In Nigeria, MBA Student Learns Global Impact of Healthcare

By Jenna Pizzi

Published on November 5, 2019

Ashwin Mathew with his CHAI colleaguesAshwin Mathew MBA’20 was selected to participate in the six-month volunteer opportunity with the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) in Nigeria, where he has received a fresh perspective on the challenges of improving healthcare in extremely rural settings.

Mathew, a student in USciences Masters of Business Administration in Phamaceutical Healthcare Business program would eventually like to lead an organization from an executive position. He said the skills he has gained during the experience thus far have had a profound impact on him, changing the way he sees daily challenges to healthcare, resources, knowledge, and capacity in areas like Nigeria where access is limited.

NigeriaHe was offered the opportunity through GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), where he works as a global clinical development manager. GSK offers its employees a chance to take leave from their regular positions to participate in their PULSE program, where volunteers are selected to work in NGOs around the world.

“I can focus on giving back to change communities and help them build capacity to change themselves,” said Mathew.

Mathew moved to Nigeria without much of an idea of what to expect. He wrote about the shock in a blog post written for the GSK Pulse Program:

Early January 2019, when I applied for GSKs PULSE Program, I had two requests. First, I wanted to work internationally, and second, I wanted an assignment where the NGO was working with women and children. To my surprise, I was extremely fortunate to receive both; however, what I wasn’t expecting was to be in Nigeria. When I found out, I was in an immediate shock, just confused and left scratching my head, “Why Nigeria…” I thought. I didn’t know a single thing about the country, not the capital, or even a landmark. The only association I ever had with Nigeria was internet scammers I had experienced in the past, and this wasn’t a good feeling at first. At that point, six months seemed very long, but then I remembered that I was ready to go anywhere regardless of the destination because what mattered more was the assignment and the journey. Fast-forward to almost two months later; I’ve come to realize that Nigeria and CHAI turned out to be the best assignment for me, and it was precisely the role and opportunity I was seeking.

During his time in Nigeria, Mathew’s work focuses on improving the knowledge and skill of healthcare workers in sexual and reproductive health settings at primary health care facilities. In the Niger region, the focus is to critically improve on the 19 percent of births, which lead to maternal death and 9 percent neonatal death. Working through CHAI, the organization hopes to raise the healthcare standards across Niger State to address the training and education of healthcare workers, provide them with skills and adequate facilities to help combat those fatal statistics.

Ashwin Mathew and other volunteersIn all, Mathew said the experience has been eye-opening to the kind of care others experience on a global scale. He said, as he looks to advance his career, he knows this experience will impact him and his perspective on health as a global industry.

Mathew chose to return to school for his MBA because he wasn’t finished learning. 

“I had a lot to prove to myself, and I wanted to continue building on my skills as I learned alongside a network of individuals who had the same career passion and worked for the same reasons as I did in pharmaceuticals,” he said. “One of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had is seeing how many professors all have immense experience in pharmaceuticals and how open they are to seeing their students grow as professionals.”

Mathew said he would like to stay involved in the pharmaceutical industry long term so that he can work to address unmet needs and ensure breakthrough treatments are provided to people globally.

“Personally speaking, I enjoy taking on challenges where I can flex my leadership skills while leading successful projects on complex assets,” he said. “I also enjoy taking on opportunities that are different so that I can learn from different parts of the business and experience the full breadth of the pharmaceutical industry.”

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