Many students come to business school with a specific purpose. David Fajgenbaum, a medical researcher and physician, enrolled at the Wharton School to learn how to better fight deadly diseases. For Fajgenbaum, it is an intensely personal struggle because Fajgenbaum himself nearly passed away from Castleman disease, which attacks the immune system. Although Fajgenbaum has created a global research network to fund promising projects, he learned that business problems ranging from poor strategy to inefficiency often doom such efforts. Now, Fajgenbaum is applying business tools and models to managing his research efforts. At Wharton, Fajgenbaum led a team whose Cure Accelerator business plan won the WBPC Social Impact Prize. And his Wharton classmates chose him to be the speaker at this year's MBA commencement. He was also named among the "Top 30 Under 30" by Forbes.
In the Wharton community, Fajgenbaum is considered an inspiration. "He has innovated the way research is done in rare diseases by building an entirely new way of managing and developing communities of researchers and patients, says June Kinney, the associate director of the health care management program at Wharton. "Many of our students have rallied around David and plan to continue working with the Castleman Network in a variety of ways. I don't think there has ever been student in our program who has had this kind of impact on so many in our community."
Fajgenhaum himself appreciates how Wharton allowed him to work on his cause as he learned "Every one of my projects I've worked on here can actually go to my nonprofit. Wharton does a great job of being flexible with the courses to let us have our projects be dedicated to our start-ups."