“I like learning about other people’s stories, and am still working to create my own.”
Hometown: Greenville, SC
Fun Fact About Yourself: I’m learning how to swim this year.
Undergraduate School and Major: Duke University, Bachelor of Arts in Cultural Anthropology; The Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, MD Candidate
Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Duke Global Health Institute, Research Assistant
Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I was awarded a grant to conduct research on a project I developed centered on sickle cell disease in Nigeria. As a Nigerian-American, I live my life constantly aware of the immense privilege I have been afforded that shields me from experiencing the daily challenges faced by my relatives abroad. Not only was it an honor for my project to be awarded funding, it was really incredible to be working alongside such dedicated hematologists on a project to which I have such a personal connection.
What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? My classmates are incredibly conscious. It has been refreshing to meet people who see the value of bringing social impact and responsibility to the world of business.
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? It was really important to me to go to a business school where I would not feel like a complete outsider as someone coming from a non-traditional background. In that respect, Tuck has so many qualities that make me feel like there is no such thing as a “traditional business school student.” Tuck has a diverse, tight-knit class that welcomes students who hail from various backgrounds and are embarking on creative journeys. Tuck is a place where I can both create and discover my own opportunities to pursue the kind of career I want.
What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I have lived in Hanover for three years already and have yet to embrace winter sports! I do not think I will ever have as big an opportunity to play hockey and go skiing as I do here, and luckily Tuck creates several avenues for that through tripod hockey (I admittedly cannot ice skate), and other sporting groups. After three years of reluctance, I am ready to step out of my comfort-zone and let my inner New-Englander thrive.
What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I realized that in order to solve many of the difficulties facing patients and providers that bother me the most, I will need a set of skills that go far beyond the ones I will develop as a doctor. Many of the battles that are being fought in this country surrounding affordability of healthcare resonate in other parts of the globe as well, although they may manifest differently because of geopolitical and infrastructural influences. I eventually want to be able to leverage my medical and business degrees to identify and create private sector opportunities that meet the lack of availability of healthcare resources both in the U.S. and in the developing world. With a medical degree alone, I would have less knowledge about how healthcare is financed; how to find and navigate viable business opportunities in a developing economy; and the language to be able to negotiate with potential stakeholders. By attending business school, I will have the opportunity to find multidisciplinary ways to tackle some of the most complex challenges of healthcare.
How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? For me, it was never a question of whether or not to get the MBA, it was more of a question of when it would be most useful. Ultimately, I decided that down the line it would be more difficult for me to step away from clinical practice to pursue an MBA. If I really wanted an MBA, I had to do it at a time in my life where I could pursue it whole-heartedly.
What other MBA programs did you apply to? I only applied to Tuck because it was the perfect fit for me!
How did you determine your fit at various schools? When making my decision, it was important to me that I would have the flexibility necessary to be a business school student whilst being a medical school student. It was important that my final year of the dual degree be very integrated, and Tuck has created a very well-molded, and inclusive environment for its MD-MBA students. I also value Tuck’s emphasis on global experiences and was happy to see that I could combine my interests in emerging markets with healthcare through the curriculum.
Additionally, I had the luxury of getting to talk to many of the students that I already knew at Tuck from my time in Hanover as a medical student. All of the students I talked to only had good things to say about Tuck, and confirmed my desire to apply.
What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? Before coming to medical school, I went by “Jessica,” which is my middle name. “Ijele” is my first name, which I had never used up until about three years ago. A part of me always resented the fact that I went along with people referring to me by my middle name, which was easier for everyone else to pronounce. Choosing to go by my first name was such a defining moment for me as a person because my identity as a Nigerian-American is such an important part of who I am, and what I want my life to be centered upon. “Ijele” is an unusual name even for Nigerians, and it has emboldened me to be different and to be confident in the choices that I make.
What do you plan to do after you graduate? After I graduate, I plan to pursue a residency in Internal Medicine and possibly a fellowship in Hematology-Oncology.
Where do you see yourself in five years? In five years, I will just be graduating from residency, and either continuing clinical training in hematology or transitioning into more administrative roles within healthcare.