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Harish Kilaru

Major: Health policy and human development
Graduated May 2016

The Difference Maker

Harish Kilaru joined his first healthcare startup during his freshman year. Called Centricycle, the company’s goal was to provide centrifuges for medical clinics in rural India. “I loved that experience,” he says. “I wanted to use business to create social change in healthcare.”

Like the startup, Kilaru’s educational plan was also ambitious: He wanted to start in LSA as pre-med, then transfer to the Ross Business School, then go to medical school.

But business school wasn’t what he expected. 

“When I got to Ross, I wanted to learn how the principles of business could lead to change for the greater good, but not everyone there has a similar focus. It was a little bit difficult to find my place.”

After one semester, Kilaru returned to LSA. “I wanted a school that offered more flexibility in taking different types of classes,” he says. In an effort to figure out what his major should be, Kilaru started exploring subjects, and ultimately wound up designing his own major: health policy and community development.

“The major is a blend of the economic and social determinants of health. I took econ classes, a lot of science, plus policy-related classes—a little bit of everything.”
 

 

 


“LSA gave me the freedom to explore different disciplines while still getting a degree. I don’t know if taking all those different types of classes and having all those resources would have been possible in any other school.”

 

 

Kilaru used his major, and most of his sophomore year, to launch his own startup: Rural Innovations in Medical Engineering (RIME). The company was dedicated to developing a device to affordably diagnose jaundice in infants throughout India’s rural hospitals.

Kilaru received a prestigious Wallenberg Summer Fellowship to travel to India for six weeks with three fellow RIME teammates. “We visited rural hospitals throughout southern India showing medical professionals the device, getting feedback, and identifying other potential interventions for when we returned to Ann Arbor.”

Once back in Michigan, Kilaru and his RIME teammates switched their focus from India to Detroit.

“We wanted to use technology to help clinics serving low-income areas, and we realized that with a local focus, we could go through the design process much faster, getting better feedback more frequently so we could develop solutions more quickly.”

With the transition away from rural India, RIME now stands for Redefining Innovation in Medical Engineering.

Kilaru used his renewed focus on the intersection of technology, healthcare, and business to obtain an internship at Google his junior year.

“It gave me a lot of insight into how big tech companies work,” he says. “I had an awesome experience.”

Not to mention a redefining one. Kilaru has postponed medical school in favor of more tech experience. After graduation, he’ll be working at Google full time, hoping to get broad exposure to technology and its potential applications in improving healthcare.

“As a doctor, I thought I could have more impact per person than any other job. But with technology and a startup, you can scale the impact. It’s not the same as an individual doctor, but you can have high-impact ideas with scalable results.”

His path isn’t what he expected, but it’s exactly right.

“LSA gave me the freedom to explore different disciplines while still getting a degree. I don’t know if taking all those different types of classes and having all those resources would have been possible in any other school.”

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