Meet Dr Adanna Steinacker, the young woman on a mission to change how foreign medical students are placed in hospitals in Africa

October 27, 2018, made it one year since Dr Adanna Steinacker started Medics Abroad. She founded the company after encountering several difficulties taking a clinical elective in Kenya.

Adanna Steinacker, Founder, Medics Abroad

“I encountered so much difficulty trying to plan the entire trip on my own. All the logistics, from contacting hospitals that would accept an international medical student, to searching for safe accommodation in close proximity, and to researching activities that I would do on the weekends. It was time-consuming and hectic, to say the least,” she says.

This inspired her to start up her own company with the aim of making life easier for other medical students would normally go through the same process.In the interview with Business Insider Sub-Saharan Africa, she shares the inspiration behind her company and what the big picture looks like.

Business Insider Sub-Saharan Africa (BI SSA): What is the inspiration behind Medics Abroad?

Dr Adanna Steinacker: During my time as a medical student, I decided to get out of my comfort zone and experience Medicine in a different part of the world. I packed my bags and travelled to a village in Kenya. On arrival, I didn’t know anyone. Within weeks I was able to take part in life-changing medical and surgical procedures, most of the time in extremely uncomfortable settings in the operating room.

Navigating my way through the different cultural and clinical settings was a huge learning curve for me. I appreciated the opportunity, I was grateful for my growth and I returned with more hands-on experience than I had gotten all through my years in medical school.I learnt that getting out of your comfort zone is exactly how you build your expertise and confidence as a doctor.

Although I had a career-altering experience in Kenya, planning the logistics of my entire trip was a pain. Combining the added value of getting out of your comfort zone as a medic with the logistics of planning the entire experience influenced my entrepreneurship journey with Medics Abroad.

Medics Abroad is an international organisation that manages the logistics of clinical rotations for medics all around the world by matching them with thoughtfully curated, all-inclusive arrangements for clinical practice in Africa. We combine invaluable medical work experience with community immersion, local travel and accommodation - all in one platform.

BI SSA: There are several other ways to improve healthcare in Africa, including helping bring more funding to hospitals which will go on to reduce the cost of treatment, why this model instead?

Dr Adanna: I focused on where I had personally seen a need and more importantly on where I know I can have an influence. I am a strong believer in channelling your energy into what you are good at and where you can actually effect change.

As part of our already existing programme, every student that goes with Medics Abroad contributes to the supply of medical equipment in our partner hospitals. We are currently rolling out an initiative where we will collectively sponsor the medical education of one student in one of our partner countries. By doing this we hope to empower communities and grow the next generation of healthcare professionals locally.

We also have an international community engagement programme (ICE) where we partner with local NGOs and support families in need.

BI SSA: What is the grand picture for Medics Abroad?

Dr Adanna: My vision for Medics Abroad is to become the international leader for medical placements in Africa. As part of that vision, we will be expanding rapidly across the continent in terms of our partner hospitals and local associates. Once we grow our presence and reputation, we will also get more involved in broader issues affecting local health sector challenges - quality medical education, equipment and supplies and health-related policies. We will be a global advocate for high-quality health care on the African continent.

We are also building a fully automated, AI-driven online presence that includes customised personal app access to each participant and seamless booking capabilities.

BI SSA: What is the biggest achievement you've had with the company so far?

Dr Adanna: Besides the fact that I set up Medics Abroad while on maternity leave, having a toddler and already running a successful digital business, I think the biggest achievement so far is successfully launching our pilot programme in 2018 and being profitable from day 1.

We were able to send a group of students from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) Bahrain Campus to our first location in Malindi, Kenya and it was a huge success.

Another great milestone I had with Medics Abroad was that I was the first black female entrepreneur and the first doctor to be selected for the Enterprise Ireland Female High Fliers Programme, the leading incubator for female entrepreneurs in Ireland.

BI SSA: What are the biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?

Dr Adanna: The biggest challenge for every new business is usually the first step - the first step to get funding, to do the market analysis, identify the right revenue streams and build your team. You always wonder “where do I even start?”, but ultimately I just took each step and each opportunity at a time.

Most times you can’t always project the exact path you will take towards your goal because along the way and at each intersection of your journey, new opportunities will arise that you couldn’t have thought of before. I have learnt to embrace every opportunity and always believe that something positive can come out of everything.


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