It’s 4:45 a.m. and the sun is breaking over the ninth-floor helipad. In my hand is a cup of coffee. In the pockets of my white coat are pages of scribbled notes, two blue pens, a red stethoscope, a pair of gloves, a roll of gauze, a granola bar and a pager. My team just finished surgical rounds and we pause to take in the quiet stillness of the early morning hour, as we know it will be the last time we sit down that day.


Life looks very different now. As I gaze out at palm trees from my desk at the San Diego office, I can’t help but reflect on the fact that these two worlds — business and medicine — have so much to offer each other and yet still feel miles apart.


We started our internships at ZS’s San Diego office as MD/MBA candidates. During medical training, we were struck by a desire to see the bigger picture – to affect patients and families on a larger scale than is possible in a single shift. Business school felt like the next logical choice. We wanted exposure to the entire healthcare ecosystem and to understand the many different players. In the early semesters of our MBA studies we spent countless hours thinking about where we could make a real impact at a company where our “non-traditional backgrounds” were not only accepted, but valued.


Through our internships, it’s become clear that ZS is exactly this place. Our colleagues are PharmDs, MDs, and PhDs in neuroscience, psychology and chemistry. They’re brilliant, analytical, funny and in the long hours of PowerPoint iteration and review, we find a communal comfort in speaking the same language. Though both of us are new to the world of consulting, it’s easy to feel at home. With client projects that frequently call for market research on rare diseases and interviews with physicians and patients, it sometimes feels as if our training specifically prepared us for this opportunity. We could have never anticipated the way our unique background could add value in the business world and be strengthened along the way.


On the client side, we’ve had the opportunity to share our analytical and empathetic perspectives, from our experience seeing the healthcare pipeline through to the end user. We are by no means experts in this complex and evolving industry, but ZS has helped us connect the dots and build a bridge between business and medicine.


Savanah Harshbarger and Rob Turk are interning at ZS’s San Diego office this summer. Savanah and Rob are MD/MBA candidates at the Duke School of Medicine/Duke Fuqua School of Business and UC San Diego School of Medicine/UVA Darden School of Business, respectively.

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