Accounting alum balances business and science to provide better healthcare

November 14, 2022


While in the Dominican Republic her sophomore year, 2016 alum Emily Dunbar had a revelation.

She was there with her classmates in a Sophomore Scholars in Residence course called the Business of Science. They were working with a local organization on a cervical cancer screening project. Like Dunbar, half of the students were business majors. The other half were studying science.

In preparation for the trip, the class looked at how business principles could be applied to medical care in rural and low-resource areas to provide better — and more sustainable —healthcare.

“That’s what the class was shedding light on: How could we help low-resource settings do the most with what they have to live healthier lives?” 

While the trip helped Dunbar better understand the intersection of business and science, she also realized there was an opportunity for her to work in that middle space. When Dunbar first came to Richmond, she planned to major in biology, but the lab requirements conflicted with her practice schedule as a member of the women’s tennis team. She brainstormed with her family and academic advisors and decided on accounting — a discipline she could apply in any career field.

But Dunbar’s trip to the Dominican Republic renewed her interest in medicine, and she saw a chance to combine the two. She continued to earn a B.S. in accounting but also completed all of the prerequisites for medical school.

After graduation, she landed a job with EY and became a CPA while continuing to explore her options in medicine. Soon after, she took a role as an EMT with the Richmond Ambulance Authority, where she saw parallels to her SSIR experience.

“Working as an emergency medicine service provider, you have limited resources,” Dunbar said. “We have a limited amount of medication or equipment. While it’s not balancing a spreadsheet, there’s still a mindset of improving outcomes in a limited-resource situation.”

Dunbar is now in her third year at Virginia Commonwealth University’s medical school. Her accounting perspective continues to serve her.

“In the U.S., it’s easy to think about business and profit,” Dunbar said. “But really, the fundamental idea of business is how to make the most of what you have.”