Sam Bennett, a white man, wearing a black tshirt, shorts and a baseball cap uses walking sticks as he crosses a stream during a cross country hike

A British Army Reserve Medical Officer, a physician with the U.K.’s National Health Service, and a co-founder of an innovative performance equipment brand, Affinity Altitude — these are only a few of Dr. Sam Bennett’s great accomplishments. He also is a Thouron Scholar, racing to discover better ways to make innovative medical therapies available to patients around the world. 

The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania is one of Bennett’s latest races — where in spring 2023, he will complete his studies in the private Ivy League’s Master of Business Administration (MBA) programme. With much in motion, Bennett understands what it means to leave home to embark on the marathon of life.

Previously, he studied at the University of Birmingham Medical School, which he graduated from in 2017. Bennett left his hometown of Brighton, U.K. for his studies then, which was a small race — but leaving the U.K. to study and work in America has proven to be one of his greatest races yet.

For many of the world’s future impactful leaders and innovators, how they start their race to change the world begins with opportunities that challenge them — literally and culturally. 

Off to the races, many thanks to the Thouron Award

Many Scholars who are asked “Why the Thouron Award?” provide a response that is unique to them as an individual. For Bennett, the financial support afforded to Thouron Scholars as they pursue academic endeavours is incredibly generous. Additionally, Bennett believes that an even greater benefit comes from being a Scholar — an overwhelming sense of community and camaraderie with all Thouron Scholars, past and present.

Bennett explains, “Whilst we all come from such varying backgrounds, it is exactly this diversity that makes the group so interesting and such a pleasure to be a part of.” Such a thing is a testament to how much an experience, similar to running a race, is based on who you are able to have it with — especially when moving from your home country to another where you likely know little to no one.

“It is hard to imagine what my time in the U.S. would have looked like without the Thouron Award and the phenomenal people I have been lucky to meet along the way,” Bennett adds.

It was only two summers ago that Bennett moved from London to Philadelphia to begin his Wharton MBA, where his studies in Healthcare Management focus on Life Sciences. For him, this move has proven to be a catalyst for astounding explorations.

“Professionally, this exploration has involved gaining an exposure to the process of drug development and the complexity of the life science industry — providing a fascinating context to my time as a doctor prior to business school,” Bennett shares. 

And personally? Well, Bennett is grateful to have cultivated many life-long core friendships and memories — from the chance to become bi-coastal, living on both the east and west coasts of the U.S. in Philadelphia, San Francisco, and San Diego to running through vast mountain ranges in Utah, California, Hawaii, Mexico and other locations in North America.

If anyone understands that endurance and balance are necessary for the marathon called life, it is Bennett.

Sam Bennett runs in a black tshirt and shorts wearing sunglasses and a blue baseball cap during a race through the U.S.

Each mile moulds you, it’s not just a sport

“I have always enjoyed sport, with tennis, football — haven’t been convinced to call it soccer yet — and running being such fundamental pillars of my childhood,” Bennett recalls. Running and sports have been integral to him since early adulthood, when he ran competitively and for leisure — fortunate to have trained in the French Pyrenes mountains as well as the Great Rift Valley of Kenya. 

Bennett explains, “Following medical school however, practising as a doctor in the U.K. for four years became largely incompatible with consistent exercise. Thus, when the opportunity to study for an MBA arose, returning to running was one of the top items on my agenda! This time round though, less in a competitive capacity, and more so as a platform to explore and experience much of the stunning nature across the U.S. and beyond.”

And what a beautiful integration Bennett has experienced by immersing one of his many passions, running, into his time as a Thouron Scholar in the U.S. Thus far, he has run several races across North America since 2021 — most notably a 60-mile race in Mexico, with a 12,000-foot elevation gain. 

“Ascending 800 ft. in a mile to descending 1,000 ft. in the next; using ropes and poles for the climbs, to crossing who knows how many rivers and streams that cut through the valleys, [where] footing was technical throughout, and [I] struggled to navigate many of the steep descents — particularly with ground covered in 6 inches of pine needles, leaves, and scree that seemed to melt away when stepped on,” Bennett describes.

For 13 hours, he experienced his most memorable instance of pain and joy racing through the mountains and rain forests of west Mexico, which mainly consisted of disintegrated paths and fire roads. Bennett acknowledges, “The low point was getting rather lost for a few miles at mile 20, where I ended up finding a farmer on horseback herding cows, who kindly took me back to the trail! The high point [was] taking a minute to sit down and watch the sunset over the Pacific Ocean from a ridge in the jungles.”

It is of little wonder how Bennett will take what he learned as a Scholar during his programme at Wharton as well his life lessons from tough marathons forward into his career.

Sam Bennett shouts with excitement as he crosses the finish line for a marathon as onlookers cheer

Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint

After he completes his MBA at Wharton, Bennett aims to use his background and education in a career he hopes will accelerate machine learning, discovery, and the development of clinical medicine, global healthcare systems, and biotech.

“With the advent and advancement of gene therapies, machine learning-enabled drug discovery and precision medicine, there will be paradigm shifts in the way medicine is practised in the coming decades — particularly within oncological, autoimmune, metabolic and neurodegenerative diseases,” Bennett explains.

Thus, his time spent in the U.S. exposed to the rapid evolution of the life sciences industry led Bennett to deepen his understanding of the science behind such innovations. For him, knowing how to identify, fund, and scale businesses will ultimately put these medicine therapies in the right hands — those of global clinics and the patients of the world.

While completing his studies at Wharton, Bennett also worked as a consultant with New Rhein Healthcare Investors and as an MBA summer intern in Eli Lilly and Company’s Accelerated R&D Leadership Program. Though his balanced life marathon is not all work and no play. “I’m hoping to experience much more of the U.S. — both nature and culture! This includes dipping into a traditional Thanksgiving Turkey Trot in November,” Bennett shares. 

Most excitedly, he has much more exploration in the U.S. to navigate and plenty of marathons to run in 2023 — particularly, the Philadelphia Love Run in March. Bennett also hopes to return to ultramarathons across the U.S. and French Alps next year.

Are you interested in becoming a Thouron Scholar? Our application cycle for the 2024/2025 academic year will open next year. Learn more about the Thouron Award — one of the most prestigious and generous academic scholarships in the world.