Global Health Volunteers Team with Doctors Without Borders

By Neil Agarwal, WG15, and Rohit Gupta, WG15

Needless to say, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF and known as Doctors Without Borders in the United States) does great work.  A recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, MSF deploys 26,000 doctors and medical professionals to conflict zones and developing communities in 70 countries.  When MSF met with Wharton Global Health Volunteers (WGHV) in November 2013, the WGHV board realized this partnership was unique and unprecedented and was eager to help design a better procurement strategy for the hundreds of thousands of medical supplies MSF sends abroad each year.


From left to right: Hubert Vuagnat, physician and wound care expert at the University Hospital of Geneva, Eric Comte, MSF Geneva medical director, Rohit Gupta (WG15), Neil Agarwal (WG15), and Cyndi Chung (WG15).

WGHV assembled a team of seven Wharton students to tackle the project, consisting of Neil Agarwal (WG15), Emma Boswell (Wharton PhD candidate), Cyndi Chung (Penn MD15 & WG15), Rohit Gupta (WG15), Miti Sathe (WG15), Ankit Saxena (WG15), and Kevin Wu (WG14).  In three months, the team identified methods for MSF to save an average of 52% on a majority of medical products.  In April 2014, three team members travelled to Geneva, Switzerland to present their results to a pan-European audience that included MSF’s Medical Director as well as physicians and procurement specialists.

The team carried out most of the project’s work from Wharton’s Philadelphia campus between January and March 2014.  Work proceeded in three phases.  In Phase I, the students analyzed the global industry for basic medical supplies.  The team conducted extensive secondary research, identified 37 major humanitarian non-governmental organizations that conduct work similar to MSF, and interviewed these NGOs to understand their approaches to procurement.  In Phase II, the team created a framework that MSF can use to optimize procurement – they considered factors such as product quality, pricing, expiration dates, shipping costs, lead times, and international taxes.  In Phase III, the team contacted nearly 50 medical product suppliers on three continents in effort to better understand their attractiveness as potential suppliers to MSF and other international organizations.

Originally published by Wharton Journal May 10, 2014

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