My interest in becoming an Erb Institute student began, perhaps not unlike others, with a desire to make a positive impact on the world. Gaining work experience in emerging markets was not originally on my to-do list for graduate school, but after a MAP project in Zambia and a summer internship trip to China, I realized the benefit of expanding my pursuit of a global education to include developing economies. Impact can happen everywhere, and I recognized my interest in pursuing opportunities outside of the U.S. for impact oriented work in areas like healthcare, sustainability and the bottom of the pyramid (BoP).

My most recent opportunity was through the International Business Immersion class at Ross. The semester long class is run through the William Davidson Institute with the topic of Healthcare Delivery in Emerging Markets, and provides an immersive healthcare fieldwork trip over spring break. My team’s project was located in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka with the Grace Care Center, an orphanage and eldercare facility. My student team was tasked with looking at sustainable monitoring programs of non-communicable diseases such as hypertension and diabetes in the elderly community at Grace Care Center and in the surrounding city. Our class spent the first quarter discussing what healthcare in emerging markets looks like, including the challenges these countries face from populations with lower incomes and less infrastructure, as well as the opportunities that exist from decreased regulations and communal societies.

Our team was made up of individuals with different backgrounds and interests. For instance, I had developed this interest in emerging markets, but had no healthcare experience, and a close friend on my team had a strong healthcare background, but had no experience in emerging markets. Each of us brought a different perspective to the project, and while I’m incredibly proud of the work we’ve done and our final deliverable to our sponsor, it’s the integration of our team’s different perspectives that provided some of the most rewarding educational and impactful moments.

Emerging markets today are not simply copies of where developed economies were 10, 20, or 50 years ago- they exist in a global market that has allowed for incredible advancements in technology and connectivity, and the challenges they face are often related to market competition in the global economy. This creates a unique situation for anyone looking to work in these countries. Our team learned that we couldn’t just take models we know from the U.S. and implement them directly into the Grace Care Center. There is an inspiring, complicated, and iterative process that has to take place to deconstruct these models, reformulate them into an entirely new concept with a new set of constraints. Through this process, a new model can arise and create transformation ready for implementation on the ground level

The “ah-hah” moment of the trip began in one of our early team meetings, where a team member suggested we implement a ‘capitated insurance model’, a phrase that meant nothing to me. As we hashed out the translation in laymen’s terms, I began to interject what I knew about emerging markets and how we might be able to adjust the plan to work in this environment. This process, of taking a system we know so well and adapting it to a real-life situation was powerful for the whole team.

This is where the impact magic happens. This is where a team of four Ross students with four different perspectives has the potential to make a difference in the growing elderly population in Sri Lanka. Definitely not an experience I would have ever predicted to be on my resume, but ultimately an incredible lesson in using the tools we have available to make that desired positive impact on the world.