Sophia Chang, W’24, C’24, reflects on her internship with the Penn Medicine – Wharton Fund for Health and how this experience can make a meaningful impact in Philadelphia.

You interned with the recently launched Penn Medicine – Wharton Fund for Health program. What drew you to this impact investing internship?

Sophia Chang: I was a STEM student throughout high school. After coming to Wharton, I realized that there are various avenues to support and improve the health of communities other than working in clinics or performing biomedical research. Following the start of the pandemic, I became interested in impact investing. Through the Fund for Health’s focus on addressing healthcare inequities, I was able to work alongside a dedicated team that is passionate about making a positive change in our local community.

How are you making a positive impact through your work?  What makes this impact — and the problem you’re helping to overcome — particularly important?

Chang: The Fund for Health focuses on investing in companies that have a strong business model and that can improve the quality of life for people in Philadelphia, and reduce socioeconomic barriers. Whether it’s a company that provides free transportation to work, offers mentorships in career development, or creates access to healthier food options, the Fund’s thorough due diligence on every potential investment ensures that the company is addressing social determinants of health to aid Philadelphia communities.

How has this experience been transformative in shaping your path moving forward?

Chang: As someone interested in entrepreneurship, my internship with the Fund for Health allowed me to gain important insights from the buy-side perspective, including those I could utilize if I ever start a business of my own. For example, I learned about the importance of having a diverse, balanced team and the importance of thorough, organized financials that accurately represent the current and future state of the company. Meeting with passionate founders who are dedicated to improving their local communities reinforced my desire to make similar substantive contributions regardless of my future career.

Why should other students consider applying for the Fund for Health?

Chang: Fund for Health not only introduced me to the world of social venture impact investing in a supportive learning environment, but also allowed me to gain valuable real-world experience and skills in sourcing investment opportunities and practicing due diligence. This experience will support my future endeavors. Future associates will fully appreciate the tangible impact their work can contribute to addressing some of the social determinants of health in Philadelphia.

How is the work you are doing in the Fund for Health relevant to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Chang: During the earlier periods of the pandemic, McKinsey & Company reported that, compared to white Americans, COVID-19 mortality rates were 3.8 times greater in Black communities and 2.5 times greater in Hispanic/Latinx communities. The majority of these communities live in urban settings, like Philadelphia, which had 90% of COVID-19 cases. COVID-19 and the associated burdens of the pandemic only further exacerbated pre-existing inequalities. The Fund for Health targets critical social determinants of health such as direct access to healthcare and health insurance.

How did you source companies that can make a positive impact on Philadelphia residents?

Chang: I sourced companies primarily online through local Philadelphia news sources and business incubators, as well as through larger databases like Pitchbook. While in-person meetings with founders and organizations may have been off the table, video-chatting made it easier to connect with business owners located across the country, permitting me to connect “face-to-face” with founders and view pitches or demos about their businesses.

What were some challenges and surprising things you learned?

Chang: The Fund for Health’s investment thesis focuses on early-stage, for-profit start-ups that address the social determinants of health for economically disadvantaged populations in Philadelphia. While such startups do exist, many do not have the resources to promote their ventures. Subsequently, sourcing companies that fit these criteria required perseverance. Another challenge was conveying the potential impact of a promising young company to the investment committee. Ultimately, it was inspiring to discover the number of innovative ways startups are trying to tackle inequalities both in Philadelphia and across the country.

Posted: September 28, 2021

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