At this point, you’ve read my resume and know a bit about my budding social enterprise. But I didn’t have the space to explain how I got there, so I’m excited to use this to give you a better understanding of who I am and what I’ve done. Ultimately, I hope to show you both why I’m applying to Sloan and why I think I’d be a great addition to the community in Cambridge.

So, let me tell you a quick story, augmented by some pictures I’ve been fortunate enough to take.

About six hours in, I really started to question the series of life decisions that brought me to where I was — squeezed into one-fourth of a passenger seat in a rickety truck, barreling down a dirt road in the middle of an ‘impenetrable forest’ in southwest Uganda:

IMG_4822

Much of Bwindi Impenetrable National Forest in southwest Uganda looks like this: slightly imposing and completely stunning. 

How I got there says a lot about me; it even partially explains why I’m applying to Sloan.

Let me explain.

***

If there was a brewery in this picture it'd be a perfect encapsulation of Denver

If there was a brewery and a tattooed hipster in this picture it’d be a perfect encapsulation of Denver.

To paraphrase F. Scott Fitzgerald, as the Denver fall got crisp in 2012, life kind of started all over again: I quit a good job and turned down a great offer at a small health care-focused startup –- my dream job at the time –- to volunteer at a medium-sized public hospital in eastern Uganda. This had a lot to do with needing a new challenge and a more meaningful career — and if I’m totally honest, it had a little to do with a girl breaking my heart, too.

Eastern Uganda, if you’ve never been, often looks a lot like this:

One leg of a cross-country trip to visit hospitals in Uganda as part of my countrywide 'listening tour'

This was taken in the mountains of eastern Uganda. I was in this area to complete a survey of health centers in the region.

Serendipity happened, and a series of events led to an opportunity to help an anesthesia-focused social enterprise, Gradian Health Systems, build out its business model and distribution strategy. To do that, I chose to go on a ‘listening tour’ to hear straight from the source — the administrators and anesthetists at dozens of hospitals in the region:

This was the southwest leg of my countrywide listening tour. I visited dozens of hospitals to better understand what administrators and anesthetists needed to better serve their communities

This was the southwest leg of my countrywide listening tour — all of it done on public transportation… or, occasionally, by foot. This is sincerely something I highly recommend doing.

The ‘H’ is Bwindi Community Hospital, which is why I found myself in that rickety truck. Cramped, sweltering, sweaty, and slightly sick from jostling about for hours, I wondered whether I should’ve just accepted that startup job in Denver after all. But eight hours in the truck and a harrowing half hour on the back of a motorcycle later, I finally made it:

From the inside of an impenetrable forest

Bwindi Community Hospital is tucked away in this forest.

 

Of the dozens of hospitals I visited in Uganda, Bwindi was one of the nicest.

Of the dozens of hospitals I visited in Uganda, Bwindi was one of the nicest.

I got a tour, quickly happening upon the hospital’s “medical device graveyard,” where substandard second-hand donated medical equipment sat broken and useless:

I found "graveyards" like this at nearly every hospital I visited in a half-dozen east African countries.

I found “graveyards” like this at nearly every hospital I visited in a half-dozen east African countries. Equipment ends up in the graveyard for four main reasons: 1) It isn’t designed for the sometimes-harsh environments of low-resource hospitals; 2) The equipment is often donated, and therefore used, sub-standard, and second-hand; 3) When a component of the sub-standard, improper equipment breaks, the regional market for spare parts is often inadequate, with spare parts either too expensive or wholly unavailable; and 4) There aren’t enough qualified biomedical technicians or engineers to fix the equipment when it breaks, driving up the market price for available help. 

I was also told that the electricity constantly cut, which is bad for all of the reasons you’d expect it to be bad: anesthesia, suction, lights – everything stops working. And I was shown empty canisters that should’ve been filled with oxygen but weren’t, because the supply was deplorable:

Oxygen canisters like these sit empty and unused at hospitals around Sub-Saharan Africa

Oxygen canisters like these (in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania) sit empty and unused at hospitals around Sub-Saharan Africa. For a variety of reasons, the supply of oxygen is both unduly expensive and inconsistent. 

That this hospital, exceptional as it was, still couldn’t provide the standard of care its community deserved bothered me; that well-meaning donors were partly to blame angered me. So I featured Bwindi in an article on second-hand medical device donations for The Atlantic – my small contribution to “doing something” on the issue:

I've written pieces for a number of outlets, but this piece, on medical device donations and how they spawn "medical device graveyards" is the one I'm most proud of.

I’ve written pieces for a number of outlets (if you have the time and/or inclination, you can find them here), but this piece, on sub-standard, second-hand medical device donations and how they spawn “medical device graveyards” is the one I’m most proud of.

And eventually a donor bought an anesthesia machine designed for the environment – my company’s anesthesia machine – ensuring the hospital would be able to provide safe anesthesia with or without electricity:

The Universal Anesthesia Machine was designed to function effectively in low-resource hospitals.

The Universal Anesthesia Machine was designed to function effectively in low-resource hospitals — the types of hospitals with predictably unpredictable electricity and oxygen.

The oxygen issue was different, though; there really wasn’t a tenable solution for low-resource hospitals. On visits to dozens of hospitals in a half-dozen countries, the oxygen supply was consistently inconsistent and near-prohibitively expensive:

These oxygen tanks are filled in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, at one of the country's only oxygen plants. They are then trucked throughout the country, which is almost twice the size of Texas

These oxygen tanks are filled in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, at one of the country’s only oxygen plants. They are then trucked throughout the country — nearly twice the size of Texas — on rickety trucks and roads that are often more pothole than tarmac. And that’s assuming the manufacturing plant doesn’t stop production.

I want to fix this problem — which brings me here. I know that being a part of the Sloan community would help me build this budding social enterprise into something that has the potential to assist low-resource hospitals in their mandate to provide care for their communities. At Sloan, I’d expect to make classmates into colleagues; learn vital management and leadership skills from Sloan’s professors in the Entrepreneurship & Innovation Track; and draw on the financial and operational resources that Sloan, and the wider Cambridge community, offers.