Greg Jarzabek had been handed a new job building a credit trading desk from scratch at an investment bank in the City when his mother was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer in 2011. She was given three months to live, so he paused his banking career to do what he could to help.
“I travelled all over the world with her seeing leading consultants in Frankfurt, the U.S, and elsewhere and they all helped me to find the right treatment,” he says. “By meeting these specialists, my mother survived for 10 months rather than the predicted three months.”
Jarzabek did not simply sit back and accept whatever treatment was immediately and locally available to his mother. But most people who fall seriously ill are subject to a lottery of location, he says. It may be that there’s an expert who could provide essential help to your condition – but they might be on the other side of the world.
“Throughout my time in the City I knew people who had died of cancer, or colleagues whose loved ones were diagnosed,” he says. “The reaction was more or less universal – a sense of helplessness and a lack of knowledge on where to find the best care. I decided I wanted to do something to change this.”
Jarzabek’s experience with his mother planted a seed of an idea, but he initially went back to his role as head of corporate credit trading at Mitsubishi UFJ Securities. He built a team of 13 sales and trading staff at the bank during his eight years there, but decided to quit banking in November last year.
“I was building a team from scratch at Mitsubishi UFJ Securities, which was a great experience and rare in the current banking environment, but I couldn’t get this idea out of my head. It seemed like the right time to pursue a new career, and to give something back,” he says.
Jarzabek launched Trustedoctor in December, an online platform that aims to connect a community of medical specialists with patients seeking the best care. Specific needs are matched with doctors with niche expertise and a consultation is offered online “in the interests of time and travel”, he says.
Jarzabek, who spent close to 13 years in trading roles in the City at Merrill Lynch, Calyon and MUFG, said he decided to jump out of banking after completing an executive education leadership course at Harvard University last year.
“I expanded the idea during my post-graduate degree at Harvard – interviewing doctors and a lot of patients,” he says. “I realised that a lot of people were having the same problems connecting to the right people to give them the best medical care. It seemed like a universal issue and a massive opportunity.”
Covering every possible ailment is obviously a huge task, so Jarzabek and his team have decided to focus on one condition – brain cancer – for the website’s initial launch. One British neurology expert, Dr Colin Watts, has already been offering consultations via webcam to patients around the world to trial Trustedoctor. This is just the start, says Jarzabek.
“The brain cancer survival rate is incredibly low and there are 120 different tumour types with various complications,” he says “There are also different clinical needs, so we have 35 specialists around the world, from surgeons to radiologists to clinical nurses. The plan is to expand across other cancers and total of 20 conditions in two years.”
Trustedoctor is supported by 15 cancer charities around the world, and Jarzabek says that “everyone diagnosed with a life-threatening disease should have an immediate feel of control over the treatment”.
One of Jarzabek’s partners on the project is Lukasz Rzeczkowski, who works as a director in structured credit at Banca IMI in London. If this seems like a divergence away from finance, Jarzabek says that working on the trading floor set him up well for getting the business off the ground.
“My trading career has actually been very helpful getting the business off the ground. Trading helps you learn how to have confidence taking complex decisions, but I also built a desk, so worked with various divisions across the bank, worked with regulators, marketing and universities for recruitment. This all helps when you’re going it alone.”