2024 Best & Brightest MBA: Richard Balagtas, UCLA (Anderson)

Richard Balagtas

UCLA, Anderson School of Management

“New Yorker living in LA passionate about bringing transformative, life-saving medicines to patients worldwide.”

Hometown: New York, NY

Fun fact about yourself: Semi-professional magician with a repertoire of 20+ card tricks! I originally learned magic as a medium to better communicate with adolescent patients when learning about their disease journeys as a consultant for biopharmaceutical companies. It’s often scary and challenging for children to have to share what it’s like to live with chronic diseases. Performing magic for these patients helped to make me and the storytelling more approachable and allowed our team to better learn more about the day-to-day experiences of these patients.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Boston College, BA in Political Science and BA in Philosophy. Honors thesis in Philosophy on the medical and ethical challenges of illicit organ trafficking.

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Director at VOZ Advisors – a 30-employee, $15mm consulting firm focused on patient advocacy and engagement strategy for biotech and biopharmaceutical companies in the US and abroad. During my four years here, I had the chance to guide patient advocacy launch and market shaping efforts for 10 new drugs and indication expansions across multiple therapeutic areas and clients.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2023? I interned with Amgen this past summer as a summer intern in their Commercial Leadership Program (CLP).

Where will you be working after graduation? After Anderson, I’ll be returning to Amgen to join their Commercial Leadership Program full-time.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

UCLA Anderson Leadership:

  • Executive Vice President, Healthcare Business Association (HBA)
  • Co-President, Asian Management Student Association (AMSA)
  • Vice President-Admitted Events, Admissions Ambassador Corps (AAC)
  • Previously Section A President, Anderson Student Association (ASA)

UCLA Anderson Awards/Honors

  • UCLA Anderson Dean’s Scholar (top 10% of class by GPA)
  • Anderson Exceptional Student Fellowship

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? This past February 2024, our Healthcare Business Association organized the 10-year anniversary of our annual Southern California healthcare conference known as VITALs. This year’s theme was “Accelerating the Future of Health Tech Innovation” featuring industry leaders from Verily, Johnson & Johnson, OURA, Intuitive, and Medtronic. It also included a special keynote from Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel (Vice Provost for Global Initiatives, UPenn and former advisor to the Obama Administration) and a special tribute honoring the past 10-HBA Presidents at Anderson. As a 100% student-organized and led conference, I’m incredibly proud of our team’s efforts to bring this fully sold-out conference back to an in-person setting after two-years of virtual programming due to COVID. I’m hopeful that our efforts will continue to shape the future of healthcare at Anderson and support the school’s effort to position itself as a leader in this transformative industry.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? During my time in consulting, I worked with a biopharma company to develop a new patient reported outcome measurement (PROM) questionnaire to be used by transplant patients enrolled in clinical trials. The goal of this new PROM was to evaluate the cognitive and physical burden that new treatments and therapies might have on transplant patients. I’m particularly proud of this project because of the potential benefit it could have for all future clinical trials investigating new medicines for generations of transplant patients.

Why did you choose this business school? UCLA Anderson’s commitment to Shared Success was particularly motivating for me. Healthcare is an incredibly cross-functional, team-oriented industry and I wanted to attend a business school that was known for fostering teamwork and collaboration. Anderson’s core value of Shared Success manifests itself in an incredibly non-competitive, kind, and empowering student body that goes above-and-beyond to support one another as we pursue our professional ambitions and personal leadership development.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite professor at UCLA Anderson is Hal Hershfield. In addition to joining his Marketing Management class in year one, Professor Hershfield is also directing my master’s thesis class in the Business of Behavior Change, where we evaluate the impact of behavior change interventions in management and marketing decisions. My team is developing an app to help folks break out of their routines and more easily integrate and form new hobbies and activities to change up their month-to-month lifestyles.

What was your favorite course as an MBA? My favorite course was my General Management class taught by Professor Ian Larkin. I love how much this class pressure tests different strategies and crisis management scenarios by placing students at the center of difficult, trade-off inducing situations. We’ll often be revealed more complex pieces of company information/insight as the class goes on – further adding complexity to the situation at hand and challenging our previous solutions/assumptions.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? My favorite MBA event at Anderson are our admitted student weekends – AROW (Anderson Round One Weekend) and A-Days (Anderson Admit Days). I joined A-Days when I was a prospective student and met many of my closest friends at Anderson to this day. I just loved how the 1st years and 2nd years came together to get us excited about joining Anderson and showcasing all the wonderful classes, clubs, and UCLA specific traditions with us even before we enrolled. These weekends emphasized all that is wonderful about the student body here at Anderson and I’m honored to be part of the committee that organizes these weekends now, paying it forward for future classes!

