Professionally, she is interested in the fields of life sciences and healthcare as well as non-profit administration.
I always knew exactly what I was going to be when I grew up: Dr. Ellie Koehly, clad in scrubs and ready to help sick people get better. I entered my freshman year confident in my choice to pursue a degree in biology. Seven years later, I am definitely not a doctor, but I do wear scrubs and help sick people get better. The route I took might not be what I planned, but I can’t imagine it any other way.
I began college with a one-track mind, taking all the right classes, volunteering at all the right places, and shadowing all the right doctors. At some point, though, I realized I had no idea if I really wanted to be a doctor. I began pursuing a minor in public service and leadership, discovering while volunteering at a non-profit organization what I hadn’t found in my science classes: passion. I opened myself up to other career options, looking at programs that might help me change course.
Indulging my interests
The Crosby MBA program was exactly what I was looking for. A business degree would not only introduce me to a whole range of unexplored opportunities but prepare me for them because the fundamentals persist regardless of the industry or organization. Additionally, I found out I could pursue a certificate in Nonprofit Management, perfect for further indulging my new-found passion.
As an MBA student, I suddenly qualified for a wide variety of internships in the non-profit sector. I applied for an internship with the Volunteer Services Department at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. With a little luck and a bit of networking, I became the summer intern for their special events and housing programs. I assisted in the development, promotion, implementation, and evaluation of weekly events for the patients in the hospital’s housing facilities. I created a national marketing brochure for Tri Delta Place, the hospital’s primary short-term stay facility that serves up to 100 families each night. I also updated their website, which was recognized with a certificate of excellence from the Healthcare Hospitality Network. That summer at St. Jude was one of the most profound and inspiring experiences of my life — and it underscored my passion for making a difference in the lives of others.
Of course, sometimes that difference occurs more indirectly. At St. Jude, I also was surrounded by groundbreaking research. The scientists pursuing these life-changing treatments gave me new appreciation for my undergraduate studies. That led me to my current pursuit. The fellowship with University of Missouri Health System‘s Biodesign and Innovation Program is a perfect fit. During this one-year appointment, I provide the business know-how on a team that also includes a doctor and an engineer, learning the development process for medical devices and applying my backgrounds in science and business to improve the lives of others. It is my dream combination!
Doing my homework
In part to prepare for this fellowship, I looked for opportunities with start-up ventures and entrepreneurship. Thanks to Business Career Services, I found an internship with Cultivation Capital, a venture capital firm out of St. Louis. During my last semester, I was a member of its life sciences due diligence team. Working remotely, I was given assignments to complete on my own time. Once a week, the team would convene over Google Hangouts to discuss the start-up companies we were analyzing.
I put together succinct reports about companies’ marketing and financial plans, summarizing the competitive environment. This internship posed unique challenges for me, and I gained incredible experience that was directly applicable to my current work. For example, the internship gave me insight into what investors like Cultivation Capital look for in start-up companies, which I have used to evaluate outcomes at my fellowship.
So where does all of this that put me now?
Well, these first couple months have had me in and out of the operating room, identifying areas for improvement. In a few weeks my team will present our top needs to a board of doctors, lawyers, businesspeople, and engineers. That larger group will help us narrow our focus to three or four priorities, and then we will begin developing solutions and making prototypes. Throughout the year, I will help formulate a business plan and evaluate how to get these solutions to market.
Looking back to my freshman year of college, I never would have imagined myself where I am now, but I also can’t imagine where I’ll be in another seven years, and that’s what’s exciting! I love my fellowship because I can intertwine business and science to address real needs for real people. I am going through this experience with an open mind, learning all I can from the program and my colleagues and know, when it’s all over, my next step will be revealed to me.
For now, you can find me in the OR, clad in scrubs, doing my best to help sick people get better.
Listen to Ellie Koehly share her story and ask her questions from noon to 1 p.m. September 25. Register for the webinar here.