Read The Essays That Got These Women Into Harvard Business School

Bridging The Healthcare Gap

Home Country: India
Previous Industry: Pharmaceuticals/Consulting

Analysis: The author takes readers through key life-altering moments of her journey, from an emotionally challenging moment of overcoming the loss of a loved one and supporting her family to leading a large Asian pharma company’s foray into women’s healthcare. The author has made deep introspections at every turn that have helped shape her journey ahead. She has succinctly portrayed not only that her learnings have made her a well-rounded individual, but also how she was able to use her learnings to improve the lives of people in her society. She finally uses these learnings to tie herself to the larger goal of becoming a transformational leader in healthcare, effectively dove-tailing her learnings into her large mission.

An early influence on my worldview was my father. He was a Government official who was posted to different locations and hence I attended 12 schools across diverse [South Asian country] cities – from bustling cosmopolitans such as [South Asian city] to small towns such as [a small town in a South Asian country]. However, his boundless encouragement helped me adjust and even excel in unfamiliar school environments. His support provided a model of care, empathy and love which became ingrained in my values. Hence at 18, soon after joining college, I faced the biggest setback in my life when I lost my father to an unforeseen cardiac failure. The incident left our family with a $300/month pension for sustenance. While still reeling from his sudden death, my mother and I had to spend hours dealing with near-endless legal and bureaucratic formalities. Neither of us had been exposed to managing finances before and together we supported each other during difficult conversations with banks, insurance companies and lawyers. This exposure to how the “real” world worked jolted me into a mature outlook and added another lens to the way I processed my college experience at [a college in a South Asian country].

A powerful example occurred during my first year in college when I discovered that a cleaning lady in our dorm had been forced to borrow money from a loan shark for a health emergency and had fallen into a debt-trap. Speaking to other housekeeping staff revealed similar stories of no savings, insurance or credit access. Having recently been in a health-related financial crisis myself, I felt compelled to do something. Together with four friends from the [college club], I organized some basic information sessions on savings and health- insurance for the 70 informal workers in college. Further, our college principal arranged a tie-up with a local bank to open savings accounts for them. The college administration also directly paid the salaries of the dorm ladies into their accounts to encourage the adoption of banking services. We then partnered with [organization], [South Asian country]’s largest women-centric grassroots organisation, to provide low-cost insurance and loan products to our workers. Over two years, we scaled the program to 15 colleges in [South Asian country]. Today, after six years, the campaign reaches over 25,000 informal workers in ten [South Asian country] cities through savings and insurance boot camps. Having this kind of positive impact on the lives of so many underserved workers was a deeply satisfying experience for me and it set out the basics of what I wanted to accomplish during my working career.

I joined [large consulting firm] as a management consultant after college to gain exposure to best business practices across industries. An important part of my [consulting firm] experience was spending a year in [an African country] working on strategic sourcing and supply chain transformation engagements for major enterprises in the packaging and mining sectors. These experiences provided a steep learning curve and fostered a curiosity to solve diverse and complex business problems. However, after 2.5 years, I found myself wanting to apply these learnings in a higher impact space close to my heart. Hence when an opportunity to work as the Chief-of-staff to the CEO of [global healthcare company] came along, I jumped at it.
One terrifically exciting project at [company] was to expand [name of medication], our sole women’s health product, into a dedicated brand serving women. At the time, [medication] was parked in our huge gastro business under one division. This focused the management’s attention on the larger gastro portfolio and limited growth of the women’s health business. While evaluating [company]’s portfolio, I highlighted this to our CEO who subsequently decided to split the $100Mn division into two distinct business units. I led a 25-member team to execute the demerger and build the new women’s health team.

We mapped 2000 towns and 30000 doctors to 153 newly created sales headquarters. Splitting the 550-member sales force was particularly challenging as employees resisted moving into a new business unit to manage unfamiliar products. I collaborated with 70 regional managers to identify employees with relevant sector expertise and strong relationships with target doctors. We then convinced them to join the women’s health unit by providing early promotion and better incentives. The dedicated women’s health team launched 13 new products and expanded reach to 15000 additional doctors, helping extend care to women suffering from anemia, vitamin-deficiency, infertility and threatened- pregnancy. These initiatives increased annual growth of [company]’s women’s health business by XX% while expanding access to YYMn additional women patients. This experience gave me an insight into how healthcare organizations can create value for business while reaching underserved populations.

While I was advancing at [company], an impactful personal experience gave me a new perspective on healthcare delivery. During a regular medical check-up last year, my mom was unexpectedly diagnosed with [the disease]. Discussions with a colleague in [company]’s Metabolics team revealed that although the disease affects one-in-three [South Asian country] women, only 30% of that group seeks treatment, largely due to poor awareness and high cost. Over the next eight months, I helped begin several [company] initiatives to address this imbalance. Along with a five-member team, I studied patient profiles and identified women in the 25-45 age-group as most vulnerable to [the disease]. A pan-[South Asian country] survey of this cohort showed that patients failed to associate symptoms such as ‘weight gain’ and ‘fatigue’ to [the disease]. As an initial step, we launched a disease awareness campaign in 18 languages via television, digital media, SMS and mobile vans. Encouragingly, of the XXMn people reached, YYMn tweeted or messaged back enquiring about symptoms, prevention and nearby test centres.

Following-up on this ambitious start, I discovered a more revealing insight. My field-visits to rural [state in South Asian country] two months later showed that the diagnostic centres were distant and located in regions with poor infrastructure, frequent power-cuts and internet unavailability. To ameliorate that, we evaluated various health-tech solutions based on technical and cost criteria. After five months of pilot testing and product redesign, I led [company]’s partnership with [company], a health- tech start-up. The result was a smartphone-based solution to diagnose [The Disease] in 15 minutes at one-tenth the cost. Over the last year, [company] has used this technology to screen 80Mn+ lower-income [South Asian country] for [The Disease]. The experience introduced me to the power of innovation and fueled my desire to solve challenges in healthcare access through scalable technologies.

I aim to be a transformative healthcare leader, spearheading comprehensive-care models for the ~2Bn underserved people in emerging economies. I admire existing models such as [company]’s “[program]” that offers an integrated healthcare solution and “[healthcare company program]” which provides essential medicines to Governments and NGOs in low- income countries at greatly reduced prices. I hope to use such healthcare delivery models as a foundation for my goal.

At HBS, I hope to contribute to and learn from a diverse peer group that is equally motivated to solve meaningful problems. The Health Care Initiative will provide an ecosystem of resources and mentors to build valuable industry insights. The dynamics of the case method will hone my decision-making skills, shaping me into an evolved global leader. The healthcare gap in emerging economies is large, urgent, and obstinate – I want to equip myself to bridge it.

Comment: “It took me 25 days to write my essay. I began by reflecting on the critical milestones in my life. Creating a life map helped a lot and as I started looking at the key turning points/ life events in my personal journey, I asked myself how had each of those events shaped my thinking and perspective. This helped me to identify a common thread of key impactful experiences (personal and professional) that have shaped my personality. I let people (HBS seniors and friends) who were not from my industry to validate my essay to ensure that my story was simple and clear enough for anyone to understand. Through my story, I aimed to communicate the 3 values that HBS says its looking for – leadership, academic excellence and impact. Through feedback and iterations, I fine-tuned my story while ensuring that it remains personal and authentic. I linked these elements of my story in the interview going forward, which helped me pitch myself in a consistent way.”


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