride and groom, plus 20 close friends with an armada of scooters, and a neighborhood of friendly wild dogs. During my 18-hour commute back, after reading through a few books on a layover in Ahu Dubai, I found and submitted a quote by Elon Musk due as part of my SOM interview, which was less than 72 hours away— it all ended up working out!

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Pennsylvania, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering with a concentration in Pharmaceuticals and Biotechnology.

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Consultant at Acsel Health, a boutique pharmaceutical consulting firm based in New York.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Partaking in a NYC City Council Campaign as Chief of Staff for a mentor of mine, Pierre Gooding, within the GoodingforHarlem campaign. We assembled a five-person team consisting of my talented friends and former classmates and ran numerous get-out-the vote initiatives including a social media campaign that reached 40K+ community members. We ended up losing to the incumbent, but we will take our learnings into our next campaign in four years!

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Genuinely curious and active listeners. Everyone I have met here has a genuine interest in what you are passionate about and asks meaningful questions to try to understand your motivations. Even before coming here, many of my future classmates connected me to people with similar passions within the program and beyond. The community felt incredibly welcoming, even before I arrived campus. From the start, the community had a cohesive feel. Yale catalyzes this due to its smaller, tighter-knit class, in which resources and opportunities abound for every single person. I never felt like just a number during the application process.

Aside from your classmates, what was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? I narrowed down my list to top schools with strong healthcare programs, which I initially identified as those with an MBA healthcare major or concentration. Yale took a different approach that I quickly found out about, with a unique two-year accelerated MBA/MPH program. After speaking to Dr. Howard Forman, the director of the program and leader of many healthcare initiatives at Yale, I quickly realized it was the perfect fit for my academic and professional interests, and went above and beyond my original intent of getting a healthcare-focused MBA. During my conversation with Howard, we didn’t waste time with pleasantries; instead, we dove straight into talking about potential opportunities and solutions within healthcare—a discussion that went much deeper than the traditional issues-ridden rant. Howard also constantly tied in his current and former students’ successes, and it was abundantly clear that he devoted significant time and resources to every single one of the students he mentored.  He identified opportunities for me that I didn’t even know existed at the time, and that matched my professional goals. Ultimately, I felt encouraged by Howard and by everyone I met on campus, that the program and the community really do truly care about my passions, and will help me to reach them—just as I hope to do for them.

Another key factor in choosing Yale was its up-and-coming status within top business schools. As a first-generation American who had to continually hustle throughout my life, it resonated with me that Yale is clearly and consistently investing significant resources to build out SOM to be the best it can be. The first sign of this was the striking, still-fresh Evans Hall with its modernistic feel, which provides an appropriate contrast to the larger campus’ neo-Gothic style. Even the accelerated MBA/MPH program I am a part of was just started in 2014! Although it may not have a long history like many other top-tier business schools, at Yale, I feel that there is a unique opportunity to build out new initiatives that have a lasting impact, and I hope to help accelerate Yale’s growth and reputation as an involved student.

Last, I was attracted by Yale’s global focus, as evidenced by its introduction of the Global Network for Advanced Management, and its sponsorship of an International Experience as part of the degree. As someone who loves to travel, and who believes that the best way to gain self-awareness and wisdom is through experiencing new cultures, it is awesome that Yale appreciates and encourages this. Every Yalie I have met has so many stories of all of their adventures throughout the world with their like-minded classmates!

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? There are many strong healthcare initiatives that I am looking forward to partaking in and, I hope, helping to develop and organize.  Specifically, I was happy to be chosen to be the logistic director for Yale’s National Healthcare Services Case Conference this fall—its first ever iteration. I also hope to participate in organizing the Yale Healthcare conference in the spring, which I was able to make it to last year as an incoming student, and at which I met many of my future classmates with similar aspirations.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I truly enjoyed my experiences within pharmaceutical consulting, specifically learning about healthcare policy and gaining insight into the drivers of the key stakeholders within healthcare. However, I did not love knowing that at the end of the day, I was an agent of big pharma. I believed that an MBA would re-accelerate my learning trajectory and satiate my desire to approach healthcare from a different perspective, ideally within an organization that encourages the concept of value within the U.S. healthcare system.

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? Personally, as an engineering undergraduate originally interested in medicine, I did not take any business electives besides a few introductory economics classes. After learning many of these concepts on the job as a consultant, I definitely started appreciating the value of learning business fundamentals within the structured environment of a MBA program.

Furthermore, as a UPenn graduate with friends excelling in many initiatives all over the world, I appreciated the value of a strong network, both in the professional sense and in the ability to always have a couch to crash on when I traveled to almost any city. Thus, I decided that an MBA would be worth the investment, specifically if it was a strong program with a healthcare component that would catalyze my goals and expand my network. Also, I like to say that “Future Gus takes care of Current Gus,” and I hope I’ll have a couch to crash on during my travels to any city!

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Columbia and Wharton.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? The first cut for me was healthcare-based, and I eliminated schools where this was not a focus. Also, I was fortunate to have many friends and friends of friends at top business schools whom I spoke to candidly about campus culture.

After many phone conversations that led to coffee chats that led to in-person visits, I went with a high-touch approach. I visited each of my top schools, sat in on classes, talked to current students about their thoughts on their own and other schools, and spoke to the directors of the healthcare-focused MBA programs. I cared much more about what my peers and mentors said than what the internet semi-arbitrarily defined. Due to the competitive nature of the application process, I did not marry myself to any particular school, but I can enthusiastically attest that I believe it all worked out for the best.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? A few come to mind, but one particularly jarring moment came when I was volunteering as an EMT during high school. Responding to a call in the middle of the night from a nursing home, we arrived on the scene to find an unresponsive elderly woman in bed. My supervisor did the initial assessment, and quietly told the squad members that the woman had been dead for several hours, despite the fact that we had responded to the call within minutes. It was frustrating for me and my squad mates to know that there was nothing we could have done to change that outcome. From that moment on, healthcare became my calling—a calling also driven by my aptitude for math and sciences.  t that point, this goal manifested itself with the desire to become a doctor. However, an aggregation of other experiences, such as volunteering within healthcare organizations, and talking to practicing doctors who echoed the frustrations of feeling unable to enact change on the front lines, caused this initial aim to evolve. I started to believe that there was greater opportunity to drive impact on an organizational level, which could positively influence the healthcare environment from the top down. I also saw opportunities to aid in the process of restructuring the environment into a more sustainable healthcare model with outcomes that reflect the United States’ top position in technology platforms and pharmaceutical research.

What do you plan to do after you graduate? I would love to work for either a New York City or San Francisco–based venture capital firm with a strong healthcare focus, and an ideology of investing in companies that have a net impact on the healthcare environment by improving quality of care while focusing on improving the system. I believe there is a large opportunity in the U.S., evidenced by our ~18% of GDP spend on healthcare, and the enormous discrepancy between our ranking on spend and middle-of-the-pack ranking in quality of care metrics.

Where do you see yourself in five years? Ideally, it would be running my own digital health startup. I would love to say exactly what I will be focusing on, and I do have some ideas. However, my goal is to monitor the pulse of the ever-evolving healthcare environment and budding new companies and ideas, and to seize upon a yet-to-be identified pioneering idea, as well as to motivate talented Yale and UPenn classmates to join the endeavor.

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