Sunil Karnawat

Fellowship: 20 Years Out

Sunil Karnawat
Illustration by Allegra Lockstadt

Live the life that makes you feel like you’re giving back. 

Sunil Karnawat

Life doesn’t always go as planned, but for Sunil Karnawat (BF’98), he wouldn’t have it any other way. He applied for a Bush Fellowship with the intent of developing and enhancing the programs at Turtle Mountain Community College, a Native American school located in Belcourt, North Dakota. But after graduating, life led him down a different path in the healthcare industry, opening doors to an adventure that provided him with the skills necessary to give back in ways he never thought possible.

What do you do now and how did the Fellowship help you get there?

I’m currently an executive director at Ultragenyx working to launch products for patients (mostly in pediatrics) living with rare diseases — diseases that are typically less than 200,000 cases in the country. These are diseases with no available treatments because it’s not worth it financially for many companies. We launched the first product November 15, 2017, and we have less than 200 patients worldwide, so it’s a really small population. We’re currently waiting to get FDA approval for the second product in April 2018. 

The reason I am where I am is because of the path the Fellowship has led me down, which has included stops at Medtronic, Deloitte, Johnson and Johnson, Novo Nordisk, and the small startup where I am now. These experiences and the experiences I had while getting my MBA at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management made me think about what I want in life and really grounded me in ways that have made me a better person. I cannot thank the Bush Foundation enough.

What aspect of the Fellowship did you find most valuable?

I think it was a combination of the courses and personal growth. As a part of the Fellowship, I was able to go to Harvard during the summer before I started my MBA to understand more about the basics of business communications and the key things you need to think about as you’re communicating effectively in a business setting. 

Do you want to offer any advice to current and future Bush Fellows?

Live the life that makes you feel like you’re giving back. You’ve got to do what makes you feel good because when you’re happy you’re going to give a lot more back to the community. Be sure to keep an open mind because you never know when a new opportunity is going to open up. I believe the Foundation’s purpose is to open the eyes of people to help them see things from a different perspective, and to give them the courage to pursue it. 

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The Fellowship is a recognition of extraordinary achievement and a bet on extraordinary potential, with up to $100,000 to invest in leadership development.