Meet The Michigan Ross MBA Class Of 2021

Balaji Pandian

Ross School of Business, University of Michigan

Describe yourself in 15 words or less: Computer scientist turned medical student innovating at the intersection of business, technology, and medicine.

Hometown: Farmington Hills, MI

Fun Fact About Yourself: I love transportation – I’m a sailor, pilot, road biker, and motorcyclist.

Undergraduate School and Major:

  • Harvard University, B.A. Computer Science 2015
  • University of Michigan School of Medicine, M.D. (expected in 2021)

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Head of Artificial Intelligence at Invenio Imaging Inc. (a Silicon Valley medical device startup)

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: During medical school, one of my good friends and I discovered an outdated software system that handled the genetic sequencing and analysis of cancer patients. Believing that we could create a significantly better system, we formed a company, pitched our product, and ultimately sold our solution to the university. While incredibly taxing, founding this company provided a first-hand experience of the difficulties of both creating a company as well as working with healthcare systems. I am enormously proud of our product and the fact that our system aids in the care of real cancer patients.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Ross students truly embody the saying, “Work hard, play hard.” Having many friends who are currently MBA2s, I have tagged along to the winter ski trip, Thursday night happy hours, and various case competitions. Ross students are engaging inside and outside the classroom. I have been impressed with the variety of backgrounds of the student body, from NGO directors to startup founders to financial traders.

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 chose Ross because of its vast interdisciplinary network of faculty and students. Ross is attached to top-tier medical, engineering, law, and public health schools (to only name a few). As I founded my own company prior to matriculating to Ross, I was blown away with the breadth of opportunities that this network provided. I was able to meet with students and faculty in the Zell Lurie Institute to discuss entrepreneurial strategies as well as Michigan MD/MBAs and JD/MBAs, who provided enormous medical and legal direction to our company. Even reaching outside of Ann Arbor, it is incredibly easy to find Ross alumni to connect with at any company.

Last but not least, it would be foolish to turn down another year of Michigan football season tickets!

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I am most looking forward to the MAP (Multidisciplinary Action Project). Applying the academic knowledge and skills over the first few semesters of school to a real-world problem is an amazing opportunity to solidify understanding as well as contribute solutions to a real-world problem.

I am also excited to join the Healthcare and Life Sciences Club and Maize and Brew, which is “devoted to enjoying and appreciating beer.”

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? “Describe a perfect hospital” – After talking about my passion in the healthcare space and the various inefficiencies and pitfalls of modern healthcare, I was asked to describe my version of a perfect hospital. In that moment, I could envision thousands of diagrams and operating protocols but still be nowhere close to a functional healthcare system, let alone a perfect one. Weighing the sometimes-competing interests of patients, providers, and payers, I am hoping my MBA coursework will help me find a better answer to this question.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I have a unique background in computer science and medicine and my experiences in med-tech have taught me that the most successful innovations occur with a more nuanced understanding of the business between these fields. I am pursuing an MBA to connect my technology background with the realities of modern medicine to better design, implement, and utilize technology for both patients and providers of the future.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Only Michigan Ross – As a current student at the University of Michigan Medical School, I have worked closely with Ross faculty and students in various capacities. I thought about applying to several other programs, but I knew that I would not only get a top-notch education and experience and also build lasting friendships for the rest of my personal and professional life through the MD/MBA dual-degree program.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? I prioritized schools that had a component of hands-on experiential learning in conjunction with rigorous academic education. Throughout my career, I have grown the most when I can apply knowledge and skills in real-world settings. The MAP program sets Michigan Ross apart in this regard. I also searched for schools that have strong professional associations with other disciplines like engineering, medicine, and law. Finally, Michigan has been very generous with scholarships, which made it an easy financial decision.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? My defining moment was meeting my roommates during my first semester at Harvard. I had grown up with strict immigrant parents in suburban Michigan. Like many college students, this was my first time experiencing the world on my own. My new roommates were from all corners of the world and all socioeconomic backgrounds. They inspired me to think more broadly about the world and to believe in my own potential to affect change. We ended up living together for four years. To this day, we continue to support and challenge each other to push the boundaries of our respective fields – whether that’s becoming the head coach of an NBA team, creating the next best-selling video game, or transforming healthcare.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? I see myself as a practicing physician, actively involved in research and entrepreneurship, spinning off companies that improve the quality and accessibility of healthcare.

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