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Natalie Yahnke

Natalie Yahnke

From California to Africa and back

A trip to Africa helped ignite Natalie Yahnke’s (FT MBA ‘23) interest in increasing women’s access to healthcare. Her education much closer to home is fanning those flames.

Yahnke is a current student in UC San Diego's Rady School of Management's Full-Time MBA program. She turned five weeks spent in Kenya in 2019 into what she now sees as the direction for her career.

“I saw the difference small medical devices and advocacy can make there,” Yahnke said. “So now I’m interested in the scalability and accessibility of solutions for the general population and democratizing basic products and procedures.”

During her time in Kenya, Yahnke witnessed the disparity in healthcare that too often left women undertreated. She and her fellow travelers spent their days working with women and girls at a nearby school.

“Puberty and hygiene and sanitary materials are not something that's discussed,” she said. “Seeing that, established my interest in working within healthcare.”

Yahnke began her post-college career in marketing with American Specialty Health. She soon started thinking about furthering her education so she could climb the corporate ranks to make a bigger difference in women’s healthcare, specifically in biotechnology.

That’s where UCSD came in.

Yahnke was looking to stay close to her Southern California roots and saw a vibrant healthcare culture in San Diego. Her research didn’t stop there.

“I looked at a lot of the different professors, and I spoke to some current students at the time who were able to speak to their experiences,” she said. “The (decision to attend) Rady was a lot about the curriculum and the professors.”

The program’s STEM designation was another factor. That designation is offered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to programs with a strong quantitative focus in science, technology, engineering and math. Yahnke said she was seeking to match that quantitative learning to her more qualitative background.

Yahnke described her FT MBA experience as positive and challenging. The best decision she has made, she said, was to push herself far past her comfort zone.

“This is a unique time to advance your knowledge and skills in areas that you are not familiar with at all,” she said. “A few times, I wanted to say, ‘This is a class that I would be good at,’ but instead I took a financial class or an investing class. It’s been really awesome to be able to go outside of the box and challenge myself.”

Part of that challenge has extended beyond the classroom.

Yahnke took advantage of Rady’s Israel immersion program and learned more about healthcare in different cultures. Then, in February, Yahnke started working as a market research intern with the La Jolla Institute for Immunology.

She landed the internship because of another positive aspect of her FT MBA experience: The networking.

“I really realized people are super willing to help, especially within Rady,” she said. “I have found people to be very generous with their time.”

Which leads to the advice Yahnke would give to those who might be considering following in her footsteps. Yahnke encouraged prospective students to challenge themselves in their course selections and to take advantage of the opportunities outside the classroom to help them shape their post-Rady futures.

“It's important to make sure you're making and maintaining connections,” she said. “Reach out. Ask. Take the chance. Advance yourself. You never know what can come from that.”