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? The one thing I would do differently about my MBA would be to participate in a global immersion course. Anderson offers several opportunities to travel abroad with your class to learn about unique business challenges and considerations in countries including Singapore, Dubai, and India. It would have been great to participate in these, but my personal life schedule just didn’t align well with the travel dates!

What is the biggest myth about your school? Anderson is known for its number-one ranked Parker Career Management Center which definitely lives up to its reputation. Parker collaborates with our professional clubs on campus such as Healthcare Business Association (HBA) to host company information sessions, our company Career Night, and our Days-On-The-Jobs week where students in partnership with Parker organize on-site visits to several companies. Parker’s motto is to “Trust the process” and to “Do the work”. This encourages students to practice patience but also diligence in their preparation towards recruiting!

What did you love most about your business school’s town? Coming from New York City, my wife and I knew we wanted to be in a big city where we could also easily walk to restaurants and stores versus having to drive everywhere. We’re so lucky to be residing in Sawtelle, a short walk away from Japantown, which is full of great restaurants, boba tea shops, coffee joints, and shopping areas. As cliché as it is, I also love the weather here in LA – hard to beat 72 degrees in the winter having grown up in the East Coast – perfect for walking our 4-month-old puppy, Yumi.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Caroline Holte, President of Healthcare Business Association, is someone I’m proud to admire and call a close friend.

I’ll always remember how we first met. It was in the healthcare careers breakout room during A-Days, where we instantly hit it off (another great reason to attend admitted student events!). Working alongside Caroline to grow healthcare at Anderson will always be one of the most enjoyable memories of my time at UCLA. From helping each other prepare for behavioral interviews as 1st years to running HBA together, we often joke that we spend more time talking with each other than our respective partners.

Caroline is incredibly driven and fearless – unafraid to challenge the status quo if it doesn’t meet the needs of our students and more importantly, if we can come up with a better solution. Caroline is also an incredibly kind and curious individual – she’s the type of person who will strike up a conversation with strangers during an elevator ride and invite them over for drinks afterwards. It’s that contagious positive energy and friendliness that makes Caroline an excellent relationship builder and connector. Her personal network played a large part in the success of our VITALs Healthcare Conference. I would describe her leadership style as one that empowers others to perform to the best of their abilities – she makes you want to impress and do more than you maybe thought you could because she genuinely believes you are capable of greatness. I’m proud to have known her and grateful for her friendship.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? I’d love to lead all commercial marketing activities for a biopharma company outside the United States. I’ve always valued the importance of global experience having studied abroad in Kuwait during undergrad and completing my Fulbright Research Grant in public health in the Philippines. It would be great to live abroad again and have the chance to positively impact healthcare across multiple countries.

In the long-term, I’m also interested in supporting the formation of new biotech start-ups. I think it would be excellent to give back to this community by joining a PE firm as a mentor to guide the strategic formation and direction of pre-commercial biotech firms and be able to impart any wisdom I can from my experience in industry.

What made Richard such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2024?

“I first met Richard as an Admit during Anderson Days in spring prior to start of his MBA program. His confidence and strong communications skills stood out right away as well as his clear vision and career plan to transition from his life sciences consulting background to a commercial leadership development program at a bio-pharmaceutical company. He specifically saw and understood how UCLA Anderson would help him make that transition and what value he can bring with his background. During his first year, he actively participated and contributed to various career programming including the Parker Career Series, Healthcare Anderson Career Teams, as well as getting deeply involved in the Healthcare Business Association (HBA). In each advising appointment I had with Richard, he came in fully prepared and took each meeting thoughtfully and seriously whether it was for a resume review, interview prep or offer/decision-making. At the same time, he had an easy-going demeanor and style of communication that made each interaction enjoyable and personal. Through all this, he had a very successful recruiting process with offers from multiple top-tier bio-pharmaceutical companies. This year, as a second-year mentor, Richard exhibited tremendous professionalism and empathy when helping first-year students in both individual and group coaching sessions as an interview prep coach.

In addition to the hard work he put into his own career development process, I also appreciate the leadership skills that Richard has demonstrated as the Executive Vice President of HBA during his second year. He enthusiastically partnered with and supported the HBA President to lead the club in making this year one of the most successful in the club’s history. Throughout the year, HBA hosted a series of high-quality educational programs and several networking events, culminating in a very successful, in-person healthcare conference with top-tier speakers and panelists and over 150 industry professionals attending from across Southern California. Richard has also contributed to the Anderson community as one of the Admissions Ambassador Corp leaders helping organize key admit events this spring. It has been a pleasure getting to know and work with Richard throughout his time as an Anderson student. I am confident that he will continue to excel as he builds his career as a commercial leader in the biopharmaceutical industry and look forward to working with him as an alumnus in the coming years.”

Phil Han
Assistant Dean & Director – Parker Career Management Center
UCLA Anderson School of Management


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