For Healthcare Entrepreneurship and Equity: MiChaela Barker ’24 MBA, ’24 MPH

In pursuing dual degrees in business management and public health, MiChaela Barker ’24 MBA, ’24 MPH aims to help eliminate healthcare disparities.

MiChaela Barker
MiChaela Barker

During the COVID-19 pandemic, MiChaela Barker ’24 MBA, ’24 MPH, watched with worry as her mother, an OB-GYN, and brother, a medical school student, put their lives on the line to treat patients before vaccines were available. Fortunately, they had access to full PPE to help minimize exposure to the virus—but that too came at a cost. For one thing, most scrub caps are made from cotton, which dries out and breaks textured hair. Compressing locks or braids under a scrub cap for long periods of time also can lead to headaches. “That initial pain point led me to the idea of creating an inclusive satin-lined scrub cap company,” says Barker.

She kept the idea in the back of her mind as she embarked on a larger mission to better understand the structure and financial aspects of healthcare systems. “After following a pre-med track in college, I worked in various hospital settings. I realized that I could advocate for things from a scientific standpoint, but I was missing the business acumen to create infrastructural change that could really improve healthcare outcomes,” Barker says. “That led me to pursue dual master's degrees in both public health and business.”

When deciding on graduate programs, Barker, who grew up in Michigan, was encouraged by her grandfather to choose a university in a region of the country unfamiliar to her. “As I spoke with students, alumni, and professors at Yale during my decision process, every conversation ended with a connection to someone else I could speak with,” she recalls. “I appreciated that the Yale network was extended to me even before I was a student.” Barker notes that three years later, this feeling of belonging at Yale has remained strong. “I’ve always felt valued here,” she says.

During her first year, a practicum course at the Yale School of Public Health placed Barker with Yale Clinical Optimization Services, a team dedicated to the transformation of ambulatory care, focusing on value, efficiency, and the patient and physician/provider experience. “We were doing everything from helping with their triaging process to designing floor plans for new clinics,” she says. “It was wonderful to get hands-on experience in the New Haven community right away and apply what we were learning in a real-world setting.”

At Yale School of Management, Barker was inspired by professors and classmates to revisit her business idea for an inclusive scrub cap line. She created a pitch, naming the company Matcha Scrubs, and was accepted into the school’s start-up founder practicum elective course and Tsai CITY’s Venture Development Program. She is now product testing three prototypes. “To have the financial support and social support to get this idea off the ground has been incredible,” says Barker. “My goal is to launch before graduation.”

In her final semester at Yale, Barker is busy taking full advantage of elective courses and entrepreneurship opportunities on campus while also finishing her term as student government president at SOM. “I really want people to know that you don’t have to choose only one thing. You can pursue your passions. You just need to be organized and have a great team behind you. They say it takes a village, and at Yale, I have benefitted from access to an incredible community of ideas, perspectives, and support.”

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