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Anurag Gupta, BS '03/MD '09/MBA '09: Revolutionizing Dementia Care With Tembo Health

Anurag Gupta pictured alongside the logo for his company, Tembo Health

Anurag Gupta, BS '03/MD '09/MBA '09, knew from a young age that he aspired to make a difference in the lives of others through healthcare.

Gupta pursued several degrees in business and medicine to reach his goals, including a BS and MD from the University of Michigan and an MBA from the Ross School of Business. Additionally, he received a master of medical sciences from Harvard Medical School. He got his start in emergency medicine as an ER trauma physician but found the niche he was most passionate about through personal experience.

Gupta witnessed firsthand some of the most prevalent issues in healthcare for seniors when his grandfather, well into his 80s, began needing additional clinical support that Gupta’s family found elusive and difficult to obtain.

“It was surprisingly difficult to coordinate what he needed. This was something my family struggled with to some degree, and I was dismayed that better solutions for our senior population did not exist,” Gupta said. “I realized that things weren't built for seniors in general, as a society.” 

Founding Tembo Health

Troubled by the lack of care available to seniors, particularly those suffering from dementia and other conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Gupta was inspired to create a systematic change to how seniors could access care. Gupta and a fellow Michigan Ross MBA classmate, Tanya Perkins, MPP/MBA '09, co-founded a telemedicine company called Tembo Health.

Gupta and his cofounder, Tanya Perkins, standing in the forest
Gupta and his co-founder, Tanya Perkins, MPP/MBA '09.

Tembo means elephant in Swahili. Gupta says they chose the word for its symbolism: elephants are one of the few species in nature that care for their elders. Gupta and Perkins’ company was designed to provide additional support, planning, treatment, and more to seniors in need, as well as their caregivers.

“Healthcare is full of gaps and inconsistencies. And, as a senior, it gets that much harder. With age, you potentially experience more diagnoses, more medications, more demanding needs, and, at the same time, you're possibly grappling with degradation in your physical health, mental health, and — over time — cognitive health,” Gupta explained. “All those things compound, catapulting our desire to create comprehensive solutions for the senior population. Our mission at Tembo is to make complex care more effortless for seniors with dementia.”

Tembo Health serves patients with dementia looking for physicians who genuinely care about their situation beyond just treating conditions and sending patients to their next procedure. Gupta’s multidisciplinary health team works directly with patients, families, and caregivers via telehealth to advise on their health concerns, from confirming diagnoses to helping develop treatment plans, answering questions, providing around-the-clock support, and more.

“Whether you have a trip and fall, a cough, a urinary tract infection, a rash, etc., we have a team of board-certified physicians who are available 24/7 for real-time video chats. Additionally, in all the visits that we do, we always invite the family members or caregivers of the patient to participate,” Gupta said. “We can reduce hospital admissions by about 75%, which is an impactful number. That's something that our team is really proud of. I think the other key number that we're super proud of is the family participation rate. For all the telehealth visits we do, about 90% to 95% of the time, family members are also present for those visits.”

Building better healthcare through business

Gupta says his business background is a crucial part of what has inspired him to innovate in the healthcare field and attempt to fill much-needed gaps. As an MD/MBA dual degree student, he valued the perspective business could bring to the healthcare industry.

“I think, ultimately, I chose Michigan Ross because of the experiential learning components that are hallmarks of their program,” Gupta said.

Ross has always been a leader in the healthcare space, with a variety of classes, diverse clubs, and exceptional companies recruiting there. I was also able to participate in a Multidisciplinary Action Project in the healthcare space, which was important to me.

With his experiences at Michigan Ross, Gupta was able to work in consulting as well as healthcare after graduation, something that forever altered the way he would approach problem-solving. As he helped build start-ups, Gupta realized he loved the ways he could experiment and innovate in that environment and that he could apply the same strategies to healthcare.

“I think working in the start-up space is probably the greatest education you can have. The number one power of a start-up, in my opinion, is speed. We should be moving lightning fast because corporations can't, and moving swiftly means we will make mistakes, which is great. If you're not making a mistake, that means you're not moving fast enough, therefore you’re missing the chance to learn from it,” Gupta said. “You should remain strategic and careful, especially in the healthcare field, but I love the mindset of ‘let's test, let's build, let's innovate, and let's help people.’”

Continuing to grow

Going forward, Gupta aims to continue using his multidisciplinary background to build new technology and solutions for the senior population as he works to scale Tembo Health. The company has already grown to serve 12 states, and Gupta hopes to keep building the resources they’ll need to aid even more of the population. He’s also staying involved with Michigan Ross, where he now serves on the Alumni Board of Governors. Gupta has also remained involved with the admissions committee for the Michigan Ross Full-Time MBA Program and the U-M Medical School.

To current Ross students interested in following a similar path into the intersection of healthcare and business, Gupta offered this advice: “I think it’s all about finding the right environment where you can take ownership, you’re afforded the opportunity to innovate, and it’s okay to make mistakes. I'm biased toward my experiences, but I think consulting is a really great environment to start in. I spent some time working in consulting early in my career, and I thought that was a phenomenal learning environment — very high pressure. You can learn so much, and you can learn it fast.”