- Kiran Patel, chairman of Tampa, Fla.-based Freedom Health and a pioneering Cardiologist, was accorded the highest national honor given to any person of Indian origin living outside of India, the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman on Wednesday, January 23rd, 2019.Dr. Patel received the award from the Indian President Ram Nath Kovind at the 15thPravasi Bharatiya Divas in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, which concluded last week.
The other three chosen fro the award from the US included, IMF chief economist Gita Gopinath, Illinois-based scientist Chandra Shekhar Mishra and Michigan resident Gitesh Jayantilal Desai. Besides the four Indian Americans, 24 other prominent personalities from the Indian diaspora worldwide received the awards.
Dr. Patel has generously contributed his fortune for several noble causes in India, his country of origin, the United States, his adopted country, and Zambia, the country of his birth. Dr. Patel is also the Chairman and President of Optimum Healthcare, Inc.
All philanthropic campaigns, contributions and projects have resulted from his passion for health, education and charity. That’s why he has also commissioned Drs. Kiran and Pallavi Global University, a 120-acre institute under construction in India.
Sharing his own experiences of investing in the state of Gujarat and in the United States, Dr. Patel, said, with the state requiring more trained personnel to support the growing needs, he is willing to establish a Medical College in Rajasthan.
Dr. Patel, a very soft spoken physician of Indian origin, said the projects combine his passions for health education and charity. In his first venture in running a university, he hopes to fulfill a need for competent doctors in the area while also educating generations of physicians who can serve in underprivileged areas across the globe.
Dr. Patel had purchased the former Clearwater Christian College property with a goal of developing an osteopathic medical school in his home-state, Florida. The Indian American physician closed on the $12 million purchase of the 25-acre campus overlooking Old Tampa Bay at the west end of the Courtney Campbell Causeway.
In 2014, Patel broke ground on the $175 million, 448-room Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach resort, creating a successful and modern hospitality business.
In July, the city of Clearwater purchased the 111 acres of wetlands and submerged lands surrounding the campus for preservation and restoration projects. If his plans are fulfilled, Patel will develop the Dr. Kiran C. Patel College of Osteopathic Medicine, catering to both domestic and international students, especially from India and Africa, who otherwise could not afford medical training.
“One goal,” he said, “is to train doctors who can return to their home countries and treat underserved communities. It is not easy — there are a lot of challenges — but if somebody’s heart is there and doing the right thing, the right results will follow,” Patel said.
The hope is for the school to serve upwards of 150 students by the fall of 2018 or early 2019, following the credentialing and certification process. Patel estimates it could cost $50 million to launch the school, most of which will come from his own pocket, although having existing classroom infrastructure and dormitories significantly reduces costs.
Mayor George Cretekos of Tampa described Patel’s proposed development as a “boom for the city.” “I think it’s a good fit and goes with what we were wanting to see with that property,” Cretekos said, according to the Tampa Bay Times report. “The potential to benefit the entire area is just amazing.”
Planning and overseeing the charitable works, according to Dr. Patel has “Two approaches: direct involvement in the areas of Zambia, East Africa and India. I oversee the utilization of the funds to the penny. What you have seen in the Tampa area is a legacy gift. To impact as large a group as possible, we have entrusted a responsible institution to perpetuate our mission, such as the performing arts center and University of South Florida.”
Born in Zambia to Indian American parents, educated in India, Dr. Kiran Patel arrived in the United States on Thanksgiving Day, 1976. He returned home to attend medical school, where he met his wife, Pallavi, a fellow student, but ultimately decided to return to the U.S. permanently. “I wanted to make sure my children had a better future, and the political climate in Africa at the time was a bit challenging,” he says.
Dr. Patel was educated in Zambia and then got his diploma in Cambridge University and The University of London. He came down to India to study medicine in Gujarat University in India and did his Internship in Africa. Dr. Patel did his residency in Internal Medicine in New Jersey in 1980. He completed a fellowship in the Cardiology program affiliated with the Columbia University of New York in 1982.
Dr. Pallavi Patel did her undergraduate degree from M.G. Science College, Gujarat University, and attended Municipal Medical College of Gujarat University in Ahmedabad. She did her internship from St. Barnabas Hospital in New Jersey, School of Medicine Dentistry of New Jersey and Overlook Hospital in Summit, New Jersey, in affiliation with Columbia University in New York. She started her private practice in Kabwe, Zambia, from 1974 to 1978 and worked as a part-time consultant physician from 1974 to 1978 for Kabwe Industrial Fabrics, Ltd. and Kapiri Glass Products, Ltd.
