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what i’m doing with my mba

Monique Fares once wanted to be a doctor. Now she runs a team of them.Kelly Clark

This story is the 11th in a series that features students and graduates who are using their MBAs and EMBAs in unique fields other than the traditional ones of finance or consulting.

While a high-school student in her native Nova Scotia, Monique Fares had cast her sights on a career in medicine.

"I was good at maths and sciences," the 29-year old health-care industry executive says. "I thought [I wanted] to be a pediatrician."

But a chance comment from her volleyball coach shifted her focus to kinesiology, which she went on to study at Dalhousie University, followed by an MBA at Sobey School of Business at St. Mary's University, both in Halifax.

Armed with degrees in both science and business, in January of this year Ms. Fares opened Signature Health, Atlantic Canada's first private corporate health clinic. Corporations hire the high-end Halifax clinic to assess and look after their executives.

"Until now, many businesses in Atlantic Canada have sent their executives travelling outside the region to clinics like this in Toronto and the U.S., so there was quite the market here and one ripe to develop," Ms. Fares says.

She prepared a business plan while pursuing her MBA, using the program to develop her entrepreneurial skills.

"I have always been curious about people's health and I have always wanted to help," Ms. Fares elaborates, "but as a science student you don't learn the basic principles of business. In order to follow my passion I needed to gain that knowledge, so an MBA was a perfect next step for me."

The two-year degree featured course work and a central management consulting project at a major business. There she met a physician who asked if she'd like to partner with him in opening a health-care clinic. She had some experience in this area.

Before enrolling in the MBA in 2013, Ms. Fares had worked as a kinesiologist at a health and wellness clinic where she gained experience working behind the scenes in the company office.

"I started getting into management positions at that time and that's when I quickly realized that I loved not only health care, I loved the business side of it as well," relates Ms. Fares.

"After a couple of years of working I knew I needed to go back to school – not to study medicine as I had originally thought. I wanted to do an MBA."

During her second year of the Sobey MBA program, Ms. Fares created a business plan and market analysis for a private corporate wellness clinic in Atlantic Canada. Her detailed study confirmed a need.

"I told the physician [who wanted to partner with her] to let me graduate first, and then we could give it a go," she says.

Launched just 10 months ago, with Ms. Fares as chief executive officer, Signature Health sells corporate wellness packages to businesses across the Maritimes. Pricing and services range depending on the needs of the company.

The core service is the comprehensive annual health assessment involving consultations with a variety of health practitioners, from nurses and doctors to dieticians and trained fitness professionals.

"We have a team of independent contractors, and when a client comes into the clinic they are usually seen by between five and eight health professionals who work together to assess an individual's health and come up with a plan."

"The idea is to be proactive and preventive and to offer businesses in Atlantic Canada a local solution to getting a comprehensive health assessment inclusive of localized follow-up and ongoing care."

It appears to be the correct diagnosis.

Since opening, Signature Health has been attracting business from banks, law firms and other corporate offices in and around Halifax. The next step is to get other businesses across the Maritimes to sign on to the service. Ms. Fares is confident that will happen.

"We've been open only since January so it's a bit too early to tally how well we're doing," she says. "But we've just had our 100th customer. I think it's an idea that's catching on."