Main Navigation

Humans of the U: Bella Tukuafu Johnson

“I grew up in Hawaii in a little tiny town called Punalu’u. It is very, very small—we don’t even have our own ZIP code. Being in the Master of Business Creation program at the U, I am in a cohort of really polished, savvy people who grew up talking about business, finance and marketing around their dinner tables. My experience was very different. As I have learned more, I’ve been able to bridge the gap between my country-bumpkin life and being able to hold my own. I love that I can now speak this language and understand what I need to do to move my company forward.

I started my company, Kalo Clinical Research, in 2019. We work with pharmaceutical companies to develop better medicine by creating access to clinical trials for communities that have historically not been represented in the development of medicine. These populations, which include Hispanic, Pacific Islander, Asian and Black, have many health disparities. For some medical issues, they experience them at double or triple the rate of the White population.

Over the last 100 years, most medications have been tested on and perfected in the White population, primarily White males. Since medicine works differently in different bodies, it feels wonderful to be a part of developing medicine to improve the health of all people and hopefully make a difference in narrowing the health disparities that currently exist.

As an undergrad, I wanted to create and build health care systems in third-world countries. I genuinely had no intention of ever becoming an entrepreneur. But immediately after getting into my company, I knew my mission would be to address health disparities.  This aligns with my original goals. I just don’t have to be in another country. My mission has been a huge driving force for keeping me moving forward.

For me, my master’s program was taking a leap of faith but everything about it has been ridiculously amazing for me. There’s a myriad of things that I’m learning every day when I come to school that I didn’t even expect and I’m very grateful for that. I’m grateful for the content, my professors and the other members of my cohort. I will forever be applying what I’ve learned in my program to make a difference through my company.”

— Bella Tukuafu Johnson, a senior in the Master of Business Creation program and the founder and CEO of Kalo of Clinical Research