A comment from a doctor at a children's cancer hospital in Bangladesh moved Rekha Iyer and her international team of MBA students to action.
The doctor said most of the families seeking care for their children make less than $2 per day. When they find out cancer treatments cost $10,000 to $15,000, they go home and cry "because they realize they can't do anything for their child," he said.
“As a parent, that doctor’s words really resonated with me,” Iyer says.
Iyer, MBA 15, is one of two Evening & Weekend Berkeley MBA students shortlisted in a Financial Times competition to develop business plans for the British nonprofit World Child Cancer (WCC).
Matt Volm, MBA 16, is also among the 40 students on seven finalist teams in the Financial Times MBA Challenge. The teams were tasked with coming up with recommendations for the long-term sustainability of WCC's programs in developing countries.
WCC partners with hospitals and healthcare workers in Africa, Asia, and Central America to increase children's access to drugs and treatment.
Challenge winners will be announced in October.
"I got involved to have an opportunity to evaluate a major healthcare issue at the global level for a great cause," says Volm. "I knew my finance background would help, as a lot of times the hardest part about a problem is putting solid data around a potential solution."
Volm's team of seven includes students from Nigeria and Europe. Their project, Ripple, is focused on Ghana, where child cancer patients have limited access to drugs and treatment is prohibitively expensive.
Iyer’s team, Cut Out Cancer, developed a plan to use mobile technology to help the Bangladeshi hospital raise funds.
When Iyer came across the competition online, she saw it as an opportunity to test her skills and new career direction.
With a background in pharma and biotech, she plans to use her MBA to pursue a career in healthcare and social impact.
"The charity that we are partnering with brings my interests together," she says. "It's more and more important for an NGO to be run with the same discipline as a business."
Each team must have representatives from the Americas, Asia, and Europe. Both Volm and Iyer said the experience of working with an international team has been rewarding—and also a logistical challenge.
"The international perspective that my team members bring is truly amazing and I've been able to learn so much from simply interacting with them," Volm says. "The most difficult part has been coordinating schedules. Having team members in Africa and Europe can mean some pretty early morning conference calls."