CAHI Fellows Program
INNOVATION IN HEALTH MANAGEMENT
Interview with Professor Luis Figueroa
Luis Figueroa is a professor, researcher, and consultant in competitiveness, strategy, entrepreneurship, and innovation. His work has been focused in the identification and promotion of key factors and conditions for business competitiveness in Latin America, through the Latin American Center for Competitiveness and Sustainable Development (CLACDS) of INCAE Business School. He is an Economist, holds an MBA from INCAE Business School and a Ph.D. in Entrepreneurship from the Essex Business School of Essex University in the United Kingdom.
Luis has been a committed partner in the CAHI Fellows Program since its inception 2012. He has taught courses, served as a former executive director of CAHI, and is now contributing to the program as the Academic Director, a responsibility that is shared with the Prof. Octavio Martínez.
CAHI Staff had the opportunity to interview Luis after he finished teaching a session to the sixth generation of CAHI Fellows in June, 2019. The interview follows below. It has been translated from Spanish and edited lightly for clarity.
Interviewer: You know all the CAHI Fellows generations. We can talk about an ideal participant? Who is an ideal CAHI Fellow?
Luis: A CAHI Fellow is a person with a high level of energy, committed to the improvement of the health system in Central America, looking for the opportunity to apply new concepts and techniques to face old problems, and inclined to persevere and push the project to change the current reality. We are looking for this energy combined with this high level of commitment.
Interviewer: How do you see the development of the CAHI Fellows during the Program?
Luis: This is different, it depends on each CAHI Fellow and their situation at the moment when they start the program. This year we have a very diverse group, which is why the trajectory could be different for each participant, relative to their initial situation. In our experience, the program gives them complementary knowledge and learning opportunities. The candidates are selected from a big group. They are individuals with great experience, achievements, and leadership. Sometimes, they require support to strengthen some areas, and the program is effective in this sense, giving them the specific tools they need. Some knowledge is useful for all the participants. For example, the leadership skills and team-building tools are relevant for all of them, regardless of their initial profile. For them, we designed this program, for people who have this commitment to social change.
Interviewer: How has your professional path lead you to be involved with CAHI?
Luis: I was there at the beginning, during the process of designing the academic program. We have a strong team in the USA and here in Central America. Together, we developed the design of this program to support leadership and innovation. After that, I stepped away from CAHI’s leadership for other responsibilities here in INCAE. I was the Executive Director of CAHI for a time and, currently, I returned to the Academic Coordination, with Octavio. In fact, I never left, because I always have been participating as a professor. I think this is a very important initiative for the region.
Interviewer: What does CAHI means for INCAE?
Luis: CAHI is very relevant because our mission in INCAE is related to supporting the development of the countries in Central America, and the health sector is key in this process. We have big challenges in the health sector, some of which are related to management. Of course, there are technical challenges, but a significant proportion of the challenges are related to management and innovation, and INCAE has great experience in these areas. Currently, the health sector is a priority in the strategy of INCAE, understanding its relevance and need to improve it through innovation and effective management. CAHI is a means to achieve that mission, but beyond CAHI, this is an institutional interest in INCAE: support the health sector in Central America.
Interviewer: What is the most relevant element you bring to CAHI as a professor?
Luis: I want to widen the perspective of business development in health projects. My vision is to spread the message that the health sector is a place full of opportunities for initiatives and innovation, to build successful business models for collective wellness, including projects for profit, to bring health to the communities and create value for people, especially the excluded. This is what I want, to widen the perspective in this sense: there is the business world, the possibility to apply principles of modern management to the health sector, and to understand that these are not mutually exclusive.
Public service could be conceived with business criteria in some respects. In health, we can combine different models. This is not about making healthcare private, but opening the space to all the possibilities. There is always a place for universal public health, and, at the same time, we can generate other options to provide quality medical attention. This is about complementary options so that the quality and health coverage expand and have an impact on more people. This is about creating the chance for all of the actors to contribute: non-profit, for-profit, social entrepreneurs, NGO, public sector, but, with all of them being more efficient in management and more innovative. I think it is important to be more flexible with the regulatory schemes ensuring effectiveness. This is what we believe: to open the possibilities and give a chance to innovation to achieve better solutions.
Interviewer: What is CAHI for you?
Luis: CAHI is a catalyst in management capacity and innovation for the development of the health sector in Central America.
Interviewer: What motivates you to continue working with CAHI?
Luis: I love this institution, its mission, its outcomes. I think that the CAHI Fellows are extraordinary people. It is an honor and a pleasure. You can count on me always, in any position. In trust in this model, we are seeing the impact of CAHI and INCAE, and I know we are going to have a more positive impact in the region.