What is your professional background?
I work at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) in clinical pathology performing genetic testing assays. I began my career at MSKCC in the Infectious Disease Service in research. I later transitioned into pathology, because it gives me the opportunity to flow seamlessly between research and clinical workflows. Pathology has grown so quickly since the advent of personalized medicine. We now use genetic-based advanced tools to find out if someone has disease. From there, Pathology passes that information on to the person’s physician, who will prescribe treatments and medications to help them to get through a very difficult time in their life.
Why did you choose the EMBA program?
Whenever something new and important comes out, it’s really important to look at it, turn it upside down and figure out if that thing is going to be beneficial. I wanted to leverage the curriculum of Columbia’s EMBA program to help me move forward research applications that can be transitioned into clinical applications in pathology. I also wanted to continue working full time so I could use knowledge I would gain at the EMBA program on a daily basis, while staying connected to my field.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced, and how has that impacted your decision to go to business school?
The past two years have been challenging for me. Unfortunately my mother passed on while I was in the second semester of the program. I actually applied to Columbia Business School with her knowledge, and she was very, very excited about me going. She graduated from high school, and that was where she stopped. She’d always told me, ‘You have to keep going. And you have to learn as much as you can. Knowledge is power.’ She came to visit me about a year before she passed. She visited the campus and said, ‘This program would be great for you, Nana, and you should do it!’ Then suddenly, a drunk driver struck her. During that time period, I wasn’t exactly sure if I wanted to continue the program; I was heartbroken.
In order to continue the program, I had to gather my inner resources, and then acknowledge to myself that I’m part of my mom’s legacy. She was a pretty tough woman, but she was gentle and kind, too. I felt that it would do her a great honor to continue the program. With the help of my family, friends, the community here at the School, my learning team, and people in the Black Business Student Association, I’m in my last semester of the program.
Can you talk more about the community that you found here?
It’s interesting because while it’s a diverse community, it’s also a close community. There’s something about the way the School brings students together that is very special. I haven’t actually seen it anywhere else. The program is designed to allow students time to get to know each other outside of class in a meaningful way. School-sponsored events after class, like happy hour, gave me the opportunity to build familiarity and strong ties with my classmates.
What do you hope to do after graduation?
Besides continuing to work in pathology research, I’ve been thinking about entrepreneurship. I’ve been impressed by the new platforms that people have been creating in the healthcare sphere.
I collaborated with an EMBA student who also works at MSKCC in my Marketing Workshop class. We helped a company move forward on the marketing goals for their product. I believe their product will be a very important diagnostic tool in the future, and the experience working with this company made me more interested in entrepreneurship as a career choice.
What advice do you have for an incoming student?
I would love to give two pieces of advice. One is to be well organized and plan your trajectory through the program. In order to get the most out of your class experiences, put your priorities first and remind yourself about these priorities as you go through your day. Understand that your time is valuable.
The second thing is to have fun while you are learning. I have had a wonderful time, attending residence weekends, dinners organized by fellow students, and trips abroad. There’s a little time to stop and smell the roses, and it’s important to do that because you can come away with some beautiful relationships that will last for the rest of your life.