Doctor Seeks MBA To Change The Face Of Healthcare In South Africa

Kimberly Motloung watched as her cousin, aunt, and uncle lost their battles with HIV. She’s applying to Columbia, INSEAD, and Wharton, determined to use her MBA to drive change in healthcare back home

As a child Kimberly Motloung was exposed to poverty, death and disease. Her feelings of helplessness led her into the medical profession. Now, she wants an MBA to help her to make a bigger difference in the healthcare system.

Born in Zimbabwe but raised in South Africa, Kimberly is applying to Columbia Business School, INSEAD, and Wharton; top-ranked MBA programs with electives or specializations in healthcare management.


Why did you decide to go into medicine?

Before antiretroviral drugs were widely available to treat HIV, I watched my eight-year-old cousin, and my aunt and uncle die from full blown AIDS. At 12-years-old, I was their primary caregiver during the day while my parents were away at work, trying to save up for expensive medication, that came too late.

I think this gave me my purpose. My reason to exist. I felt helpless. And I only felt empowered by my decision to go into medicine. I was changed, and I felt this insatiable desire to make sure no one suffered—especially poor people without the ability to access healthcare. When I look at my patients, I see my cousin’s face, and my aunt and uncle’s faces.

What led you to apply for an MBA?

After university, I went to work at New Somerset Hospital—one of the best government hospitals in South Africa. I planned to learn strategies to implement back in Johannesburg. But, after two years, I felt like I wasn’t making a difference.

I felt like I was trying to empty a flooded room with a teaspoon. There were so many problems beyond my control, like not having enough resources for patients, and a lot of patients were going back to the same social circumstances that had brought them to hospital in the first place.

At that point, I had a really pivotal conversation with the hospital’s CEO. She was making important decisions and was able to use her influence to make a difference. I realized I needed to learn to converse on a business level.

I have emotion and insight, but I want to be able to see business considerations. There are not enough people with business acumen who understand what is happening on the ground in hospitals. It’s not only about financial decisions, but about making ethical decisions. I believe that would lead to better patient outcomes.

What are you looking for in a business school?

I’d like to go to a business school with a worldwide reputation for excellence. I am only going to do one MBA so I want to go big. I hope this will help me to build networks and have more impact. I’d also like a school where I can feel happy and at home, and one with a focus on ethics.

Why do you want to study outside of South Africa?

My reasons are twofold. Firstly, I’d like to study with classmates from around the world, and to be able to build international networks. Secondly, I want to be forced to think outside of an African context. I want to be exposed to new ways of thinking and to see how problems are addressed in the developed world. I want to come back not only with an MBA, but a global perspective.

What are your post-MBA plans?

I’d like to come back home. All that I am is a result of people from this continent investing in me. I’ve had amazing English and science teachers who believed in me and encouraged me. I went to good schools not because my parents could afford them, but because I’ve received a number of academic bursaries and scholarships. I have to give back. Obviously, my focus is on healthcare, but my biggest dream is to build libraries throughout Africa someday. Reading can change everything.

What do you do for fun?

I play netball every week. I used to coach netball to high school kids. I’m in a band and sing and play the piano. I also love to travel; to immerse myself in other cultures and to see how other people live. The first question I ask taxi drivers on my travels is ‘How does the health care system work in this country?’. I’ve learned so much about the healthcare systems in different places around the world. 

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