Patrick De Barr

Professional Background

I studied medicine at the University of Nottingham. While at medical school, I completed exchange placements at Harvard Medical School in the United States and at Lund University, Sweden. I completed my foundation training as a doctor working in various hospitals in London and the south-east doing rotations in medicine, surgery and accident and emergency. I completed a fellowship in major trauma as I was trying to gear my CV towards the acute specialities like emergency care.

I then moved to Australia and worked in a rural emergency department and following this I got a job at Monash University in Melbourne as a clinical lecturer. After returning to the UK, I started training as an anaesthetist, but due to my interest in research, medical education and innovation, I began to think that full-time clinical medicine may not be the best path for me. I decided to work in clinical research within the pharmaceutical industry.

Developing business acumen

Pre-MBA, I was working for a Clinical Research Organisation where I planned and managed clinical trials for global pharmaceutical and biotechnology clients. This job gave me an idea of what it’s like to work outside of the public sector. After a year of working there, I began to think about how I could make myself a better candidate to progress in this industry? I knew the science well but I didn’t know anything about business. I took advice from people in industry, as well as friends and colleagues. The advice was that doing an MBA is a perfect business foundation for people who have skills in a sector but lack the business understanding. For me, that was my motivation for doing an MBA.

Why Imperial?

I came to Imperial because it’s one of the best science institutions in the world, there is no doubt about that. The medical school is in the top three in the UK and Imperial is well known for engineering, bio-engineering and chemistry as well. When you combine business with science, some really exciting things begin to happen. Currently at Imperial, there is an absolute hotbed of activity within technology, especially medical technology and there are many opportunities for MBA students to get involved. I could have chosen to go to other business schools – CASS, LBS but they don’t have that science facet to them. That was what excited me about Imperial. I only applied to this business school.

Key learnings

I had a very limited understanding of business just having dealt with the medical world. The core modules were challenging yet achievable and the whole programme gives you a broad foundation. If you had asked me a year ago to prepare financial statements in an accounting exam, I wouldn’t have even known what they were. I may not ever have to use those skills again, but I now have a more holistic understanding of my industry and how the medical aspects fit in with the whole business. I believe this 360 degree understanding of business in my future work will lead to better relationships with internal and external stakeholders.

A particular highlight for me during the year was entering an international healthcare case competition with four fellow MBA students. Our task was to submit a US market entry strategy for a medical devices company. This directly used the skills we had been learning during the course. Our submission was selected to compete in the final at SDA Bocconi School of Management in Milan with ten other top business schools from across the world. Unfortunately, we did not win but it was a privilege to travel to Bocconi, representing Imperial and to meet like-minded MBA students from across the world with an interest in healthcare.

A supportive and collaborative cohort

You work in groups a lot and you’re constantly challenged. You’re put into a group with people from different cultures, backgrounds and industry. In saying this, the cohort is very supportive and collaborative. For example, in my working (syndicate) group we have an accountant, finance expert, designer, doctor, NGO expert and operations and HR expert. We all help each other out in during projects, supporting each other’s learning. On the MBA, you’re constantly working in different teams in addition to your syndicate team which can be challenging to adapt to different working styles. However, this is probably one of the key learning experiences for future employment. I feel as though I will be a better employee and team member having done this.

The faculty

The faculty are great, really supportive and communicate well with us. The Full-Time MBA Programme Director, Andreas Eisingerich, actually taught us for one of the core modules. That was really nice because we got to know him a bit more in a professional context as well as giving him more insight into what we are like as a cohort. Also, the finance modules with Franklin Allen were excellent, he is an amazing teacher and has taught at some of the best business schools in the world so we are honoured to have him.

Global Experience Week in Chile

Before Chile, I went to Patagonia for ten days with a group of ten students led by Matthew Casey who was a Major in the British Army. We flew to Patagonia and completed a five-day trek together. It was cold, wet and miserable at times, carrying heavy bags, but it was an amazing experience and one of the highlights of the year for me.

We then flew to Santiago to meet the rest of the cohort. We had a week planned for us which was jam-packed with activities. We had talks from people in the mining sector, retail, law and energy. A particular highlight for me was visiting a healthcare charity that was doing some amazing work in paediatric burns. We met the founder who is a 70-year-old doctor and had a really inspirational talk from him. We also went to a vineyard, because you can’t go to Chile without going to a vineyard. It was an excellent bonding experience for the whole cohort and we made long-lasting friendships.

