Faheem Ahmed is anything but conventional.
A medical doctor, he is also a successful entrepreneur with a string of startups to his name. The fact that he is also an MBA candidate at London Business School (LBS) only goes to underscore the breadth and eclecticism of Faheem’s interests and ambitions.
Ask him why he has pursued so many different avenues and he insists that there is, in fact, a pretty straightforward corollary behind his professional trajectory.
“As a doctor I’ve always been interested in global health systems and I’ve got first-hand experience of the inefficiencies and roadblocks hampering progress across the sector. Frontline clinicians are uniquely positioned to create value in organisations like the National Health Service (NHS) – like our patients, we can diagnose systems-level problems and find the appropriate treatments.”
A desire to find tangible answers to healthcare inequalities, coupled with experience in and passion for social entrepreneurship led Faheem to co-found HealthMakeSpace in 2017, a professional networking platform matching clinicians with developers across the NHS. It also saw the NHS appoint him Clinical Entrepreneur Fellow, advising on national health innovation policies.
“You have this situation where clinicians have great ideas but lack the technical skills and supporting infrastructure to deliver impact. HealthMakeSpace is a digital platform for developers and clinicians to co-create technologies that address the real issues. It’s just one example of how important it is to foster a culture of innovation in any organisation to improve outcomes cost effectively.”
While these accomplishments are significant in themselves, Faheem remains driven by an ambition to erase the kinds of healthcare equalities his frontline experience as a doctor overseas has highlighted. His goal, he says, is to make healthcare systems “safer, fairer and healthier for all.”
And it’s this goal that led him to the MBA programme at LBS in 2018.
“For various reasons from funding to technology, health systems around the world are under intense pressure and it’s my ambition to help solve these challenges. How I achieve that is what I am currently exploring. While I had a diverse set of experiences to build on, I lacked true business understanding and the technical skillset required to be a more effective leader. I was looking for an MBA that would empower me to design, deliver and scale exciting projects that make a lasting impact on the world we live in.”
LBS was a “natural choice” on the basis of the School’s international reputation for academic excellence and entrepreneurship. That choice was facilitated further by a scholarship donated by an LBS alumnus in recognition of his goals and to support him in developing his plans. And those plans are already beginning to take shape.
A few “eventful” months into the MBA and Faheem has been appointed as an Accenture Strategy intern for the World Economic Forum and Fellow at the Wheeler Institute for Business and Development, the LBS platform that brings together business, government and NGOs for social impact. Through the Wheeler Institute, Faheem is designing a programme that will connect LBS MBAs and public health students from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, of which he is a MPH graduate. The project will support social enterprises in developing countries and is set to launch in the summer of 2019.
And it’s a first-of-its-kind collaboration between the schools.
“It’s enormously exciting to leverage my unique connection between the two schools. Bringing these students together is all about bridging the gap between what clinicians know about providing healthcare solutions, and what MBA understand about the business side of driving projects that can deliver sustainable and scalable impact. The project is called Upahar, which means ‘gift’ in Bengali. The aim is to reduce maternal mortality rates in rural Bangladesh by providing mothers with bounty packs and to monitor their pregnancies via mobile phones. We have already achieved buy-in from major players in the development sector and the LBS MBAs will be working on the ground to improve supply chains and efficiency.”
There is a massive shift in attitudes and aspirations among MBAs, says Faheem, towards “more meaningful” careers. Many of his colleagues are pursuing the MBA at LBS to transform themselves – and empower them to transform the lives of others.
“I think there’s a new type of MBA interested in putting their skills and knowledge to meaningful use, and driving social change. And you see that reflected in the number of exceptionally talented people who are pursuing these sorts of careers.”
For his own cohort he has nothing but praise – especially in recognition of the support and help he has received from his fellow students.
“I suppose in some ways I am an unusual MBA but I am not alone. It’s not a typical profile – if such a thing exists. But I’m learning alongside some truly amazing people who are offering their time and expertise to support me and to help me as I’m learning this new language.”
And the experience is as challenging as it is rewarding.
“In the past months I’ve been plunged into a world of new ideas and concepts and experiences, from learning about accounting and finance to taking on an internship with Accenture, to getting involved with the MBA Entrepreneurship Society. The pace is relentless and it’s enormously challenging. But that’s why I am here after all. To get out of my comfort zone. And to be challenged.”