Nkem Okonkwo

Nkem OkonkwoNationality: Nigerian

Institute and subject studied for Undergraduate degree: Cardiff University, Medicine

Work experience/internship(s):
After medical school, I worked as a Junior Doctor within the NHS completing my two-year foundation programme in London and Wales.

Greatest academic, professional or personal awards/achievements: I think I am most proud of scientific conferences where I have been invited to give oral presentations and share information on research I have conducted. I enjoy speaking on topics that I am passionate about that can be of benefit to clinical management in the future. In doing this work, I was awarded the foundation trainee doctor prize by the Royal College of Paediatrics & Child Health for research I had carried out in the aforementioned field. I also felt very pleased that I was selected to be part of the Youth Health Parliament this year, which looks to be a promising project that could potentially construct health policy to be incorporated into UK practice!

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Programme

Why did you decide to study an MSc in International Health Management and why specifically at Imperial College Business School?
Actually, a work colleague who became a mentor to me while I was in training had completed the same course at Imperial College Business School and had nothing but great things to say about it. I had been saying that I wanted to take a year out to do a Global Health Master’s following completion of my F2 year and he urged me to apply for the course citing its application to my future ambitions and that it contained a strong global health element, which was important to me. I also had a couple of friends who had successfully completed the course and gave very positive feedback on their experience. They also encouraged me to apply, commenting on how useful it turned out to be and the doors that were opened following.

What makes the MSc International Health Management at Imperial College Business School unique?
The course is unique because it provides the perfect blend of social science, government and politics, global health with fundamental business and entrepreneurship elements.

What aspects of the programme do you most enjoy?
The business element and applicability was something different to what I had previously experienced coming from a predominantly science background but actually is the part I think I have been most intrigued by. I feel that while the course itself has merits beyond mentioning here, more importantly, the overall faculty especially solidified that business.

What has been the most challenging part of the programme?
I’m sure everyone will say group work! Creating cohesive, high-quality work, coordinating schedules, delegating/being delegated, allocating/being allocated and assigning/being assigned can be a cumbersome task especially in large groups. However, one can understand how it prepares an individual for real life workplace environments and in fact proved to be the only way one could realistically accomplish the work that needed to be done. I also have to include the Accounting module, which was ‘fish out of water’ adjacent in its utter newness to myself and indeed most of the cohort.

What has been the most rewarding part of the programme?
Meeting some great people who will remain lifelong friends (and have even become co-collaborators).

Which has been your favourite module so far and why?
They all had elements that were intriguing but there were a couple of modules that I personally enjoyed mainly because I had no prior knowledge of these topics or concepts. These were Global Business Strategy and Innovation. Both were completely foreign areas to me but critically inspired me to adjust my thinking and approach to work.

People

Which seminars, events or guest lectures at the school have been useful in developing your skills and knowledge?
We have had some great events occur at the Business School. The Women in Innovation event that was held in early 2016 was particularly enlightening and inspiring drawing some strong speakers from all sorts including law, biomedical science and health management. The speakers offered great advice and insights. We also had a discussion on the ‘A&E Crisis’, which attracted the President of Royal College of Emergency Medicine Clifford Mann as well as other industry heavyweights. Finally, Loy Lobo, a Digital Health Strategist and Innovator provided mentorship on how to innovate in resource-poor settings, which I thought was particularly pertinent to the type of work I one day hope to carry out.

How would you sum up the Business School faculty?
Extremely helpful; open and willing to advise, offer feedback and/or support; highly knowledgeable in their respective fields and efficient and responsive in its operations.

Did you have a favourite professor/lecturer and why?
I’m going to be diplomatic and not pick one specific. I thought Colin Love’s Global Business Strategy lectures were very interesting and relevant and a great introduction in what a business needs to embody to succeed. I thought James Barlow’s Innovation lectures were eye opening and wonderfully informative on way of pushing boundaries and thinking outside the box. Additionally, I felt the use of guest lecturers to emphasise or realise each topic was both interesting and relatable. I also felt Carol Propper’s lecture series provided a good grasp of basic healthcare policy and financing globally.

Imperial places a large emphasis on group work, what inspires you the most about working in this type of environment?
I think group work while challenging can be rewarding because: a) one is taking the strengths of each individual to produce a solid result and; b) there is something quite comforting about shared responsibility, which in the deadline-filled Business School is a much needed respite and preferred option than being forced to produce work individually under intense time constraints.

How would you describe your cohort at Imperial?
Compared to other cohorts in the Business School, I think we are relatively small cohort which means everyone knows everyone and thankfully everyone is extremely friendly and helpful. There are a lot of social activities that are organised that’s for sure!

What clubs, societies or other activities have you been involved in at Imperial?
I headed the BioPharma and Healthcare Career Club at the Business School. As the MSc Co-President, I was able to organise with the committee several events that centred on topics like ‘Entrepreneurship in Healthcare’, ‘Investing in Healthcare’ and ‘Digital Health: The Future of Global Healthcare Delivery’. We were also able to liaise with the London Business School Healthcare club and organise a trip to Switzerland to visit the WHO and some major pharmaceutical companies.

