Global Learning: Health Innovation & Entrepreneurship in South Africa
I’m probably in over my head. This thought dominated my head space the morning of July 27th, as I made my way downstairs to join the other participants of the inaugural ANDI-EMORY Health Technology Innovation workshop. Myself and three other business students, four law students and four Phd students were gathered in a 5 star hotel with highly accomplished professionals in the international science, business and law arenas to address a very important issue: access to affordable and sustainable solutions for neglected disease in Africa. My role as an MBA student was to help African fellows create business presentations for potential investors. Despite my fears, I understood the gravity of the task at hand and knew I would have to apply myself to contribute all I could. And so I did; I learned a lot, helped my scientist develop preliminary decks to pitch to investors and, most importantly, became invested and committed to a positive outcome long term.
Self – doubt regarding the quality and value of my contribution as a student with no experience in the complicated drug and medical device industry continued to surface throughout the workshop. But by the time I left the intense 3 day workshop, the word atherosclerosis was rolling off my tongue and I was establishing lines of communication for my team to continue our work with African scientists and leaders we admired and truly believed could change the African health system for the better. In addition to being introduced to the structures of the pharmaceutical industry and the relationships between the African and Western health system, I learned a valuable life lesson. Depth of experience is important, yet commitment to the cause/project is equally as important. During the workshop, important knowledge was shared and relationships were built. However, the passion and commitment ignited amongst participants during the workshop is the real success of the workshop. Students & leaders have committed to serve this cause once back in their home country, dedicating time and resources to a project laced in ambiguity. The commitment has been so strong that some students are now pursuing healthcare innovation as a career path.
This experience was very timely because I’m pursuing my own start up venture in the highly saturated travel industry. My personal journey with entrepreneurship is also full of self-doubt, commitment and resilience. With only 3 years of experience in digital travel search, how could I be the only person to have thought of this? How will I be able to fight through the clutter of travel apps to change the way people search for travel? “I’m probably in over my head”, is a thought that surfaces whenever my team hits a roadblock or I just don’t know what to do next. However, with this experience under my belt and other experiences I’ve had at Goizueta Business School like this I am more confident in my ability to tackle problems in new frontiers.
It has been a few months since we left South Africa and our business team continues to work towards our goal of bringing one of the African Fellow’s device innovations to market in his home country of Malawi. We’re a world away from the product’s inventor, which creates critical communication issues and a steep learning curve about the business environment and market for the product. However, with each meeting we continue to identify next steps and brainstorm alternative paths. I am so proud of our team which is led by Charles Goetz and Carolyn Wright in faculty/administration and completed by myself, Claire Cooper, Alyssa Grabfeld and Teo Stanilov. I am so looking forward to seeing where our courageousness takes us and the impact we have the potential to make. Stay tuned!