“As a marine, the reality is, ‘I’m going to war. I’m going to battle. I’m going to defend this country and if I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die. And then you die of a disease that you could do nothing about.”
In 2010, Clay Treska (MBA ’19) was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He had served since 1998 in the U.S. Marine Corps, most of that time spent as a counter intelligence agent. Treska’s propensity to ask questions and seek answers led him to challenge his diagnosis, research his options, and ultimately save his life. His experience surviving the disease—and witnessing it take his father’s life and the life of fellow marines—led him to co-found Family Proud, an app with a mission to connect patients to healthcare resources, and to foster a network of support so that no patient feels like they’re battling illness alone.
“I was able to beat my terminal diagnosis and I wanted to understand why that was. I wanted to be able to share that with other people,” Treska says. The same year he was diagnosed, he graduated from San Diego State University with the intention of becoming a physical therapist. After volunteering and interning with UC San Diego Health, where he helped advise cancer patients and counsel mourning families after loss, he decided that he wanted to pursue a different kind of career in healthcare.
“I saw that the amount of good that you can do from an executive perspective in healthcare is just so far sweeping. It takes one meeting and one decision and you can impact tens of thousands of people and the future of healthcare. I realized that getting an MBA and learning about business was the path that I wanted to take,” he says.
Treska researched graduate business programs across California including those at Stanford, USC, University of San Diego and San Diego State University. “All of the [other] programs that I saw were missing those key components towards helping my own business,” he says. Rady’s emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation appealed to him. “I made the decision that I need to go to Rady if I want to not only excel in the healthcare environment, but also have the opportunity to start up a company.”
Treska enrolled in Rady’s FlexWeekend MBA program and continued working full-time in healthcare. He met classmate and Family Proud CEO and co-founder Jaden Risner, and the two of them developed the business plan for Family Proud through Rady’s Lab-to-Market course sequence.
“[At Rady], you’re not just getting education from the class itself and from the course material, but you’re getting education from your peers. One of the greatest aspects of the program is how you realize that you can’t possibly know everything there is to know about business. But that’s not the point. The point is to understand it enough to be able to have conversations with people, find those people that are smarter than you in these specific disciplines and have them help you work on those aspects.”
As a young company with limited resources, only about a third of the Family Proud team are currently full-time employees. The rest are volunteers who give their time because they believe in the product, says Treska. “Everybody on this team, or someone close to them, has dealt with some type of an ailment or a struggle and thought that this is a service that would have helped them,” he says. “We’re all growing through our own challenges.”
Ultimately, Treska says that the goal for Family Proud is to help make high quality healthcare accessible to anyone. “Everybody should receive the highest quality medicine, the highest quality care, regardless of who you are, regardless of what type of insurance you have, what your pedigree is, what your job is, where you came from or who you know. This is our way of being able to make sure that everybody receives the highest quality care, inside and outside of their provider.”
It’s Treska’s desire to help other patients that motivates him to keep building the business.
“What more could you possibly ask from a program?” he says. “To take something from it that you can continue to grow and prosper, something other than the degree itself. That’s the most valuable thing that Rady gave me: to take a dream and turn it into a reality.”