Boston University MBA Students Put Leadership Skills to Work in Developing Countries

in Graduate Students, Health Sector, School, Social Impact, Students
August 2nd, 2010

First Stop: Guatemala, in Support of the Primeros Pasos Medical Clinic

The MBAid Team in GuatemalaIn Spring 2010, a group of first-year Boston University School of Management MBA Students launched the organization MBAid.

MBAid’s mission: To improve health care access to underserved communities through a partnership with the Primeros Pasos Medical Clinic in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, while giving School of Management students the opportunity to put their skills to work and learn from other cultures.

“I knew we would provide Primeros Pasos with resources they don’t have access to, while they could give us the chance to make a significant contribution to improving health care access.”

— Rob Segan, Trip Co-organizer (MPH/MBA 2011)

Their first initiative: Bringing supplies, money, and their own muscle to the Primeros Pasos Clinic. From May 9-15, 31 students from Cohort D of the first-year MBA class, along with four significant others, traveled to the clinic, where one of the trip organizers, student Rob Segan (MPH/MBA 2011), had worked from 2005-2006.

Primeros Pasos, formed in 2002, serves 7,500 patients per year. Working with 14 area schools and 12 daycare centers, they bring groups of students to the clinic to test for parasites, receive doctor and dentist consultations, and participate in health education classes.  Staff then follows up by traveling to these local schools a few days later, providing talks on topics such as hygeine and nutrition, and delivering any necessary medication to students.

Of the trip’s inception, co-organizer Ajay Mehta (MBA 2011) explains, “Our goal was to create a trip that was enjoyable, accessible to a large number of students, and would have a real impact. Adds Segan, “We got along really well as a cohort, and we thought it would be fun to do something as a group after the semester was over.“

“Primeros Pasos is an example of the high value, low cost health services being developed in low resource settings. BU students are learning about the realities of this kind of innovation while providing important assistance to the organization.”

— Mark Allan, Faculty Director, Health Sector Management Program; Director of Health Systems Development, Family Medicine, School of Medicine

“The Primeros Pasos Clinic is an amazing organization,“ Segan says. “They are incredibly cost effective: there is no overhead and all paid staff are Guatemalans receiving a local salary. They operate on a budget of $50,000, which is amazing when you consider how much they do with that money. I knew we would could provide them with resources they do not have access to, while they could give us the chance to make a significant contribution to improving health care access.”

The takeaways so far: Through fundraisers hosted by Neel Madhvani (MBA 2011), Mike Guigli (MBA 2011), and Sheehan Perera (MBA 2011), the MBAid team brought US$2,000 in donations to the clinic—enough to cover doctor and dental consultations, health education classes, and medications for 400 children—as well as 500 toothbrushes, a  microscope donated by group member Meredith Childs, and 50 health education books obtained  by Nadja Godschalk (MBA 2011) through a donation from the organization 4imprint.

While in Guatemala, the MBAid team provided a well-needed paint job to the outside of the clinic and built white boards and bookshelves for donation to schools involved with Primeros Pasos. They also weighed and measured children visiting the clinic, and co-organizer Borja Gomez-Rojo (MBA 2011) assisted clinic staff by teaching a health education class at a local elementary school.

“This was chance for our cohort to strengthen our bonds while helping Primeros Pasos. In addition to volunteering, we climbed an active volcano, ziplined through the rainforest, took salsa lessons, kayaked in Panajachel.”

— Kim Vo, Trip Co-organizer (MS·MBA, Health Sector Management, 2011)

The extracurricular activities: Comments co-organizer Rob Segan, “Guatemala is an incredible place, from its culture to the amount you are able to see and do in a few days. It was great to take travel there alongside people with whom you have so much in common, but often have only had the chance to know in the context of a classroom. We saw this not only as a chance to help out the clinic, but also to have an adventure together as a cohort.”

Adds co-organizer Kim Vo (MS·MBA, Health Sector Management, 2011), “This was a unique opportunity for our cohort to get to know each other outside the classroom and strengthen our bonds while helping Primeros Pasos.  In addition to volunteering, we climbed an active volcano, ziplined through the rainforest, took salsa lessons, soaked in hot springs, and kayaked in lake Panajachel, all while taking in Guatemalan culture. This is an experience I’ll never forget.”

The video: Watch the BU Global Service group in action in Guatemala here:

(Video by JB Buensuceso)