This week's Doctorpreneur of Doctology is Jackie Rabec.
Jackie is a Medical Doctor, with an MBA, looking to develop high impact digital health solutions within the Australian context.
Her story includes a sustainable fashion startup, working in under-resourced public hospitals in South Africa, an MBA in Australia, digital health in low-income countries, 3D printed nasal swabs in the wake of COVID-19, a love of art, a dog that has travelled the world with her and much more.
What organisation / startup did you found?
My journey into an "alternative career in medicine" and entrepreneurship started with a Sustainable Fashion eCommerce platform I founded in South Africa.
Since then, whilst completing my MBA at AGSM (UNSW), I have ventured into the exciting realm of Digital Health.
I am currently involved part-time in 3 exciting ventures:
- a Ward Management Digital Health app in South Africa
- working with access.mobile, an international Digital Health company focused on mobile patient engagement for diverse markets in Africa and the US, and;
- working with Helpful Engineering to develop 3D printed Nasopharyngeal Swabs for low-income countries in response to supply chain shortages posed by COVID-19
What is its noble purpose? The three organisations I am currently involved with aim to improve healthcare access and delivery to underserved communities through digital health solutions and innovative problem-solving. This is an area I care deeply about given my experience working in public hospitals in South Africa.
Tell me about the first 10 years of your life?
Small town living. Freedom to roam the streets. Always wanting to be treated the same as the boys (my older brothers!).
I was born and raised in Vryheid (which means Freedom in Afrikaans), a small town in South Africa. My mum is also a medical doctor and my father was a chef (therefore my balanced appreciation for healthy living and delicious food!). From a young age, we were encouraged to be independent and curious.
My daytime hours were spent reading in the Convent Library, attending art classes, walking to swimming lessons, roaming hospital corridors with my mum and vigorously debating with my brothers that I be included in their adventurous backyard games (we would play "hunter-gatherer" and I just could not understand why I was always assigned the role of a gatherer).
What age were you when you had your first paying job? What was it? 13 years old, painting commissioned murals for anyone willing to pay and waitering tables at the local restaurant, Dee's.
What made you want to be a Doctor and what specialty did you choose? Why? I am deeply empathic and knew I wanted to do something to alleviate the suffering of others. My mother, also a medical doctor, is also one of my greatest inspirations!
Essentially my "specialisation" was doing my MBA and creating a role where I could blend my clinical skills, business acumen, entrepreneurial drive and creativity all in one. It is still unfolding so we will circle back in a few years to see where I land.
What made you want to be an Entrepreneur or follow an alternative route? When exactly did you decide?
Working in under-resourced public hospitals in South Africa, strained under the weight of an enormous disease burden, motivated me to work "on the system" as opposed to "in it". I felt that I had little capacity to create meaningful change in a role where I was a small cog in a very big, very broken wheel.
In parallel, I have always been interested in more than just medicine: I started my Sustainable Fashion eCommerce site while I was still studying, and continued to expand it in my free time once I had started working.
I also felt that within medicine one often operates within protocols and guidelines and that there isn't much room to flex creativity.
This "trifecta" was the stimulus that shaped my decision to do an MBA, and explore the world of Digital Health! Why do you think traditionally many Doctors struggle with entrepreneurship? Or at least they are perceived to? I do not think Doctors struggle with entrepreneurship, it is more that they may not be aware of it as a direction they can take, and embrace.
Before I made the decision to do an MBA, I did a small personal project, where I tracked down clinicians that had pursued alternative paths, and had a "curiosity conversation" with them. I would dive deeper into their journeys/ decisions/ motivations, and in the process, noticed a pattern:
Many traditional paths in medicine have clear decision trees where the individual has a fairly good idea of what the outcome/ timeframe/ risk will be once they decide to pursue a specific path. These decisions are incrementally made and linear.
Alternative careers in medicine and entrepreneurship are much more ambiguous, convoluted and unpredictable.
Both paths are incredibly challenging with a wide spectrum of individuals to be found between them:
- those that veer more towards a purely traditional path (critical pillars of our healthcare systems)
- those that leave medicine completely and venture into entrepreneurship (innovators and risk-takers)
- those that tread a balance between the two (as many of the Doctopreneurs featured here are doing so magnificently)
Platforms such as Doctology are a great way of creating awareness within the medical field that entrepreneurship is an avenue to consider.
What is your favourite quote?
Desiderata is my absolute favourite piece of writing. It is pretty long so I will highlight two excerpts:
"Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons".
"With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy".
What would you do in the event of a Zombie Apocalypse?
Attempt to trade snacks for my freedom?
You can find out more about Jackie here:
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