1. Jaime, you had a different path to Fuqua than most. Can you tell us about it?
My path until undergrad at the University of Michigan was relatively conventional. I was a “good kid” – no shortage of friends, good grades, active extracurricular life, and a leader amongst my peers. Things took a significant turn in the coming years as I fell into an unforgiving addiction to drugs and alcohol. This was accompanied by a host of problems that compounded the unmanageability of my life – rehabs, arrests, overdoses, etc. The good news is that the pain and wreckage amounted to a beautiful day in 2013 when I surrendered.
I got clean and sober on Christmas day that year, and my life shifted drastically. Early on in this miraculous journey, I got “good” with myself and others, became extremely focused on mental wellness and helping others experience recovery, and saw my career begin to take off. After a few years, I recognized that getting my MBA was the best way to maximize my professional potential. To this day, I remain incredibly grateful that Fuqua is where I landed in 2016.
2. Where has life taken you since graduating from Fuqua in 2018? Have you landed where you thought you would post-graduation?
Funny enough, I recently revisited my essays for admission to Duke. The short- and long-term goals I cited back in 2015, it turns out, played out almost exactly as I had envisioned.
After an intense investment banking internship following my first year at Credit Suisse, I joined the company full-time after an incredibly fulfilling – and fun – second year at Fuqua. I moved to NYC in 2018 and dove into the investment banking world. Though painful at times, I was a very happy customer of the investment banking life – specifically, what it offered in terms of a hard skillset, a fundamental understanding of companies and markets, the endurance to work under incredibly rigorous conditions, and expanding my network.
Towards the end of my banking days, I became intrigued by entrepreneurship through acquisition. I was interested in having equity ownership in a business, more agency over my life, and being a more holistic manager. I began discussing the idea with one of my closest friends from Fuqua. The skills I learned through my experience at Duke and in investment banking had prepared me to take on this venture.
Right around that time, I was approached by a gentleman named Ben Brafman, who owned a rehab I was in at 21 years old. I remembered him as a brilliant clinical mind who cared deeply for those in his center. Ben was tired of the business aspect and wanted to focus on the clinical part of treatment. I began to model what the business might look like, using his experience to refine my assumptions. In Ben, I had a trusted operator and clinical expert, and I knew my business mind would complement his skillset well. Opening a mental health-focused treatment center with Ben checked many professional ‘boxes’ that appealed to me in a search fund but added a personal and altruistic element that tipped the scale. So, in 2021, we opened The Sylvia Brafman Mental Health Center.
For the last two years, I’ve served as CEO of The Sylvia Brafman Mental Health Center, and it has been nothing short of amazing. I have a front-row seat to miracles and get to play a role in treating an extremely underserved population. Believe it or not, the number of exceptional primary mental health facilities is inadequate relative to the number of pure “drug rehabs.” So co-founding Sylvia Brafman has been a great opportunity to help those suffering the most while simultaneously utilizing the skills I learned at Fuqua.
3. What was your most meaningful Fuqua experience that has shaped you personally or professionally?
It’s tough for me to choose one, so let me go with a couple:
- Juggling the social, professional, and academic responsibilities as a first-year: Being thrust into an environment with so many qualified people from all walks of life was equally incredible and intimidating. Between getting acclimated socially, recruiting for investment banking, and learning about the building blocks of business in those first four months, I often felt overwhelmed. Pushing through the discomfort, juggling a million responsibilities that didn’t seem possible, and ultimately coming out a better person was one of the best growth experiences of my life.
- Investment Banking Club Co-Chair: Serving as investment banking co-chair as a second year was amazing in that it helped refine my understanding of the job while enabling me to help first-years navigate the same path I did a year prior.
- Global travels with lifelong friends: I reflect fondly on the relationships I developed at Fuqua. Our trips across the globe helped facilitate and solidify many of those relationships. From Europe to South America, Asia to the Middle East – I will never forget what I learned about humanness and connection with others during these travels.
4. You worked in investment banking before making a transition to the mental health field. Was it difficult to leave Wall Street, and what advice would you give other Fuquans considering a significant change in career direction?
I don’t recall consciously struggling with the decision. I was clear on my motives and my rationale. My gut and mind were aligned. I found it beautiful how Fuqua gave me the perspective to marry self-reflection and integrity with a business plan and financial model.
To anyone considering significant change, my advice is to go with your gut, which I believe subconsciously takes logic into account. Value intuition and rationale equally. Understand your personal risk tolerance and how much you value upside. Consider if you value stability or growth more and what the ideal blend of the two would be. All these things factored into my decision, and because I considered each of these thoughtfully, I’m confident I made the right decision.
5. Concerning your passions for entrepreneurship and the desire to help others, what is on the horizon for you? What do you hope to achieve?
My focus is squarely on improving our quality of care and growing the business. I want to expand our offerings and strengthen our ability to help patients and families. The goal is to continue building and refining a world-class service that gives folks a second chance at life. I am confident that this focused mindset will create a domino effect with a number of other personal and professional goals being reached in the process.
6. What does #TeamFuqua mean to you?
#TeamFuqua means taking a diverse set of skills, personalities, and experiences and combining them to yield synergies impacting the greater good. It’s sort of a magic formula that doesn’t always make sense rationally, but that we have empirical evidence works. It’s 1 + 1 = 3. It focuses not only on process or outcome but how we show up to life – in a way that is courageous, proud, smart, altruistic, impactful, and realistic.