My Internship Developing Operation Models to Increase Physician Access in Rural India

This post was written by Duke MBA student Cristina Arellano in October 2014. Cristina spent her summer in India interning with SughaVazhvu – one of the current Social Entrepreneurship Accelerator at Duke (SEAD) innovators. Cristina’s internship was made possible with the support of the Summer Internship Fund.

I spent my summer in India as an MBA Summer Associate working with a rural healthcare organization called SughaVazhvu. SughaVazhvu is one of the entrepreneurs in the Social Entrepreneurship Accelerator at Duke (SEAD), so throughout my internship I was supported and managed by SEAD founding partner, the International Partnership for Innovative Healthcare Delivery (IPIHD).

What does SughaVazhvu do?

SughaVazhvu delivers primary healthcare services to rural populations in underserved areas of Tamil Nadu. Led by Zeena Johar, SughaVazhvu operates 7 rural clinics which have served more than 40,000 people since 2009. In addition to primary healthcare services, SughaVazhvu manages community engagement programs that help raise awareness of prevalent health issues and mitigate chronic diseases such as diabetes and anemia.

The Challenge

My summer project focused on addressing the limited availability of physicians in rural areas. The need for healthcare services, particularly in rural areas, is great, but the existing medical education system in India does not supply enough doctors to meet the demand. Within the last year SughaVazhvu has worked to develop a training program to help address this problem and was seeking to formalize the program and expand it to healthcare professionals with the necessary knowledge and clinical skills to deliver primary health services to underserved populations in rural settings. As the MBA Summer Associate, I was tasked with developing a go-to market strategy and operational model for their new training program.

Using My MBA Skills for Impact

My first year of business school provided me a foundation of skills that I could apply to my summer project. From management communications to Porter’s Five Forces, I found myself using various frameworks to structure problems, conduct in-depth market and capacity analyses, and develop recommendations. While having these frameworks and concepts in my back pocket was incredibly useful, the most important part of my internship was learning about the organization and understanding the true value it delivered to its patients. This required various field visits and staff interviews, as well as connecting to a wide array of professionals in the medical field.

The Summer Internship Fund (SIF) enables first year Duke MBA-Daytime students to learn about the rewards and challenges of social sector management without making a significant financial sacrifice. In addition, the program enables organizations that otherwise could not afford to hire MBA student interns to benefit from students’ expertise.  The SIF has supported more more than 150 students, distributed nearly $470,000, and helped to further the mission of many nonprofit and government organizations. Funds are raised through student fundraising and from donors who believe in the mission of the program.  If you would like to contribute, you can donate online.