Sarah Qian

  • Degree Programme: MBA
  • Global Nationality: Australian
  • Profile Job Pre-programme: Fellow In Endocrinology And Diabetes, University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Having travelled from Australia to the UK in 2019, Doctor Sarah Qian thought she’d spend a year broadening her clinical experience. However, when the COVID pandemic hit, she stayed in the country and worked on the frontline, offering specialist advice in Endocrinology and Diabetes. She now wants to combine her passion for medicine with her interest in business, and is studying an MBA to understand how to improve access to quality healthcare more broadly.

I was born in China but I moved around quite a lot when I was little, due to my parents’ work. We lived in the US, before settling in Australia, where I lived for most of my life. After high school, I went on to complete medical school, and then a rigorous training programme to specialise as a doctor in Endocrinology and Diabetes.

During my time as a doctor, my focus was to provide holistic care to my patients. It was so rewarding to work with my patients, understanding what was most important to them, and then seeing the long-term outcomes to their heath.

I came to the UK in 2019 because I wanted to broaden my clinical experience. I worked at University College London Hospitals (UCLH), which was a great experience and I met lots of really interesting patients with a variety of problems that I hadn’t seen before. I’d only planned to be here for a year but when the COVID pandemic hit, I decided to stay.

The pandemic changed my plans and upended all my expectations . In medicine, we’re used to dealing with rapidly changing situations, but this was chaos on a whole other level. For the first time, I was working in a team where we had genuine fear about the unknown. We had to be agile, adapting our treatment protocols daily, managing supply shortages on the ward and rearranging the entire delivery of our outpatient services to remote care.

I was proud that as a team, we did what we could to help each other and deliver the best care possible. I worked on the frontline as a doctor, but also volunteered as a family liaison officer. Hospitals can be such intimidating and scary places, especially when you don’t have your loved ones with you. During the pandemic, visitors weren’t allowed so I helped patients speak to their families on video calls and it was very rewarding to be able to provide that comfort.

I’ve always been interested in business. In the past it hasn’t been very common to combine medicine and business, but it’s increasingly recognised and I hope I can work at the intersection of these two skillsets and have a bigger impact, improving the way healthcare is delivered and accessed in our community. 

The pandemic showed me that the healthcare system doesn’t exist in isolation and we can’t always solve the problems on our own. As a healthcare worker for the last eight years, I understood the limited resources we were working with, and became used to doing more with less. In fact, you become proud of your resourcefulness and the camaraderie that develops around that. But it’s not sustainable, and when an already-strained system lands in a crisis, the shortcomings are exposed very quickly – burnout is common for healthcare workers and waiting lists are longer than ever.

The pandemic has been a wonderful opportunity for collaboration between business and healthcare. We have seen the rise of digital care which has enabled better access and opened doors to improving health education and community-based care for prevention. A lot of work is also going into adapting AI for diagnostics and therapeutics and this is going to change how healthcare is delivered. We talk a lot about building resilience and sustainability in supply chains and the same can be said for healthcare looking to the future.

After working during the pandemic, I felt it was a good time to make the transition and start my MBA. I’d been thinking about it for a few years and I decided

to study an MBA because I wanted a broad understanding of business, and was looking for learning and hands-on experience that would let me explore different career options.

There were a number of reasons I chose to study at London Business School. Firstly, the school is incredibly forward thinking and not afraid to challenge its students or itself, always open to new ideas and ways of doing things. Secondly, it is incredibly diverse. I’ve lived in China, the US, Australia and the UK and LBS is unlike anything I’ve experienced before. It’s been a great privilege to meet classmates from all over the world and learn from their experiences.

It was both incredible and very humbling to be awarded the Service and Society Scholarship to support my MBA. Without this, I couldn’t have completed the programme, so it’s been a life-changing opportunity. I was recently able to meet some of the donors and extend my thanks in person which was lovely. They are an incredibly kind and supportive group and it’s wonderful that they felt so passionately about supporting students with non-traditional backgrounds to contribute to the business community. As a doctor, it’s given me confidence that this is the right path for me. 

My highlight of the programme so far has been the friendships I’ve made and the people I’ve met. It’s a unique environment and very energising to be surrounded by so many people who are united by the same motivation to learn new ideas and new ways of doing things. Having only worked in one industry before coming here, it’s really opened my eyes to different possibilities. 

Currently I’m exploring my interests in healthtech and healthcare investing. I’ve just finished working on the Bain Autumn Impact Consulting Project with my team, where we explored market-entry options for a healthtech start up in India, and I’m currently working on sourcing for the Turner MIINT impact investing competition. This year I am the co-editor of the LBS private equity and venture capital blog (https://www.lbspevc.com/) and am excited to promote the work of our talented LBS cohort and also contribute my own pieces. Also, I am the lead for the LBS Health Tech Challenge which is held in collaboration with the Institute of Entrepreneurship and Private Capital and offers early start-ups with disruptive healthtech ideas the chance to pitch their ideas to a VC panel for funding and mentorship. Preparations are underway for the 2022 event, and I’m looking forward to working with our start-ups, so watch this space.

For the next step in my career, I will continue with my interests in healthcare, technology and investing in venture capital or equity analysis. I hope to combine my understanding of life sciences and the medical industry with my skills in research, analysis and communication. I’m coming to understand that a career path is a constantly evolving process.

My advice to anyone considering the MBA would be to understand yourself and what fulfils you, let that help you make your decisions going forward. If you are curious about business and feel it’s a good fit for you, but hesitate because it feels like a big leap, don’t let that deter you. If you would like more information, there are a number of ambassadors that would be happy to talk to you about their experiences, myself included, so feel free to reach out. 

Dr Sarah Qian was a recipient of the Service and Society Scholarship.

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