Meet the MBA Class of 2021: Vatshalan Santhirapala, Imperial College

Vatshalan Santhirapala

Imperial College Business School

“On a lifelong quest for Ikigai.”

Hometown: London, United Kingdom

Fun Fact About Yourself: In an alternate reality. I would have been a marine biologist

Undergraduate School and Major: Medicine (MBBS BSc) Imperial College London, Master of Public Health (MPH) Harvard University

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Harvard Medical School, Senior Research Fellow

Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of Imperial’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school? Why was it so important to you? Imperial College Business School prides itself on impressing upon each student the vision for sustainability in business. As a COVID-19 cohort of MBA students, it is crucial we consider the impact of commercial practices on ecology and humanity. Furthermore, investment returns in the areas of clean tech and renewables demonstrates that sustainability can be a raison d’etre for business rather than a moral judgement or a “nice to have”. Beyond sustainability, Imperial uniquely has some of the smartest minds in technology, engineering, and medicine on its doorstep. If you want to innovate in these industries, this is the place to be.

What club or extracurricular activity excites you most at this school? The Africa Business Club. Economies in Sub-Saharan Africa are set to industrialise and expand rapidly over the next two decades. Among African nations, Rwanda stands as testament to the role of peace and governance in catalysing economic gains and thereby societal well-being. I’m keen to learn more about the various cultures and business trends in this part of the world.

What makes London such a great place to earn an MBA? How have you taken advantage of London to further your business education? London is one of the few truly global cities in the world, providing endless possibilities to capture your imagination. Imperial sits adjacent to the museum quarter of South Kensington with the Victoria & Albert Museum being a personal favourite to visit when I have writer’s block.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Working with Ashwini hospital in the Nilgiri Mountains of India to design novel models of anesthesia care delivery and improve access to safe surgery for the local tribal population. The experience completely re-framed my view of “global health” and delivered tangible impact for the end users of the health service.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? Having spent a number of years working in healthcare as a physician and academic researcher, I was passionate about improving health systems, but recognised the mechanism for change sat proximal to where I worked. With my MBA, I hope to develop a broad executive skillset that enables me to create and scale innovative solutions for the healthcare industry.

What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? Two memorable moments are walking through the doorway of Harvard’s School of Public Health as a graduate student and an afternoon spent having lunch at the Kennedy Compound (Hyannis Port) reflecting on the life lessons of President Kennedy. These surreal experiences effectively broke any notion of a glass ceiling that I may have held before.


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