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Seizing opportunities in healthcare

Aditi Paul (MBA ’21) has the kind of MBA resume that every student dreams of.

She was vice president of alumni relations for the MBA Healthcare Club and won the MBA Leadership Award, MBA Excellence Award and the Jack Behrman and Dick Levin Award for commitment to community at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School.

She was recognized as a 2021 Poets & Quants “Best & Brightest MBA” and now works as a director of strategic initiatives at UnitedHealthcare.

It might seem like an extraordinary effort, but Paul says UNC Kenan-Flagler offered a supportive environment for her to excel, empowering her to seize the ample opportunities and pathways available for MBA students in healthcare.

The drive to make a difference

Paul’s association with healthcare goes back a decade. During high school, she got involved in a Medical Explorers program where she engaged with hospital practitioners and administrators, witnessing the impact of healthcare up close.

“Though I was fascinated with care delivery,” Paul says, “the curiosity to further explore how technology, process automation, and  advocacy were impacting healthcare exposed a whole new world outside of the traditional practice of medicine.”

Paul built the technical skills she needed to succeed in these non-clinical areas. She majored in industrial and systems engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology before joining Accenture as a management consultant in their health and public service practice.

There, she worked on a wide array of initiatives encompassing both the payer and provider functions of the healthcare landscape. The highlight of her consulting experience was a project to transform a Medicaid-focused program from an economics, efficacy, and accessibility point of view.

UNC rose to the top in healthcare

Though she had well-honed her technical skills, an MBA was the next step to pivot into the strategic and management aspects of the business of healthcare.

“When I was doing my research into possible MBA schools, UNC rose to the top when it came to the caliber and diversity of both leadership and healthcare opportunities,” Paul says.

For students with an interest in healthcare, there is no shortage of opportunities to explore at UNC Kenan-Flagler.

The Healthcare Concentration offered in the Full-Time MBA Program is a joint initiative with UNC’s School of Medicine, focused on stimulating medical entrepreneurship and innovation.

Students can leverage the Center for the Business of Health at UNC Kenan-Flagler and benefit from the close relationship with UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health and the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy.

This was already a compelling reason for Paul to apply, but what really clinched it for her was the community.

“Interacting with the student body at UNC Kenan-Flagler, I felt strong camaraderie and saw an opportunity to team up with peers who were looking for similar outcomes – both personal and professional,” Paul says.

Getting out of her comfort zone

 The learning started even before the first day of class.

 “I was pleasantly surprised by how much I was picking up even before I stepped into the classroom,” Paul says. “From the minute I enrolled, I had so many genuinely interested people reaching out to welcome and connect me with the abundance of resources and programs at UNC.”

In the summer before her first semester, Paul attended career and leadership events and began networking with other students before she even arrived at school.

When the classroom experience did begin, it did not disappoint. Even classes that weren’t directly related or tangential to healthcare inspired Paul to enrich her perspectives and thinking.

“One of my favorite professors was Judy Tisdale, who taught communications for developing leaders,” Paul says. “One of my goals in business school was to become a better communicator. I enjoyed Professor Tisdale’s approach on engaging and influencing an audience, which launched my playbook on how to be an expressive and collaborative leader.”

Making an impact on the curriculum

The learning started even before the first day of class.

“I was pleasantly surprised by how much I was picking up even before I stepped into the classroom,” Paul says. “From the minute I enrolled, I had so many genuinely interested people reaching out to welcome and connect me with the abundance of resources and programs at UNC.”

In the summer before her first semester, Paul attended career and leadership events and began networking with other students before she even arrived at school.

When the classroom experience did begin, it did not disappoint. Even classes that weren’t directly related or tangential to healthcare inspired Paul to enrich her perspectives and thinking.

“One of my favorite professors was Judy Tisdale, who taught communications for developing leaders,” Paul says. “One of my goals in business school was to become a better communicator. I enjoyed Professor Tisdale’s approach on engaging and influencing an audience, which launched my playbook on how to be an expressive and collaborative leader.”

Strengthening alumni connections

Not only did Paul go above and beyond to reshape the curriculum for current and future students, but she also networked extensively to bring past students’ knowledge back onto campus.

“We have such a strong, deep alumni network,” she says. “To bring that expertise, talent and mentorship back to the School exponentially advances the quality of our education and success of our students.” Inspired by her own positive experiences with her career mentor, Paul mentions her experience with the Center for the Business of Health to strengthen its career networks and paired first-year healthcare students with alumni in their desired function or sub-industry.

Paul leaves a legacy at UNC Kenan-Flagler as someone who was able to enact effective changes by elevating the positive attributes she saw around her. She points out that micro-networks such as these augment the confidence and toolsets when graduates re-enter the business setting.

Initiative meets opportunity

The supportive environment at UNC Kenan-Flagler helped Paul make her achievements possible.

“My biggest takeaway from business school is re-enforcing the confidence in myself to seek out and work on opportunities that are outside my comfort zone,” she says.

“Previously, I really stuck to what I knew, but through taking different classes and interacting with a diverse set of peers, I developed the muscle and confidence to step outside of that.”

Not only did the MBA help build Paul’s confidence to speak up, but it gave her the channels to do so. Her work with the Curriculum Advisory Board and the Center for the Business of Health gave her the opportunity to raise her voice and make bold changes for the betterment of her community and herself.

Having arrived at business school with a goal to pivot her career to strategy, Paul used extracurricular initiatives coupled with a diverse curriculum to gain the skills in this area and put them to practice.

“Aditi has an ambidextrous approach where she creates the strategy and points things in the right direction, but also can manage the tactical side,” Brad Staats, associate dean of MBA Programs and faculty director of the Center for the Business of Health told Poets & Quants.

“Her impact on UNC Kenan-Flagler has been substantial and she truly leaves the School better than she found it.”

It’s an ideal union of initiative and opportunity: Paul’s go-getting attitude to find a home at a school that was ready to listen. Paul believes that open-minded and energetic students can have the same experience.

“You only learn as much as you seek out,” she says. “UNC Kenan-Flagler has the resources, the programs, the personnel to really help clarify your interests, develop the strengths, craft your personal brand, and propel you to be what you want to accomplish, as long as you take the initiative to immerse yourself in what the School has to offer.”

3.8.2022