Mission Critical: Sourav Bose Tackles Public Health Research and Disaster Management

Sourav Bose, a recent graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, is majoring in biology and crisis management. While in high school at the Bergen Academies in Hackensack, N.J., Bose started the Aid for AIDS club – which grew to have several chapters in high schools statewide – and founded a non-profit agency, Niramoy, that sponsors an HIV education center in the heart of rural India. Bose’s father, Dr. Shishir Bose, is from Gopalpur, India. Bose complemented his work abroad by volunteering as an emergency medical technician and firefighter with his local fire department in his hometown, Leonia, N.J. He has continued his interest in disaster management, as well as researching emergent medical care in Guatemala. In an interview with classmate Mindy Zhang, Bose talked to Knowledge@Wharton High School about the intersection of business and medicine, and leadership lessons from his experiences in crisis response.

Knowledge@Wharton High School: Hi, Sourav. Thanks so much for joining us today. Can you start by telling us a little bit about what you’ve been working on?

Sourav Bose: Sure. I’m a senior in the Vagelos Life Sciences and Management Program here at Penn. That means I study biology and crisis management, and I’ve been involved in crises my entire life since high school. A good five, six, seven years ago, I joined my local fire department, and I’ve been working in fire and EMS — that’s Emergency Medical Services — as an EMT for the past six years. That really led to an interest in researching crises. What do people do in a disaster? What do people do when there’s a lot of resource constraint? So I’ve done a number of research projects at Penn [looking at] emergency medicine in Guatemala and also in the Wharton Risk Center. For fun, I foster dogs, and I like working out.

KWHS: You mentioned your research in Guatemala. I think it’s amazing that you got to do such an in-depth research project in college. Can you tell us a bit more about your project and what impact you had?

Bose: Well, unlike places like Philadelphia, many places don’t have hospitals within walking distance or even car drives. So the question of how people access health care is a big one. One component in that is transportation. How do people get to the hospital? So, my project was looking at an ambulance system – by ambulance system I mean one ambulance — in a very small rural area in Guatemala. I was looking at how to measure how much people should be paying for the service in order to get to the hospital. That involved me going door-to-door and asking people a whole list of questions with a survey and trying to figure out what their preferences were and what they thought about payment. In the process, I produced a number of papers that I hope to get published and that may help the government of Guatemala’s Ministry of Health in figuring out how to better allocate resources.

KWHS: Okay, so health care is a huge topic today. As a student studying both business and medicine, what do you see as the intersection between these two fields? How are they related?

Bose: Well, I don’t think they’re related at all. One thing that people forget is that business is a tool. Business tells you how to look at something, how to think about the problem and how to create a solution to that problem. Health care is a mission. Health care is about delivering a product and thinking about people at a moral level. I think that although they’re not made from the same source, business and health care go together very well, because as a physician or somebody involved in the health care delivery process, you’re not necessarily thinking about how much this product should cost, what the most efficient way to deliver it is, who should get this product, how do we make this a just and fair delivery process. That’s where business really comes into play, thinking about finance and pricing and systems management. That fits really well with health care delivery.

KWHS: You were also the chief of the medical emergency response team on campus. What was your day-to-day role in that job?

Bose: The Penn Medical Emergency Response Team provides nightly service to the Penn community on bicycles at the basic life support level. That means that we serve as a liaison between the Philadelphia Fire Department and the Penn police and Penn students who are in need. So, as chief, it was my responsibility to manage the organization. That meant maintaining our training levels, getting resources for the organization, communicating with people in the city and in the university. But more than that, I was also responsible for helping develop our medical protocols and figuring out how to develop mass casualty response plans for the university.

KWHS: I’m sure you’ve encountered a lot of tough situations working in crisis response. You’ve been out there saving lives, making really tough decisions on a day-to-day basis. What’s the most important leadership lesson you’ve taken away from your experiences?

Bose: One of the things about working in a crisis setting is that you have a mission critical team. That means you’re working in a group, because one person can’t achieve the mission on their own. As part of that, you have to recognize that everybody on the team is just as intimidated and scared of the situation as [you are]. But the way you can come out on top is if you’re able to check your own fears, take a step back and think clearly about the situation. Having clarity, knowledge and quality assurance during a response to an emergency is what brings out the success in the team.

KWHS: You’ve done a lot of amazing things over the past four years. What’s next after college?

Bose: Well, I know I’ll be going to the U.K. next year to study for my Master’s in Public Health. Then I’ll be back here at Penn going to med school, and I hope to matriculate into the MBA program here. Then afterwards I’m probably going to pursue a residency in some critical care field. Then after that, I’ll work as a physician, start a company, work in the field. It’s not clear yet.

KWHS: Great. Thanks so much for joining us, Sourav.

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