Meet Wharton’s MBA Class Of 2021

Chiaka Aribeana

The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania

“A compassionate, humble knowledge-seeker who is passionate about medicine and improving the lives of others.”

Hometown: Pompano Beach, Florida

Fun Fact About Yourself:  My current love for weightlifting originated in high school when I was recruited to the Varsity Women’s Weightlifting team. Honestly, I joined the team just to get out of our gym class requirement, but somehow ended up falling in love with lifting weights in the process.

Undergraduate School and Major: Harvard University, Molecular and Cellular Biology; Stanford University School of Medicine

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Medical Student at Stanford Medical School

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My biggest accomplishment thus far has serving as the Manager of the Cardiology Free Clinic at Stanford for uninsured patients. I developed an interest in the study of health disparities as an undergraduate, which I continued to explore as a medical student at Stanford. As I became more involved in community work around Palo Alto, I gained first-hand exposure to the complex ways in which race, socioeconomic status, and immigration status contributed to the drastic health disparities present just outside of Stanford’s campus. In my first significant management role, I was able to oversee clinical operations and provide much needed preventative and diagnostic cardiovascular care to the underserved communities in East Palo Alto.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? DIVERSE. In the short time that I’ve gotten to know some of my classmates, I’ve met people from several different countries around the world and a variety of industries. They bring so many unique personal interests and secret talents. It is clear that Wharton took the time to evaluate all of us beyond just the numbers in our applications. They really tried to carefully craft our class by encompassing our personal stories and experiences to produce an immensely diverse group of individuals.

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 ultimately chose Wharton because it is home to one of the most renowned and comprehensive health care management programs in the world. I knew that in my future career as a physician and a business professional, the Wharton Health Care Management (HCM) program would effectively position me to make a significant impact in the health care space that I envision and provide me with ample tools necessary to do so. Additionally, being a part of the HCM program provides me with access to an extensive alumni network comprised of individuals who are radically transforming the field of health care. The HCM network is truly unmatched and I knew that this valuable source of potential mentors was unique to the program at Wharton.

Talk to us about the team-based project you completed during the application process. What did you do that helped you stand out during it? In my preparation for the team-based project, I tried to draw on one of my strengths from my previous experiences working in groups: being the integrator. When working in teams, it is normal to have several people expressing seemingly disparate viewpoints and ideas. During my team-based project, I was able to integrate my teammates’ ideas by pointing out similarities and facilitating compromise whenever conflicts arose, which helped move the group toward a cohesive idea that incorporated each team member’s contributions. I think serving in this role, as opposed to one of the more “defined” roles of taking notes or monitoring the time, really helped me stand out as an active team player.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? For somewhat obvious reasons, I want to say I’m looking forward to participating in the Health Care Club. Outside of healthcare though, I love to dance! So additionally, I am excited to participate in Wharton Dance Studio. I think it will be a fun and challenging experience (because I’m not sure how great I am at choreographed dancing), but judging from last year’s production, this year will be even more amazing.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? I remember being asked, “Coming from another graduate program, many of your classmates will have more work experience than you. How will you handle that?” I found this question challenging because it touched on something that, admittedly, I had concerns about. However, since I received the invitation to interview, I knew that Wharton saw the value of the experiences that I could contribute to my class, which gave me the confidence to tackle this question. Ultimately, each of us brings our unique experiences and expertise in our various areas of work or study to the incoming class, and I was no exception. I knew that I had knowledge and skill sets that I could share with my classmates and, most importantly, I was looking forward to learning from and with my Wharton classmates.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? While completing my clinical rotations in medical school, I started to think deeply about how I envisioned my future career and the scope of the contribution I hoped to make in the medical world. I realized that while I enjoyed the patient-physician interaction, I wanted to find a way to impact more than just one patient during any given clinical encounter. Additionally, as I evaluated my medical education up to that point, I noticed a definite focus on anatomy and physiology and the diagnosis and treatment of disease. However, there was very little focus on management and leadership training, which are notoriously absent in medical trainee programs. I chose to pursue an MBA at this point because I wanted to fill this gap in my skill set and embark on a journey that would allow me to develop a new way of thinking and an alternative framework for dealing with complex healthcare problems that require unique solutions. With the combined training in medicine and management, I hope to be able to create a large-scale impact on the field of healthcare, to reach many more patients than I’d be able to see one-on-one.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Harvard Business School, Stanford GSB, NYU Stern, Chicago Booth, Columbia Business School

How did you determine your fit at various schools? When determining my fit at a school, I prioritized the people and culture of the school, the availability of coursework and programs relevant to my interests, and the geographic location. I did a lot of research online, using the school websites and websites such as Poets & Quants to gather as much information as I could on each institution. Campus visits also really helped me narrow down my decision. I made it a priority to visit the schools that I knew that I would be most interested in attending, where I was able to interact with current students who shared similar academic and social interests and faculty who taught the classes I’d be interested in taking – while also getting a taste of the school’s culture. Specifically at Wharton, I was able to speak with June Kinney and others in the Health Care Management program, which really helped me determine that the program at Wharton was the right fit for me.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? As I was beginning my clinical rotations after my second year of medical school, I unexpectedly fell ill and found myself being treated in the same hospital where I was supposed to be seeing patients. It was the first time in my life that I had the experience of being on the receiving end of patient care in a hospital and it totally changed the way that I practiced medicine going forward. During my inpatient stay, I experienced how helpless and confused patients can feel, especially when they don’t completely understand their condition or what is being done to treat it. Even as a highly literate medical student, I found myself feeling disappointed at my lack of understanding regarding my treatment plan. Following this experience, I personally prioritized advocacy on behalf of my patients and I encouraged the medical teams I worked with to take steps to improve the inpatient experiences of their patients. I believe this has made me a better, more patient-focused practitioner and I will continue to draw on my own hospital experience to learn how to better serve my patients in the future.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? In ten years, I see myself as a practicing physician with a high-level administrative role. As both a clinician and business leader, I will be able to understand the challenges faced by clinical staff while also possessing the business insight necessary to create policies and regulations that will improve patient outcomes and serve as a model to promote health equity nationwide. Additionally, I see myself integrating technology in healthcare through medical innovation to address future health challenges.

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