Why do you need a third Masters degree? You mean you left a job in an oil company to go back to school? Are you a doctor? How does your past education and experience tie in with this degree?
I have had to answer the above questions (or some variation) several times in the last few weeks, as I have had to introduce myself here at Oxford, and the fact that I am studying for a degree in Global Health despite my non-health related background. Hence I have decided to put up a blog post, and just refer people here when they ask me!
It’s a question I have had to answer to myself, and also during the interview process for my scholarship, and it’s a question I will try to answer below.
To start with, I am what you probably refer to as a Jack of several trades, and master of none. After an undergraduate degree in Computer Engineering, I moved into a totally unrelated field of product and market demand planning for P&G, only to go back and get a graduate degree in Computer Science, with a thesis that compared different non-parametric density approximation techniques applied to signal detection in particle physics.
I got a job at Chevron thus getting into the oily waters of the energy industry, moving from data analytics to hydrocarbon accounting, from data warehousing to production allocation, from data quality to information management, while stopping by to get an MBA in entrepreneurship on the side.
However, it was at Rice University, where I was enrolled for an MBA that I strayed into the field of global health. Through a chance meeting, I got acquainted with Professor Marc Epstein, an expert in microfinance and the use of commerce models to improve health and promote development in poor regions. He had partnered with Rice 360° Institute for Global Health Technologies to teach “Commercializing Technologies in Developing Countries” in which teams of MBA and undergraduate engineering students develop business plans for global health technologies, and then travel to Rwanda where they undertake field research for their business plans. This interaction exposed me to the problems of access, the lack of relevant statistics, and several other challenges faced in the area of global health.
This experience led to me partnering with a friend to form AfyaZima Africa Ltd, which is primarily focused on developing and executing an operational strategy of bringing new, emerging low-cost, high-performance healthcare technologies into Africa and evaluating the impact of these technologies on healthcare delivery, quality, equity utilization, and cost efficiency.
However, my greatest motivation for applying for a place in the Global Health program at Oxford lies in my belief that solving the daunting challenges currently faced in the field of global health requires a multidisciplinary array of people who are able to bring to bear their diverse backgrounds and innovative approaches.
To paraphrase a recent MIT report, current challenges in delivering affordable and effective health care in developing countries include: lack of skilled or semi-skilled health care workers for accurate screening and referral; lack of a permanent and portable record of a patient’s medical history; lack of medical diagnostic devices; poor supply chains for replacing medical equipment; poor treatment compliance; slow rates of information flow; and lack of quality auditing to identify bottlenecks and quantify health care improvements.
Such daunting problems require individuals from diverse backgrounds – medicine, computer science, clinical informatics, health policy, social sciences, and business and operations management-coming together in order to design an operating system around the delivery of care that is facilitated by technology. The technology is crucial, but not the sole component of the solution. It is the centerpiece of a learning system that is designed not only to improve clinical outcomes, but the health delivery process itself.
At Oxford, my research interests are around sustainable enterprise and low-cost innovation for health in resource-constrained communities. It is my hope that my Oxford experience would distill my personal and business experiences, my bent for entrepreneurship, my background in technology and statistics and blend them with my local roots and global education into a fine brew that will increase my motivation and commitment to providing leadership in solving the complex global health challenges in the developing world.
A decade from now, I hope to have scaled AfyaZima into a global health and international development organization that is focused on ensuring that the gains of macroeconomic growth makes real impact in the lives of the poor, through ensuring the availability of reliable data and statistics from credible sources, institutional and human resource capacity, and genuine partnerships for development between the developed countries and Africa.