Profile with Rachel Carrell

Rachel Carrell (New Zealand & Balliol 2002) is the Chief Executive of DrThom, the world’s largest online doctor service. She was previously a healthcare consultant at McKinsey & Company, as well as a writer and editor for the International Institute for Sustainable Development, a non-profit organization funded by the United Nations. Rachel holds an MPhil and DPhil in International Development from the University of Oxford, and a BA in Linguistics from the University of Otago.

Rhodes Project: Where do you call home?

Rachel Carrell: New Zealand is my home of homes, but I’m actually about to buy a house in London. I’m a naturalized British citizen. It was very important to me when I naturalized that I got to keep my New Zealand passport and citizenship.

Rhodes Project: What is currently playing on your iPod?

Rachel Carrell: My music taste kind of ossified when I left Oxford, and has not progressed very much beyond that. So it would still be the music I discovered when I at Oxford. It would be The Killers and glam rock bands like The Darkness, embarrassingly. The French band Air is another one. I spent so long writing my thesis underground in Rhodes House. I can’t work listening to anything with lyrics unless I’ve listened to that song literally over a thousand times. I’m not exaggerating. You know how iTunes keeps count of songs you’ve played? By the time I finished my DPhil, I think the count of “Mr. Brightside” by The Killers was over a thousand.

Rhodes Project: What was the first job you ever held?

Rachel Carrell: The first money I ever made would have been some kind of business scheme around the neighborhood. I was very much the kind of kid who would sell posies of flowers door-to-door and do other things that probably mortified my parents. It was essentially middle-class begging. My first full-time real job was working at an aluminum smelter, which I did for two summers while I was an undergrad. The city I grew up in, Invercargill, is on the south coast of the south island of New Zealand. There are two big industries there. One is sheep farming and the other is aluminum smelting. My family is a sheep farming family, and I worked at the aluminum smelter.  

Rhodes Project: Tell me a little bit about DrThom.

Rachel Carrell: What we are trying to do at DrThom is revolutionize the world of healthcare. We are trying to make it far easier and more convenient for people to access healthcare. I am personally obsessed with access to healthcare. Our philosophy is to go where the patient is, rather than expecting the patient to come to us. That is really the revolution we are trying to bring about. We use all kinds of what we call ‘remote healthcare’, which involves mobiles, the internet, telephones, the post and community pharmacies – any kind of channel that allows us to be closer to the patient, rather than the patient having to travel to a certain place to access a clinician. We deliver as much healthcare as we possibly can through those channels. To give a clear example, if you are travelling somewhere and you need malaria pills, instead of physically travelling to your GP just to answer a bunch of questions and then go away again with a prescription, you can do the entire thing on the computer without leaving the house. You can get the medication sent to you through the post. We are trying to be to healthcare what Amazon is to books. 

 Rhodes Project: What is the most rewarding part of your job now?

Rachel Carrell: There are lots of rewarding parts. My favorite thing is that I get to work on what I am really passionate about, which is improving access to healthcare and making it much easier for patients to get treated. I really love the social mission of the company. My day-to-day favorite thing is that I love my team. I’ve had the privilege to be able to build a big team. I’ve doubled it so far, and I still have 10 vacancies at the moment. The company culture is fabulous. The people I work with are wonderful and I love the start-up culture that we still have.

Rhodes Project: What is the most challenging part of your job?

Rachel Carrell: We are in uncharted waters. We’re the largest online doctor service in the world. No one has done what we have done. There is no road map. Every single day we are developing products, facing and solving problems that no one has ever solved before. That’s tough.

Rhodes Project: What advice would you give to a young woman with an entrepreneurial spirit?

Rachel Carrell: I would say to take risks and realize you are so much younger than you think you are. People get themselves stuck when they are still so young. I have friends who became lawyers in their early twenties. When they got into their late twenties, they felt stuck and believed they couldn’t change careers. So they didn’t, and they’re still there now. That is just insane when you look back on it. You can take so many risks and make so many mistakes and it really doesn’t matter. Your twenties is really the time to do that.

Rhodes Project: If you could have one super-power, what would it be and why?

Rachel Carrell: I would choose teleportation. I actually think about teleportation quite a lot. I often wonder if you had a choice between either doing all of your travel together in one go and then being able to teleport for the rest of your life, or having to travel normally by taking your travel time as you went, which one you would choose?  I always come out on different sides of the question. The hugest sadness in my life is that New Zealand is so far away from England.

Rhodes Project: What do you like to do in your free time?

Rachel Carrell: I like running. I like reading and writing. I write quite a bit about healthcare policy. I have a blog on healthcare. I also really like any form of karaoke. I like Singstar as well. I’ve done a lot of karaoke during my travels and in many different countries. I’ve done it in North Korea as well as in Japan. In both cases it was amazing.

Rhodes Project: What inspires you?

Rachel Carrell: Meeting people who are doing amazing things inspires me. I’m constantly in awe of how much one human being can accomplish. I feel like I am constantly meeting people I am inspired by.

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