MedServe: Leveraging HSM Degrees for Good in North Carolina

steptoe oshea med serve presentation

O’Shea (L) and Steptoe (R) presenting MedServe to UNC students from 17 campuses

We will both tell you that we are clinicians first – having come to Fuqua in the middle of medical school specifically for its HSM program. Stepping away from clinical care for 2 years (and working through all the resulting skill atrophy) is not an insubstantial decision. At the same time, as MBA students headed back to medicine, we both knew this experience had a limited time span that it was our responsibility to maximize. For both these reasons, we knew we wanted to gain as much experience during these 2 years as possible, ideally culminating in tangible work we could point to as the product of our time at Fuqua.

I don’t think either of us imagined on our first day that this tangible work would turn into a company; however, at the end of our second and first years, we find ourselves presented with exactly that opportunity. For the past 8 months, we have worked with the support of Fuqua organizations like the Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE) to turn a concern with the supply of primary care physicians to rural and other medically underserved communities into a company, MedServe. MedServe is a Teach for America for health care, sending recent college graduates to help physicians in primary care clinics in underserved communities across North Carolina. Our vision is for these communities to receive immediate help in their work to increase access to primary care while igniting a generation of future health care providers to become advocates for health equity in every zip code – many, we hope, as primary care providers. Since MedServe’s inception, we have enrolled 13 pilot clinics and recruited 75 students for those clinics to select among for a pilot beginning summer 2016.

MedServe Steptoe Oshea winning social entrepreneurship contest

O’Shea (L) and Steptoe (R) winning the 2016 UNC Social Entrepreneurship Contest

MedServe stems from a nugget of an idea that Anne carried with her throughout medical school, frustrated with how difficult it was to combine her interests in clinical medicine and community service on the front lines rather than from the “armchair” perspective of research or policy. That frustration might have remained just that, until it received needed focus from the HSM curriculum. HSM asks tough questions about reshaping health care industry innovation to facilitate high quality at low cost, and provides MBAs with frameworks to begin to answer those questions. HSM taught us to see MedServe not only as a social good to the medical profession but as one cost-effective pathway facilitating quality improvement in the health provider industry. Traditional practice improvement solutions often come with a price tag that renders them hard to implement in primary care practices – especially those in medically underserved communities. Service-year programs like ours provide lower-cost mechanisms to implement such value-based health care solutions. As a result, MedServe does not just match recent college graduates with primary care clinics – it deliberately matches them with “rock star” primary care clinics who are attempting to implement high-quality, value-based care, but need extra human capital assistance to do so.

Increasing policy attention is being paid to transitioning to value-based health care, and we are excited for the future of programs like MedServe in this new era of health care. We hope to see the program grow within North Carolina next year and be used as a model for other medically underserved regions of the country. Our experience with MedServe is just one example of how the HSM program and Fuqua more broadly take the passions of its students and show them how business can be an effective channel for those passions. For that, we’re very grateful learners.

About MedServe: MedServe is a non-profit company in North Carolina that sends recent college graduates to work in medically underserved communities. More information can be found on its website,

Read more about MedServe and CASE in  “From Idea to Launch: How Fuqua MBAs Began MedServe & 4 Lessons They Learned in Launching a Social Venture.” Also, read Anne Steptoe’s post, “How Fuqua Molded Me into an Entrepreneur” on the Duke MBA Student Blog. You can support MedServe’s work by donating to their Indiegogo campaign.