The wider Imperial community

I was part of the ‘MBA Connect’ programme and I got linked with a MedTech startup called Quickcount, run by four chemistry PhD students. They discovered a technology that can count blood cells with a handheld device. We helped them with their business pitch and the financial side of the business. They ended up winning the Programm/able competition which was really exciting. We also link with the Enterprise Lab, a great facility that you can use that’s kind of like a ‘hackspace’. Also, I’ve met a lot of student on the Master’s in International Health Management, there are a lot of like-minded people who are interested in healthcare. Over the summer I will be working as an advisor to the new Med Tech Super Connector, which is a med tech accelerator programme connecting eight London universities to med tech start-ups.

President of the Healthcare Careers Club

I applied to be President of the Healthcare Careers Club because I thought I had a lot to offer with my experience in clinical medicine, the pharmaceutical industry and connections to med tech. Fortunately, I was successful in getting that role and together with the committee, we put on events as often as we can to provide people with experience around the four key areas of hospital management, life sciences, med-tech and healthcare consulting.

The London factor

I grew up in London but lived in Brighton before the MBA and commuted every day to work by train. I decided to move to London while studying to make the most of all the opportunities on offer, some of which are events in the evenings. My wife and I are renting in Fulham and I cycle every day into Imperial. Living in a more central location is great because I can cycle everywhere and I don’t waste time commuting. You can get around quite quickly and it’s great being near parks and the river, I do a lot of cycling around Richmond Park.

Work, life, family balance

Trying to balance everything can be challenging when you have several deadlines. Also trying to apply for jobs, write job applications and go for interviews alongside academic requirements and lots of people do extra-curricular things as well – sport or careers clubs.

I have a wife and family but I don’t have children (yet!). My wife is an obstetric doctor in a hospital in London so she has a hectic schedule as well. You have to have a balance in your relationship in terms of making time for each other. It can be challenging but you do get free time during the MBA to socialise and see your family on the weekends, as long as you prioritise and manage your diary. It was actually better than I had expected.

Careers and Professional Development

I had three main areas of interest when I came to Imperial and they were healthcare consulting, MedTech and the pharmaceutical industry. Ultimately I’ve decided to go into the pharmaceutical industry. At this stage, having just come to the end of my MBA, I’d prefer to complete five to ten years in industry and perhaps do something more entrepreneurial further down the line.

At Imperial, you get assigned a Careers Coach, and I was assigned Andreia Ferreira who has been very helpful. She’s reviewed cover letters, CVs and sent me jobs that get sent to her inbox. Through my work with the Healthcare Careers club I also have a good relationship with Sarah Ranchev-Hale who is the Assistant Director Employee Relations. The Careers service is great. You need to be proactive but they’re there if you need them and they’re really experienced.

What’s next?

Some people use an MBA as a career pivot or a career accelerator, I’m using it as a pivot. I view the MBA as an asset in the short-term because it helps to get a job but it’s also an asset in the long-term because it may help me to get into a leadership role in healthcare; I will be using the skills I have learnt on this programme as well as my employment experience to get there. I believe that having those letters after your name says a lot about a person before they open their mouth, so hopefully it’s going to be an asset for me in the future. I am currently interviewing for roles within the pharmaceutical industry as well as talking with several medical start-ups.

Advice for prospective students

You have to be clear on why you want to do an MBA and where it’s going to get you. It also has to be the right stage in your personal life to do it. Take advice from people in your industry and where you want to go to find out whether an MBA is a bonus. Normally it is a bonus to have an MBA, but you have to balance that with the financial cost and the time not earning. However there are lots of options, you can do a Weekend MBA and work full-time, an Executive MBA later in your career or the Global Online MBA. In addition, there are several scholarships and awards on offer.

Without a doubt, I think it’s a good investment in yourself, in your career and an asset not only in the short term but also the long term. You will meet an amazingly diverse set of individuals from across the globe and the year will most definitely fly by.

Patrick De Barr

Nationality: British

Undergraduate education: MBBS, BmedSci, University Of Nottingham

Job prior to Imperial College Business School: Lead Research Physician / Medical Doctor

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