"We Looked for Hope and Found It"

A UCLA Anderson Executive MBA field study team helped a startup develop its ideal markets in India, improve delivery of medical care and curb infant mortality
A UCLA Anderson Executive MBA field study team helps a startup develop its ideal markets in India, improve delivery of medical care and curb infant mortality

Beverly Ilagan met with Dr. P.K. Gupta, a consultant neonatologist and pediatrician at the Deep Nursing Home newborn and child care center in Mathura, India | Lara Mackey (right) visited the LifeSpring Maternity Hospital in Hyderabad, India, and met with head nurse Vijaybhasker Srinivas (center) and his head of operations

In India, infant mortality from respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) occurs at a rate of 20 percent — compared to less than 2 percent in the United States. Our Strategic Management Research field study in India was motivated by the goal to bring hope to mothers and babies threatened by RDS.

Our SMR team is working with San Francisco-based D-Rev, a nonprofit company that designs and licenses medical technologies for delivery to underserved populations in developing countries. D-Rev’s current project, Smart CPAP, aims to end infant death from RDS by improving delivery of care in referral hospitals and, as a result, increase capacity in specialty hospitals where infants needing the most care are treated.

Our goal is to provide D-Rev a methodology and application framework for tracking &ldquosystem&rdquo or &ldquomarket&rdquo impact for their Smart CPAP project. Such methodology includes identifying market shortcomings and their root causes; designing and proposing health interventions; and measuring results.

On our primary research trip to India, Lara visited eight hospitals in five cities over the course of seven days. The goals of this first visit were:

  • Establish contacts
  • Obtain a first-hand understanding of the overall hospital ecosystem
  • Interact with care providers to discuss neonatal care and usage of CPAP to treat neonatal RDS, including gaps in coverage
  • Connect with D-Rev employees and leverage their in-country network
  • Gain an understanding of the hospital purchasing process for medical devices 

Primary research, which entailed attending budgeting and purchasing meetings at a large private hospital, enabled our team to develop a proposed ideal market state, listing of market shortcomings and root causes.

A UCLA Anderson Executive MBA field study team helps a startup develop its ideal markets in India, improve delivery of medical care and curb infant mortality

The team’s Patrick Fedewa and Beverly Ilagan met Jessica Brooks, D-Rev’s manager of learning and analytics in New Delhi

On our second visit to India, Patrick and Beverly met with key opinion leaders, foundations such as USAID and professionals in 12 hospitals over the course of six days. We focused on hospitals in Uttar Pradesh and asked more targeted questions to confirm our hypothesis of specific market shortcomings and cement our proposed interventions. We were also able to gather more information around availability of data to be able to propose KPIs and explore the option to gather data. Patrick attended a neonatal ventilation workshop at All India Institute of Medical Science, one of the premier specialty hospitals in the country.

These in-country meetings provided us the cultural and health system context we would not have otherwise been able to fully grasp. We looked for hope and found it. We found it in the form of great doctors, some of them stretched thin but generous enough to respond to our questions in between urgent calls. We found it in medical professionals who might have had options to practice in a more profitable country but chose to stay in India, where their expertise is needed. We found hope in a young Yale health impact expert who brought her passion to India. We found it in hospitals that do their best to provide care in the face of limited resources, offering discounts to patients so they can get treatment. And we found it in companies like D-Rev that are investing in the worthy cause to curb RDS mortality rates.

We came back enriched by this experience, knowing that our capstone project goes beyond business. We will be contributing to making a greater difference.

UCLA Anderson Executive MBA students conduct Strategic Management Research (SMR) projects in lieu of a thesis. The Center for Global Management supported UCLA Anderson EMBA Class of 2019 teams to conduct critical primary research and collaborate with established NGOs seeking sustainable strategies for local communities to improve their economies and health outcomes while developing more sustainable supply chains in environmentally sensitive parts of the world.

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