What I Discovered In Rwanda Was a True Highlight of My Last Semester at Ross

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By John McGowan, MBA ‘16

With the recent changes in the American healthcare landscape, ensuring access to quality care frequently surfaces as a major public health concern. If the United States, a developed nation with access to significant financial and human capital resources, struggles with this issue, what must the situation be like in the world’s emerging markets?

This inquiry paved the way for one of the highlights of my last semester here at Ross.

Over the course of the winter A and B terms, I participated in the Healthcare Delivery in Emerging Markets course. True to Ross’ commitment to action-based learning, this course offered a glimpse into different healthcare models around the world and the opportunity to work with a real healthcare organization in an emerging market.

My classmates and I traveled to various sponsor sites over spring break, and spent the remaining weeks of the school year developing recommendations based on the assigned problem facing the sponsor organization.

Ideating with the team.

My team worked with the Ruli District Hospital in Rwanda, focusing on developing the problem-solving capacity of the hospital’s staff in order to further their mission of delivering high quality patient-centered care. In order to understand the current state of the hospital’s operations, we spent most of our five days on-site conducting interviews with individuals from top administration down to the patients.

Going into these interviews, our team expected to hear responses that painted the picture of a world all too distant from what we were used to as Americans. Rwanda was, after all, the epicenter of one of history’s most profound acts of genocide just 22 years ago. How could a society that witnessed so much recent devastation be positioned to provide high quality healthcare?

What we found was surprising in its simplicity.

Most of the challenges facing the Ruli District Hospital echoed those of any western hospital. Sure, limited financial resources surfaced as a consistent challenge, but so did lack of communication within and between departments, as well as underappreciated staff and misaligned incentives.

The opportunity to work face-to-face with the hospital workers and patients in Ruli rounded out my final months as an MBA candidate in a wholly unexpected way.

Our work illustrated how truly linked this world is.

No matter how distant or dissimilar countries and cultures may seem on the surface, we’re all facing similar challenges on some level.

Understanding this is essential for all MBA graduates, and I will undoubtedly pull from these learnings as I re-enter a professional world where collaboration is dependent on finding the strong ties between seemingly different cultures.


John McGowan is a graduating Michigan Ross MBA student in the Class of 2016. After graduation, he’ll be working with A.T. Kearney as an associate consultant in Chicago.