Adebanjo (BJ) Solaru, MBA/MPH 2022

Adebanjo (BJ) Solaru

Pursuing a career in a healthcare profession was not on Adebanjo (BJ) Solaru’s radar when he graduated from college. Solaru graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in English and began a career in the mortgage industry. But, after 10 years in the business world, he made the decision to pivot into the healthcare field. “I was burned out in the for-profit field and found my passion through my volunteer opportunities within the community. I wanted to pursue a Master of Public Health degree to provide better outcomes for people.”

Solaru chose Case Western Reserve University because it was at the forefront of thought processes in the community. “I wanted to learn from the best while being in the place I want to help and impact the most. Case Western offered me the opportunity to use my skills in my own community and learn how to affect policy change.”

Once he decided on CWRU for his MPH, it was his wife who suggested incorporating his business skills with healthcare and encouraged him to pursue one of the MPH program’s 11 dual degree options. Solaru decided to focus on the MPH/MBA Dual Degree program with a Health Policy and Management concentration. He believes business has a role to play in making our lives better and that there is a way to capture good business to bring it to public health.

In March 2020, Solaru was selected as a Paul Ambrose Scholar. The Paul Ambrose Scholars Program prepares public health and clinical health professions students to promote change and be leaders in addressing population health challenges at the national and community level. This distinction is only offered to a cohort of 40 students from across the health professions and they are invited to attend a Student Leadership Symposium. Students commit their time and effort to improve health within their communities through the planning and implementation of a community-based project.  For Solaru’s community-based project as a Scholar, he drew on his experiences as a volunteer at the Citizens Leadership Academy. He decided to build out the mentorship program there which supported the underserved population in the community. Instead of just focusing on providing mentorship to assist 8th graders in getting accepted into high school, he focused on creating a multi grade mentoring program. His mentor for this project was Dr. Scott Frank whom he credits with his success as a Scholar. “Being one of the Scholars has been a very formative experience for me. I would not have been able to do this without the support of the MPH program. It’s been incredible to see how public health works outside of the classroom and learn how to turn my thoughts and ideas into action.”

Solaru believes the Dual Degree option is a powerful asset to the MPH program. It has allowed him to pull in learning from his MBA to MPH and integrate these in the classroom and applied professional experiences. “The interdisciplinary part of the MPH program has allowed collaborations and robust conversations in the classroom. It helps reinforce our learning and applications. The common thread among our backgrounds is that we all want to make a positive difference.”

Solaru credits his wife and 1 year old son for giving him the motivation to continue to pursue his passions. While he may not have envisioned himself working in the healthcare field 10 years ago, he is grateful for the opportunities MPH has provided him so far. “The MPH structure allows me to test my ideas and assumptions in a space that is safe and where being right or wrong is not the point. It helps you understand the elements around you in order to make decisions. The MPH directly translates to the real world and I am so grateful for the opportunities to try new things and the support that comes with it.”

Learn more about BJ’s career through the questions below:

What is your job title and where do you work: Strategy Associate at MetroHealth Hospital System

Could you describe your career trajectory from your post-graduation years until now? I graduated from the MPH program in the Winter of 2021.  Prior to my program I worked in mortgage banking in sales and operations.  During my program I had many opportunities to get practical experience in public health work through the LACE learning program (Longitudinal Adolescent Community Engagement),  Paul Amrose Scholars program & an internship with the Cleveland Department of Public Health.  Those experiences gave me some foundational skills and learned what sort of work I may be best at.  I also had the opportunity to attend a few panel sessions hosted by the program that included MetroHealth which gave me insight into the system and introduced me to a few people who later became work colleagues.  Because of those opportunities, I was able to join MetroHealth right after graduating.

Can you describe a typical day or week in your job, and what are your main responsibilities? I have a diverse set of responsibilities in my role, including project management, market analysis, business and product development & research among others.  Currently I am a project manager for a school-based health care expansion and for the development of a clinic in the Greater Cleveland Food Bank.  I also am developing a business case for a new way to treat sickle cell patients.  A week in the life includes a lot of meetings with my partners, visits to various clinic sites to manage progress, spending time researching and developing slide decks to deliver analysis to my partners.  

How did college prepare you for your career?  Although my classes were excellent, the experiences that I had outside the classroom were what prepared me for my career.  Being able to participate in programs & internships, attending conferences and interacting with people well established in the field allowed me to learn a great deal about all of the different opportunities in public health and to start learning about what I wanted to do after my program.   

What inspired you to pursue this career and what do you enjoy most about your job? I pursued this career because it combines what I am good at and what I am passionate about. I enjoy that my work has a direct positive impact on the health and wellbeing of Clevelanders and Northeast Ohio.  I also enjoy that my various projects mean that no two weeks are similar and that I am being challenged by the projects that I undertake.  

What advice would you give to current students who are interested in pursuing a similar career path as you? My advice would be to share your goals with the people around you. Ask for help and offer ways that you can help others.  This career is just like any other in that the more people that you can positively interact with, the more opportunities you will find.