Grace Yook (MBA/PharmD ’21) is a trailblazer. In 2021, she was the first Asian woman and the first woman of color to graduate from UNC Kenan-Flagler’s dual-degree program with the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, and she’s used her experience on the combined MBA/PharmD to forge her own career path.
It is a path that she knew from early in her college journey would end with a position in healthcare. Yook majored in biological sciences and chemistry at Wake Forest University before arriving in Chapel Hill, and she knew she wanted to pursue a rotational program with a pharmaceutical company post-graduation.
The combination of an MBA with a PharmD degree seemed like the best way to get there. Having grown up in North Carolina, it was a a “no-brainer” to study at UNC where the pharmacy and business schools are ranked among the best in the U.S. She earned a UNC Kenan-Flagler Merit Fellowship, a Consortium for Graduate Study in Management Fellowship and a Rankin Memorial Fellowship, among other honors.
Though she knew her destination, Yook couldn’t have predicted the route that her MBA at UNC Kenan-Flagler would take her, nor how it would alter her perspective.
Learning about herself
“What I didn’t realize was that because the business school is so diverse, and has so many different types of people, I was able to learn a lot about myself and what my interests were long term,” Yook says.
As well as expanding her horizons through talking with her classmates, she also explored new interests and markets by taking a Global Immersion Elective (GIE) to explore the dynamic entrepreneurship environment in Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore. Students interacted with business leaders in venture capital, online retailing, blockchain, tech and education startups, government and an NGO.
“I was really interested in going to Southeast Asia,” Yook recalls. “The GIE was entrepreneurship-focused, which was obviously completely outside of healthcare.”
Learning to think like an entrepreneur was a fascinating journey, and Yook found a way to combine her new interest with her existing passion.
“I organized an all-female-led venture capital panel in Thailand,” she says. “They were a telemedicine psychiatric service, which was cool because it melded my healthcare interest with venture capital and entrepreneurship.”
“There was a strong network of women-based groups, particularly at UNC Kenan-Flagler.”
Yook went on to participate in the UNC Kenan-Flagler Venture Capital Investment Competition. Her team won first place in both the internal and regional events and fifth place the global VCIC event. There, she talked with healthcare entrepreneurs while taking a role as a venture capitalist, which helped her to see healthcare from a whole new perspective. She later mentored female MBA students to encourage them to compete in the event and served as a VCIC judge.
“I knew there would be enhanced avenues for discovering where healthcare sits within the scope of business, but I didn’t realize how great it would be to explore venture capital and entrepreneurship through global opportunities,” says Yook.