In between my M3 and M4 years, I pursued an MBA at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. While obtaining a dual degree at the University of Michigan Medical School is relatively common, running halfway around the world to do so is not. I went through a mix of emotions as I left Ann Arbor to travel to Cambridge, including excitement, fear, and curiosity. I was excited to open up this brand-new chapter of my life in a totally different country at one of the world’s most famous universities. I understood that I would be attending the same institution where individuals such as Newton, Darwin, Hawking, and Mandela (only to name a few) made their mark on humanity. Yet, I was afraid to leave everything and everyone that I knew back in the USA. Suddenly, I would be in a long-distance relationship, six time zones apart from my family, and immersed in a professional and cultural world completely foreign to me. Fortunately, a medical student in the year above me (Steph DeBolle) trailblazed the path for me at Cambridge, but nevertheless, I knew that it would be me and me alone out there for a full year.
On my first day of school, I felt like a Kindergartner starting fifth grade. Prior to business school, I hadn’t even opened up a corporate finance book, and now, I would be in the same classroom as people who oversaw eight-figure transactions at organizations such as Apple, LVMH, and Alibaba. Moreover, as the second youngest person in my class, I felt as if my experience (or lack thereof) could not possibly contribute to the overall diversity of the class. I mean, one of my classmates was an Emmy Award-winning director—come on!!! Nevertheless, I knew that by the program’s completion, I wanted to obtain the strategic toolkit necessary to streamline adequate health care delivery for low-income individuals.
After getting into the stream of things, I began to realize that the business school at Cambridge was a ton of fun. I mean a TON of fun. Cambridge is a unique place. Not only is the city itself breathtakingly beautiful with over a thousand years of heritage, but it also sits just 48 minutes away from the heartbeat of Central London. Therefore, I not only lived in a picturesque city surrounded by the glorious English countryside, but I also had easy access to one of the world’s most buzzing and sought-after cities. My classmates quickly became my friends, and through working alongside them on projects as diverse as innovation benchmarking to pharmaceutical market expansion, they taught me a wide range of skill sets that I would have most likely never learned while in medical school. Additionally, since over 90% of my class was from outside of the UK, my friendship circle became rich in both national and professional diversity.
One of my favorite parts about the University of Cambridge is the college system. The university itself is made up of 31 different colleges that are sort of like Houses in Harry Potter. Each college has a campus, where conference rooms, bars, and boathouses can be found. I was part of St. Catharine’s College, a historic college housed in the center of the city. While at Catz, I played on the football team, where I was continuously ridiculed for calling the game soccer.
However, my sports involvement was not just limited to Catz football. One of the highlights of the MBA was MBAT, a European athletic competition held each year in Paris, France. Imagine something like this: what if all of the universities in the Midwest, such as Michigan State, Northwestern, OSU, and others, each participated in a giant three-day sports tournament that capped every night a massive themed party. Now imagine that this tournament was full of super fun with athletic individuals from all over the world and housed in Paris. That was MBAT. There, I played soccer, basketball, dodgeball, and touch rugby. To say it was a blast is a massive understatement.
Throughout the course of my MBA, I participated in projects that took me as far as Bangkok and Beijing and as near as East London and Ipswich. I helped organize a conference that featured the former President of South Africa and I met the former CEO of ICBC. I skied in the Swiss Alps and swam in the Albanian Mediterranean. My friends are currently working for Amazon, Google, and Shell, and they live in cities like Tokyo, São Paulo, and Singapore.
For me, pursuing an MBA at Cambridge was nothing short of remarkable and as a future physician, I plan to translate my business background into equitable health care delivery for low-income patients. Moreover, if I ever choose to partake in global medicine, the world will now be much easier to access due to my personal connections. For me, going to Cambridge made the most sense. Even though I had to temporarily leave everything behind, I certainly gained more than I could have ever imagined. I believe that no matter what you want to do while you are a medical student, a path for you exists. Whether it was pre-formed by someone else or completely off the beaten path, where there is a will, there is a way. Therefore, I say go for it!
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Tim Baerg is a 4th year medical student at the University of Michigan Medical School who is pursuing a career in Anesthesiology. He loved to remain active by playing sports, and when he can, he tries to travel to visit friends, family, and new places as much as he can. He hopes to use his career to reduce healthcare disparities for vulnerable populations.