Whether they are working on the next big innovation in drug development or looking to revamp existing processes to improve care delivery, leaders in healthcare and the life sciences need to have a strategic mindset and to take initiative. It’s no surprise so many emerging leaders in this space come to the Rotman School of Management to hone these skills.
The School — which houses the Sandra Rotman Centre for Health Sector Strategy, a research, education and policy centre focused on addressing pressing healthcare challenges — offers a range of healthcare and life sciences learning opportunities that students can choose from. For instance, students can complete focused elective classes (perhaps even specializing in Health Sector Management), check in regularly with a healthcare executive as part of the Rotman LEADS Mentorship program, work with early-stage medical devices or life sciences focused startups through the Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) Advanced course or participate in healthcare-focused student clubs (like the Healthcare Management Association), among other opportunities.
What’s more, the School has taken its commitment to students a step further with the Sandra Rotman Healthcare Scholarship, an annual award which launched in 2019 and recognizes high-achieving incoming Morning/Evening and Full-Time MBA students with a strong background in healthcare and the life sciences.
Recently, the Rotman School caught up with the first-time recipients of the award, who are in their final months of completing their Full-Time MBA programs, and asked them to reflect on what they’ve learned and what this award has meant to them.
Finding a mentor and charting a new career path
Janice Pong (MBA ’21) came to the Rotman School because she wanted to make a systems-level impact in healthcare. Working in academic research and knowledge translation opened her eyes to the bigger issues facing the healthcare space.
Janice Pong (MBA ’21)
“I became interested in improving access to care and leveraging digital health tools,” she says. “I knew I needed a strong foundation in business to lead the healthcare initiatives most important to me.”
She’s acquired that foundation at Rotman. In addition to completing various classes, including one in systems planning and healthcare strategy, and serving as an executive for various clubs (including the Healthcare Management Association and the Women in Management Association), she’s put her business skills to use working on real-world healthcare projects. Last semester, she completed an independent study project with Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto, helping a researcher in the psychosocial oncology unit develop a business case for a new mobile app that will help cancer patients manage their symptoms.
Additionally, this past year, she’s worked closely with mentor Debbie Fischer (an executive-in-residence at the Rotman School, with extensive experience working in the healthcare space). Through the mentorship program, Pong has connected with other healthcare leaders and widened her perspective.
“Debbie pushed me to reflect on my previous experiences and helped me discover how to best apply my skills in the healthcare industry. Her guidance has been invaluable.”
She’ll be able to draw on all these experiences when she embarks on her next adventure: joining KPMG as a senior consultant after graduation. Pong is grateful for all the learning opportunities that were available to her at Rotman and especially thankful for the support from the Sandra Rotman Scholarship.
“This scholarship is a strong signal of the School's commitment to emerging leaders in healthcare,” she says. “There is an undeniable sense of community at Rotman."
“I knew I needed a strong foundation in business to lead the healthcare initiatives most important to me.”
—Janice Pong, MBA ’21
Breaking into the startup space
Afton Hiscox (MBA ’21) came to Rotman eager to learn about all the things she didn’t know about the pharmaceutical industry.
“I felt like I had such a narrow view of the space. I wanted to broaden my perspective beyond what I knew from working in the lab,” explains Hiscox, who was a medicinal chemist at Janssen prior to pursuing business school.
Interested in gaining hands-on experience with life sciences startups, she’s now midway through the CDL Advanced course, where she’s working with a medical devices company that specializes in enhancing imaging technology to better detect tissue injuries.
She’s complemented this CDL experience with courses on marketing, finance and pharmaceutical strategy. In addition to serving as a VP with the Healthcare Management Association, where she helps plan industry networking and career development events for students, Hiscox completed an independent study project with the SickKids Foundation, helping them evaluate the impact of COVID-19 on their operations and develop a strategic plan for the future.
These diverse experiences will serve her well in her current role as strategic partnerships manager with the Rotman startup, Cyclica. (She’ll transition to this role full-time once she wraps up her business school studies.)
For her, the Sandra Rotman Healthcare Scholarship has meant a lot.
“This kind of financial support was huge. It took some of the stress off and allowed me to focus more on the program and making sure I got the most out of it.”
Forming lifelong connections
For Ada Kwong (MBA ’21), the best part of her Rotman experience was making connections.
Ada Kwong (MBA ’21)
Kwong, a former nurse who worked in trauma units at a Toronto hospital before starting business school, was looking to acquire the management necessary to consult on or lead major projects.
“There was a definite breadth to what Rotman had to offer — opportunities to work with startups, get a taste of consulting and finance, and make connections with leaders based over the world. Coming here was a no brainer.”
She was surprised to find that so many healthcare executives she met through classes, industry events and case competitions were eager to connect.
“It’s amazing and still somewhat surprising that these senior leaders and executives make time to talk to students,” she says. “At Rotman, you’re part of a far-reaching and supportive network.”
In addition to serving as an executive member for the Management Consulting Association and the LINKS Mentorship Program (which matches Rotman MBA students with women enrolled in undergraduate programs at U of T), she has benefited from opportunities to apply her knowledge in the real world.
She completed her MBA internship with the Boston Consulting Group last summer, and she’ll be starting as a consultant there after graduation.
“Coming to Rotman and receiving this scholarship reminded me that I wasn’t alone on this path,” she says.
“Pursuing healthcare or life sciences leadership is fairly niche, so it was especially meaningful that these career paths are recognized at the School. It’s reassuring to know that you are surrounded by like-minded individuals who want to help you reach your goals.”
Written by Rebecca Cheung | More Student Stories »