Opportunities

What has been the greatest opportunity you have had at Imperial that you wouldn’t get anywhere else?
Networking! Networking! Networking! The alumni, seminars, career club events and other affiliations have been instrumental in opening doors to new opportunities.

How have you benefited from the services provided by the Career and Professional Development Service?
I cannot sing enough praises about the Career and Professional Development Service at Imperial. Prior to my job applications, they thoroughly went through my CV and gave me pointers on structure and content. Once I was offered an interview I came in for a couple of practice sessions where we built on my current interview technique and then revised and perfected the entire process until it was effortless and natural.

How have you benefited from being part of the wider Imperial College London community?
I have been afforded the opportunity to come across and meet so many like-minded people with similar aspirations and ambitions through the Imperial College Business School community. Furthermore, the Imperial network, which includes other faculties like engineering medicine but also reaches institutions like the Royal College of Art & Design, has meant the landscape of potential collaborators is immense and indeed has proven very fruitful. In fact, two of my health tech startup companies have come as a direct result of the Imperial College Network. The Imperial VC Innovations Lab has also been a useful source of information, support and guidance for people such as myself who are new to entering the world of business and have ideas that they want to materialise.

Do you think studying in a central location such as London is beneficial for networking and career opportunities? Please share any positive experiences you have had.
I think being in London in general has huge advantages in networking and career opportunities not least because London is a buzzing city metropolis with many of the top companies, firms, banks calling it their headquarters, or at least a major hub in their operations. London is also a cacophony of different cultures and ethnicities; essentially, no matter what field one chooses to enter there is a wealth of possibilities and avenues to exploit. For instance, through the Imperial Innovator Lab events, I was informed of an African healthcare/technology hackathon that was occurring in the City over a long weekend which turned out to be one of the most rewarding experiences I have had. Attendees ranged from 18-45 years, from all walks of life and backgrounds who came together to solve real life problems faced by African companies. I am certain that the opportunity could not have occurred in any place except London.

Career

What are your future career goals and how have they been realised since being at Imperial?
I always had a strong desire to start up a business that functioned primarily as a social enterprise. I also had hopes of beginning to shape and improve the delivery of healthcare in the future in a tangible manner. Both of these goals have been realised during my time at Imperial with our health tech startup, Sirona and the Youth Health Parliament.

Have you received any job offers since commencing your programme?
I was fortunately offered the opportunity to start specialty training as a Junior Doctor within the London Deanery which will commence as soon as the course is completed.

What are your career aspirations upon completing the programme?
I always knew I would continue with clinical medicine following completion of the programme and felt that in doing this Master’s degree I would be equipped to take on higher managerial responsibility thus making me a more rounded clinician. I think often doctors or indeed many healthcare professionals are too narrowly focused on just the patient/clinician interface which, though understandable, is likely to be too myopic for the growing needs of healthcare systems. Moreover, I strongly believe that managerial and leadership skills are implicitly required in any clinician’s repertoire, which I think is particularly teased out on the course.

Location

Whereabouts do you live in London and why did you choose to live there?
North London, Golders Green. I’ve lived in this part of London since I moved here almost 18 years ago with my family. It’s fairly easy to get to central London but also has bucolic neighbouring areas like Hampstead, West Hampstead and Highgate with great cafes and gastro pubs. It’s quiet, calm and has the best bagels and bakeries in London.

What can a weekend in London look like for an MSc student?
Anything you want it to be as far as you don’t have a deadline the Monday following!

In your opinion, tell us about the most exciting, undiscovered place in London.
I’ve increasingly become a fan of East/EC London: Shoreditch, Hoxton, Old street and Dalston. Though as a North Londoner, I often stick to Angel and Islington, which have nice cocktail bars, great restaurants all around Upper Street (N1), a fantastic theatre called Almeida (with an even better restaurant attached) and the Sadler’s Wells Dance Theatre (also equally as fantastic). I think most people stick to West End and Central London, which is perfectly fine and I would recommend places like Riding House café, Hawksmoor or Vapianos for good grub. In East London I can recommend Dishoom and Boundary (it has a rooftop terrace, great in the summer), Queen of Hoxton (rooftop mainly), Sushi Samba/Duck & Waffle (pricey with great views), Tramshed (for a good steak), Callooh Callay (for post dinner drinks), Ace Hotel (for drinks and music), The Book Club (more music) and the list goes on! The thing is, London is consistently popping up with new places so your best strategy is to just trial and experiment.

If you had to move to London for the programme, what have been the benefits and challenges of moving to London? What advice would you give to someone in a similar position?
I’m been a Londoner for quite a while so I didn’t need to move and I am quite familiar with the area. However, from other friends who have moved, the general consensus is start early!

Tips

What advice would you give someone who was thinking about applying for the course?
Just apply! You will definitely get more out of it than you would expect. I certainly did.

Looking back to when you were applying for the programme, did you attend any online or on campus information sessions? Did you find these a useful part of the recruitment process? Would you recommend that prospective students attend these events?
I fortunately was given a lot of information first-hand from those who had already experienced the course, which gave me the general outline of what to expect and I consolidated the information from what was available online.