After Brian Shepard, CEO of the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), gave a lecture as part of the Robins Executive Speaker Series in fall of 2016, George Hiller, lecturer of international business, approached him with an opportunity.

“I mentioned to him that I teach a course: Doing Business in Latin America, and if he ever needed research done, we would be happy to work on it, and he obliged,” Hiller said.

So the students were given a task as their final project: determine if certain countries in Latin America would be amenable to working with UNOS to develop organ sharing and transplantation in the region. 

“This isn’t just an educational exercise, this is a real problem that we’re trying to address at UNOS,” Shepard said. “The opportunity to have the students do the research here, reach out and make contacts and introductions, and really help us understand the communities that we might be working with has real world implications for us. And we intend to follow up on the work that they’ve done and consider that as we try to determine what the organization’s next steps.”

The students split up into groups to research Latin American countries and determine the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to UNOS establishing a presence there.

“We provided UNOS with ideas and business strategies in which they can access markets in Latin America,” said Fabiana Ayala, ’17, of the project. “We looked at the health organizations in various countries, and we analyzed if they had any needs that UNOS could address.”

Her group presented on Colombia, Uruguay, and Argentina, determining how difficult it would be for UNOS to expand to each country.

“I think we learned how complicated this can be,” Shepard said of their presentation. “There were a lot of details that I think will help us avoid traps in the future. This way, we can tailor the product, and tailor the structure, and reduce a lot of frustration and legal and regulatory challenges that we might run into during the process that we’ll now be able to address up front and resolve which makes getting to the conclusion that much faster.”

Shepherd also recognized the valuable opportunity students received during their first-hand experience working with a client, which Alex Navarro, a senior exchange student from Spain, says will be irreplaceable as he enters the job market.

“I was working on a real project, so giving specific and physical recommendations was really helpful,” Navarro said. “I was putting together a marketing plan, I had to collect data, analyze it, and determine the business approach and market entry, so it gave me the complete picture of a real project I could be given in my career.”

Students from the University of Richmond School of Law also participated in the research.

Four UNOS executives attended the presentations, as well as an international trade specialist from the U.S. Commercial Service.

You can find out more information about UNOS on their website, and watch Shepard’s entire lecture from the Robins Executive Speaker Series on our speakers page.