By Nancy Escutia and Estefanía Peñaroja for Excélsior
Worried about the thousands of patients suffering from chronic degenerative diseases, such as cancer, and convinced that good quality personalized treatment could make all the difference, Juana Marcela Ramirez Bustos spent the last eight years bringing to life Soluciones Hospitalarias Integrales (SOHIN), a medical services start-up that tends to the needs of those in pain, individually.
Among an increasing number of Mexican female entrepreneurs who wish to put an end to the outdated model that bounds women to the household and men to the labor market, she describes herself as: “a woman who loves being a woman, who has discovered that some callings go beyond choice and that hers is to work in the healthcare sector and help those in pain.”
“Colombian by birth, but Mexican by decision,” in her own words, Juana acknowledges her love for Mexico, a country that, she states, showed her that “all your hopes and dreams can come true.” Driven by the violence in her home country, Colombia, and its high unemployment rate, she traveled alone to Mexico in 2006 seeking better opportunities, carrying only 100 dollars in her pocket, a suitcase and a 15-day visa.
With over 20 years of experience in the healthcare field, both in the public and the private sectors, Juana holds nowadays an MBA from the IPADE Business School of Mexico. But she didn’t stop there; she has become a renowned lecturer, a health, entrepreneurship and gender equality mentor, a university professor and a wife as well.
Early on in life, she had already an entrepreneurial spirit; as a child, during the Christmas season, she used to sell homemade decorations with her brother who also helped her to set up SOHIN in June of 2009. They started out with only two employees and 89 thousand Mexican pesos that Juana had earned from the sale of her car.
The company then began carrying out genetic tests for cancer patients, while Juana kept a part-time job in order to cover the costs of SOHIN. Back in the day, she invested half of her salary in the start-up. Those were challenging times for the recently founded enterprise, as it did not receive any investments nor credits for the first six months. Credits were, in fact, Juana’s greatest obstacle – investors would ask for her husband to sign the promissory notes, despite the fact that he was not involved with the company in any capacity.
But nothing would stop her. She who describes herself as an obsessive and passionate woman who believes irredeemably in others and in the possibility of a better world, would continue in her quest to find solutions to fight diseases such as breast cancer, a disease that ranks among the top ten causes of death for women in the world, ahead of violence, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). And against all odds, Juana succeeded. Her start-up became a South American holding group, with running operations in Mexico, Colombia and Argentina. Since its launch, SOHIN has provided healthcare services to over 25 thousand patients altogether.
The entrepreneur understood that every patient is unique, and thus focused on adapting and personalizing in a holistic way the treatments of patients living with diseases such as cancer, one of the main three causes of death in Mexico and the fifth in the world, according to the WHO.
The Mexican patient-SOHIN relationship has been possible thanks to the company’s partnership agreements with pharmaceuticals, public institutions and 95 percent of the country’s insurers; in some cases the patient covers the costs of treatment. The company is now the exclusive provider in Mexico of Mammaprint, a test that allows a precise genetic diagnosis of patients with the breast cancer, and determines whether the patient needs chemotherapy or not.
Aware of the “types of cancer that weren’t being covered by the healthcare system” and the number of people who didn’t have access to medical insurance, Juana also founded the Guerreros Contra el Cáncer Foundation (Warriors Against Cancer Foundation), an organization that promotes diagnosis, orientation, and alternative treatments, as well as surgical intervention.
More than just a relentless and somewhat workaholic entrepreneur, the 39-year old claims to be “a woman who loves music – especially classical -, who likes to read novels in order to escape a little bit from reality”, as well as a “competitive, passionate woman completely in love with her country. A woman who inspires those around her with her dreams and who achieves what she sets out to do”.
She did receive a fair share of accolades lately. In 2015, she was distinguished with the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the year annual award, and named High Impact Entrepreneur by ENDEAVOR, a global organization that supports entrepreneurship. Included in Forbes Magazine’s 30 most promising business personalities in 2016, Juana was also ranked among the magazine’s 100 most powerful women in Mexico. Recently, the Mexican Association of Pharmaceutical Research Industries (AMIIF) awarded her with the Entrepreneur fighting to give Mexico access to healthcare price. Proof that hopes and dreams do come true in Mexico.