Meet Toronto Rotman’s MBA Class Of 2021

Laura Guadalupe Chavira Razo

Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto

“Inquisitive researcher from head to toe. Passionate for innovation and materializing creative solutions for convoluted social problems.”

Hometown: Purépero, Michoacán, Mexico

Fun Fact About Yourself: I am very good at cooking tacos and traditional Mexican food, particularly recipes from my mother and my two grandmothers. I love sharing the flavors of my childhood with my friends in other Mexican states and other countries. So far, I have cooked tacos in Atlanta and Ann Arbor, and soon I will be cooking for my fellow Rotmanites in Toronto.

Undergraduate School and Major:

Universidad de Guadalajara, Doctor of Medicine

Instituto Nacional de Salud Pública de México, MSc in Health Systems

Most Recent Employer and Job Title:

Instituto Nacional de Salud Pública de México, Researcher

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: After conducting Public Health research in several topics for about two years, I realized that there was a gap between research findings and their translation into healthcare products and services. That made me curious about other approaches outside of academia with the potential to address this gap. I then found Design Thinking, a framework that had been mainly used in other areas, which seemed very promising to me. So, I took every opportunity I had to learn more about this approach (e.g., books, online courses, workshops, and diploma courses from different universities). With the knowledge I gained, I successfully introduced and lead the implementation of Design Thinking in an academic institution across seven research projects, including the design of a mobile application to improve medication adherence among gay men living with HIV in Mexico.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Besides being incredibly talented and diverse, I have been astonished by their passion for personal and peer growth. I can see not only their interest in acquiring knowledge and skills but also their excitement to advance in their careers while being challenged and exposed to multiple backgrounds; as well as to contribute to their peers’ journeys.

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? In addition to its focus on design and innovation, one of the most attractive components that I found was Rotman’s innovative problem-solving approach. Before applying, I spoke with current students who told me that Rotman’s approach reframed and enhanced the way they addressed business challenges. Since I want to boost and acquire new skills to address the highly convoluted problems in the healthcare provision business, I found that as a crucial element for my MBA training.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I can’t wait to join The Letters, which is the Rotman’s LGBTQ+ club. As a lesbian, I experienced inclusion and respect in my previous job. In general, I perceive that in Mexico there are still many challenges in workplaces and schools to acknowledge and provide safe spaces for their LGBTQ+ employees and students. For me, being part of such a club in a business school represents a unique opportunity to find and provide support and empowerment to other talented members of the community to thrive in our respective career paths.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? When the essay asked for my “spike factor”. It was such a complex question! At first, I questioned myself: Do I have such a thing? That sounded like having a super power or something like that, which I definitely didn’t have. But answering that question involved digging so deep into my story, acknowledging my roots, embracing my decisions and mistakes, and looking back to the circumstances that made the person that I am now. In the end, I not only knew that I had the “spike factor”, but also, I felt empowered, that I owned my story, and that I wanted to keep constructing it.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? My journey in healthcare has involved my enrollment in several functions, from a medical student to a physician, a government consultant, and, for the last five years, as a researcher.  I believe that the latter role gave me the main insights that guided me to an MBA.

As a Public Health researcher, I identified that the main products delivered in academia are scientific articles, conference presentations, and eventual influence in policymaking. All of them are incredibly important in healthcare. However, while designing interventions and exploring several innovation frameworks, I found myself passionate and interested in materializing research and evidence into products and services in health care delivery. I then started researching several graduate programs that could give me the skills that I needed. It took me almost two years, and many interviews and chats to find out that an MBA was the program that would help me accomplish my goal.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? University of Michigan, Ross School of Business

How did you determine your fit at various schools?  Because of the wide variety of business schools out there, I gathered information from different sources to make the most thoughtful decision. I considered not only my professional goals but my wife’s too (she was applying for a Ph.D.). I narrowed down my options by reviewing the schools’ rankings, their focus on healthcare and innovation, the courses they offered, and the quality of life of the city where they were located. After that, I went to MBA’s events in Mexico and attended online webinars, where I gathered more precise information on the schools (e.g., asking specific questions about their programs or the admission’s process). Then, I contacted people from Mexico, who were doing an MBA in North America, to know more about their experience in multiple schools. Finally, something crucial for me was the opportunity to feel the environment of my top school candidates and figure out in which ones I fit. So, I decided to do some ethnographic work by visiting six business schools in Canada and the United States. I also attended several classes and spoke with student ambassadors from different backgrounds. It was fascinating because it was so clear to me. I could identify the schools where I felt inspired and connected. After my research, I narrowed down my options from six to two.

After being accepted at both schools, other professional and personal factors entered in the equation. For example, the quality of life of each city, long term professional and family plans, and the fact that my partner and I wanted to live together this new journey.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? When I did my Master’s degree research, I wanted to assess the implementation of a national health policy focused on indigenous people. I interviewed a wide range of stakeholders, from the policymakers to the regional and local implementers. I also went to an indigenous community in a remote place in Puebla, Mexico to find out how the policy was reaching the population. I found that despite the goodwill, the policy was not addressing the actual needs of the people; they went in a different direction. That moment, while speaking with health services users, I found myself passionate about deepening into what moves people, what inspires and make them use or demand a specific service. That moment also awakened my interest in exploring other frameworks to design meaningful and useful interventions and services among marginalized populations.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? I see consolidating myself in a leadership position in a major healthcare organization, driving innovation in the provision of health care, and materializing new products and services in healthcare delivery.

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