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Fuelled by curiosity

A Q&A with 2021 Horizon Award recipient Jason-Louis Carmichael

Campus and Community

By Ryan Howell

For Jason-Louis Carmichael (BRM’12), the status quo isn’t enough.

Mr. Carmichael has spent his career tackling complex global issues.

His work comes from many angles — from Global Affairs Canada to the World Health Organization to embracing his entrepreneurial side, he’s committed to ensuring the availability of equitable access to health care for all.

He is CEO and co-founder of TIBU Health, which provides a full suite of health-care services to residents of Nairobi, including mobile check-ups, prenatal care, vaccinations, specimen collections, end of life care and access to mobile COVID-19 testing.

In this Q&A, Memorial’s 2021 Alumni Tribute Horizon Award recipient shares how one professor’s approach helped shape his career, using his company to change prevailing narratives and why he believed in himself enough to leave behind a steady career to become an entrepreneur.

RH: Can you recall a particular experience or person who influenced and inspired your work and/or career trajectory during your time at Memorial?

JC: What I found particularly impactful while at Memorial were the classes with Dr. Robert Scott from the Grenfell Campus.

He took a radically different approach to what I had been accustomed to. Namely, he encouraged critical discussion and debate among peers. Ditching textbooks, exams and the conventional approach to lecturing was not something any of us were used to.

Dr. Scott afforded us the liberty to choose themes of interest, within the confines of the course, of course, and discuss them in class.

“I encourage our employees to always use their mind to make decisions rather than wait for management to hand-hold.”

He challenged our understanding of these topics and encouraged healthy debate among students that often led to students leaving with a broader understanding of issues presented by all. He acted as an intellectual maestro of sorts.

It was an intellectual liberty that I had not experienced in an academic setting and one that I had not encountered until graduate school some years later.

This has followed me to the present day where I encourage our employees to always use their mind to make decisions rather than wait for management to hand-hold. It’s extremely valuable.

RH: What is the most rewarding aspect of the work you do?

JC: Building. As we expand our company and bring in additional talent, it really humbles me to be able to work with such a group of professionals.

The individuals that make up our company build some truly remarkable products. It’s really exciting to be a part of the process of bringing these things to life.

I also find it particularly rewarding to challenge the pervasive narrative about Africa through our work. Often we hear narratives such as “there is not enough qualified talent in Africa” to justify the outsourcing of product development to overseas countries.

“Aside from challenging the narrative, we believe this is something that gives our products an edge.”

Or, that to build great products they must be built in advanced economies. I believe this narrative is absolutely incorrect and can be harmful on young talent everywhere. Our technology and platforms are fully built in Africa by Africans.

Aside from challenging the narrative, we believe this is something that gives our products an edge. I am extremely proud to be working with the individuals changing this narrative.

RH: Can you comment on what it means to receive the Horizon Award?

JC: It is extremely humbling to have been chosen for such an award.

Truthfully, this would never have been possible without the people I have been lucky enough to cross paths with, as well as the people I work with.

A black rectangle with the words "Alumni Tribute Awards: Celebrating excellence Memorial University" in purple and white text.

RH: Is there anything else you’d like to say about your education and career, words of advice?

JC: Too often people choose career paths because of a perceived sense of stability and happiness that will accompany these career decisions. The unknown is terrifying and feeling as though your level of control is limited is even more terrifying.

I appreciate how cliché this sounds, but students should truly choose career paths that stimulate their minds and make them happy. The money, status and whatever else they seek will follow so long as you are doing what you enjoy.

Your happiness barometer will skyrocket and you will feel much more accomplished with your life if you take the leap into the unknown.

“I took the leap into the entrepreneurial space where I have found the intellectual freedom to solve problems and solve them much faster than any big agency can.”

Using myself as an example, I was on a path to becoming a career diplomat. However, I was fundamentally unsatisfied with my work. The money and perks began to lose their importance as I became increasingly jaded and unhappy. I could not see the impact of my work.

I took the leap into the entrepreneurial space where I have found the intellectual freedom to solve problems and solve them much faster than any big agency can — and with a fraction of the money typically used by big agencies.

Please, take the jump. It’s absolutely terrifying and you may fail. However, you will have tried to do something you love and are passionate about. Remember, we don’t get a do-over in life.

The 2021 Alumni Tribute Awards will take place on Oct. 27 at the Emera Innovation Exchange and will be live-streamed.


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