Postcards

How the power players do it - by Fortune senior editor at large Patricia Sellers

Barbara Bush builds a healthcare startup

November 1, 2011: 1:25 PM ET

Wendy Kopp, the founder and CEO of Teach for America, is one of the most impressive social entrepreneurs I've ever met. Anyone who writes her college thesis about recruiting America's top young people to education—and then spends the next 22 years building an organization that now hires more college seniors than most any Fortune 500 company—gets my vote.

But I'm not here to tell you about Kopp. (She's had many profiles since I wrote about her in Fortune in 2006.) I want to tell you about someone who is a young version of the TFA founder: Barbara Bush. You remember Barbara as one of the twin daughters of President George W. Bush. Now 29, she has quietly moved beyond her Washington youth and has a global-health startup in the making.

Bush's creation is Global Health Corps. After graduating from Yale, young Barbara went to South Africa and worked in a children's hospital, where she got the bug to help lure young people into careers in global health. When she got home to the U.S. in 2008, her sister, Jenna, told her about two guys from Google (GOOG) whom she had met and had a passion and know-how in that field. Their first meeting was a weekend at Jenna's house in Baltimore. "We locked ourselves in her house for the weekend, and we wrote a business plan, which is not what I normally did when I was 25,"  Barbara says.

That was 2008. "Quit your job," both her dad and mom, Laura, told her, urging her to leave the Cooper-Hewitt Museum in New York City. (Barbara had once wanted to be an architect.) Ever since that day, Barbara has been working to mobilize recent college grads and young professionals to work for a year in a healthcare non-profit or government agency.

Global Health Corps is building quickly. More than 125 fellows have worked on health issues around the world, from Boston to Burundi. GHC fielded thousands of applications for 68 fellowships awarded in August. Like TFA, it's more difficult to get into this program than an Ivy League college. Bush's goal: 500 fellows a year.

Sure, Barbara Bush is privileged. And yes, she has extraordinary connections and access that aid her in building her startup. But this ambitious young member of the Bush dynasty could be taking it easy and enjoying the spoils. Instead, she is working creatively to improve the world and the lot of America's young people.

"I had no plans to be a social entrepreneur," she says. Sometimes the calling just happens.

Here's a clip of my interview with Barbara Bush at the recent Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit.


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About This Author
Pattie Sellers
Pattie Sellers
Senior Editor at Large, Fortune
Executive Director of MPW/Live Content, Time Inc.

Pattie Sellers has written more than 20 Fortune cover stories including "Marissa Mayer: Ready to Rumble at Yahoo," "Muhtar Kent's New Coke," "Oprah's Next Act", "The $100 Billion Woman" (Melinda Gates), and "Gone with the Wind" (Ted Turner). She co-founded Fortune Most Powerful Women and oversees the Fortune MPW Summit, the preeminent gathering of women leaders in business and beyond—and programs such as Fortune MPW Entrepreneurs and the Fortune-U.S. State Department Global Women Leaders Mentoring Partnership. Pattie also develops Live Content across Time Inc. Her blog, Postcards, is about how power players lead and navigate their careers. Pattie won Time Inc.'s prestigious MVP award for her performance in 2012.

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