Meet the MBA Class of 2023: Eliza Johnson, Duke University (Fuqua)

Eliza Johnson

Duke University, Fuqua School of Business

“Public health optimist, advocating for stronger health care systems.”

Hometown: Sedro-Woolley, WA

Fun Fact About Yourself: My favorite vacations are road-trips through rural America, and my favorite part is driving all day by myself. I’ve never had a car, so driving is thrilling, especially on the open road.

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Washington, Social Sciences

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Self-employed, global health and philanthropy consulting

The MBA program is renowned for its “Team Fuqua” culture, which is predicated on six paired principles: Authentic Engagement, Supportive Ambition, Collective Diversity, Impactful Stewardship, Loyal Community, and Uncompromising Integrity. Which of these resonates most with you – and what does that principle demand of you as a Fuqua MBA? Loyal community. Before orientation, I had already met more than 100 classmates through Fuqua-initiated efforts and through social channels. From day one, we’ve been helping each other with early recruiting, finding resources, and discussing the pre-work, as well as meeting up for hikes and meals. As part of this loyal community, I see it as my duty to help my classmates feel welcome and included.

What word best describes the Fuqua MBA students and alumni you’ve met so far and why? Humble. In the Health Sector Management (HSM) bootcamp, there was an extraordinary amount of expertise in the room, from all different sectors and especially in health-related sectors. Yet everybody’s perspective felt welcome and no question was too elementary for the class to thoughtfully consider and debate.

Aside from your classmates and school culture, what was the key part of Duke Fuqua’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? When I saw that the Health Sector Management program’s Faculty Director, David Ridley, had proposed the priority review voucher program to encourage development of drugs and vaccines for neglected diseases, I knew that Fuqua was the right environment for me to make my career shift into the private sector while working to make a meaningful social impact.

What course, club or activity excites you the most at Duke Fuqua? I’m excited to be part of the Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE) and work with classmates and faculty to think creatively about social impact. With my background working in NGOs and in the social sector, I believe this will also be a part of Fuqua where I can contribute more towards my classmates’ learning experience and help them break into the social impact sector.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I had the opportunity to work with the World Health Organization (WHO) AFRO in resource mobilization and advocacy for their neglected tropical diseases elimination program. I had become passionate about this issue area after meeting people whose lives were impacted by these diseases in Zambia. With WHO AFRO, our fundraising goals were modest, but I encouraged my team to aim higher to take advantage of the opportunity to make a real impact in eliminating these diseases. We raised $45M – enabling WHO AFRO to scale up treatment for 42 million people in 751 districts across 23 African countries.

How did COVID-19 change your perspective on your career and your life in general? COVID got me to refocus on the populations that are so often left behind in the U.S. I grew up in a low-income rural area in Washington State, and could see the gaps in our health care system for people who live in these health care deserts. In 2020, I started volunteering with the Red Cross community partnerships team to understand the resources available throughout Washington State, and how organizations were working together to serve people. After seeing how fragmented health systems were in my own state, I wanted to be more involved in tactically improving health systems in my own community and implementing lessons learned from global health.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation? Working in philanthropy and in global health, the biggest social impact returns were in projects that involved partnerships between public entities and private businesses. I want to shift from the public sector to the private sector to fully comprehend what it takes to strengthen U.S. health systems to deliver benefits at scale.

As far as target roles, I’m currently curious about exploring corporate development in U.S. health systems and will look for opportunities where I can gain exposure to mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and corporate venture capital (VC) in health-focused companies, so that I can drive innovation and investment to eliminate disparities in health and health care.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Indiana University, Georgetown, Emory, and Yale

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Duke Fuqua’s MBA program? Fuqua’s focus on DQ, Decency Quotient, is key. Strong applicants will build a narrative on how they use their personal judgment and commitment to serve their community, no matter where they are.


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