The Patel family moved to Tampa, Florida in 1982 and Dr. Kiran Patel began his practice in Cardiology. His dedication, compassion, and skills made him very successful at the very early stage of medical practice, and was soon a distinguished cardiologist in that area. He developed a physician practice management company and expanded to places adjoining Tampa Bay area diverging into 14 practices including Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, Pediatrics and Cardiology.
Dr. Patel was also in partnership with several point-of-service locations to form multi-specialty networks. This network helped patients to access most medical services conveniently. He has actively engaged himself in managed care contracts and has expanded so much that it provides care for more than 80,000 patients annually. Apart from this, he has developed good associations with several HMOs and hospitals. His success in managed care contracts led a group of doctors to seek his services to help them with an HMO in New Port Richey, Florida.
Dr. Patel took up the project after discussing a pre-determined purchase option of the company. It was called the Well Care HMO, Inc. (Well Care). In 1992, Dr. Kiran Patel, along with Rupesh Shaw, CEO, and Pradip Patel, President, started a Medicaid managed care company. Not long after, this company became the largest Medicaid provider in the state of Florida.
He helped to bring around the struggling HMO, WellCare of New York and Connecticut. While turning around the company, he worked with nearly a hundred hospitals and a few hundred physicians in settling past due medical claims. Dr. Kiran Patel provided an additional $15 million in equity through Conversion of Brow and infused $10 million of new capital and acquired 55 percent of the publicly held Well Care Management Group.
Between 1995 and 2002, Dr. Kiran Patel built it into a billion-dollar company, providing services to more than 450,000 members, employing more than 1,200 employees and operating in Florida, New York and Connecticut. Dr. Patel subsequently entered the managed care industry and was the Chairman of WellCare of Florida.
He had served as Chairman of Visionary Medical Systems. He believes that the Visionary Office will reduce the paperwork for the physicians and give them more time to devote on their patients. He is a member on the following organizations: Fellow of American College of Cardiology; American Medical Association, American College of Physicians, American Association of Physicians from the South East Asia, Past Chair Scholarship Committee.
A cardiologist, visionary, businessman and philanthropist, Dr. Kiran Patel, along with his wife devotes substantial sums towards charity and education both in India, Zambia as well as in the United States. A 50-bed charity hospital serving 100,000 villagers in India was established by her along with her family; provision of funds for annual scholarship for underprivileged children to obtain a college education; funding for the construction of the USF Charter School for Underprivileged Children in Hillsborough County; sponsoring of 25 orphans from India to visit and perform a cross-cultural program in the United States.
In 2003, the Patels sold their majority of his interest in their business, and Dr. Patel turned his attention to the family’s many philanthropic endeavors. That same year, he became chairman of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI). It was from this vantage point that he began to tackle several significant humanitarian projects in India, including the construction of numerous hospitals, a diabetes research study, and improved health care access for poor and rural citizens. His enormous contributions during and after national calamities in India are very remarkable.
Dr. Patel united the Tampa Bay community and AAPI and led an effort that eventually rehabilitated the villagers’ homes, constructed an orphanage and model school and created four modern hospitals, and was able to utilize generous contributions from the Tampa Bay community, and often matched them with his own money.
One of the leading philanthropists in America, the Patels also sponsor 25 orphans from India to come annually to the United States and participate in cross-cultural programs.
On the challenges he had to face upon arrival here in the US, Dr. Patels says, “There are many challenges when you come from an Eastern culture to the Western world. It’s a tougher transition for children than for us. I have a rigid personality … as a parent I have firm expectations on behavior, certain etiquette and rules. My children all got used to it, in a good way. They know I am there for them and they for me, but I’m not a warm, fuzzy type of guy.”
The couple’s gift of $12 million to the University of South Florida, resulted in converting the Patel School of Global Sustainability to the Patel College of Global Sustainability. “It was important to create a college to be a perpetual institution that creates students and scholars who are going to change the world dramatically,” Dr. Patel says. “I believe it will create champions of the profession. Most people don’t understand sustainability; they think it’s just a problem for third world countries. They don’t realize the U.S. and Europe are most guilty of consuming resources. At the current rate the Western world uses natural resources, we would need six Earths to provide the rest of the world the same lifestyle. We must change.”
Another area of focus for the Patels is health. “Intellectual capability without physical capability, you still have a problem. Arts and culture are more in the luxurious category, which it should not be, but I feel that way. It can play a unique role in integrating people, but if someone is starving, he’s not going to think of the arts,” he says.
The family has become renowned in the Tampa Bay area and beyond for their openhanded philanthropy: The suburbs of Tampa is home to one of the largest single-family estate in the United States, according to property assessment records obtained by the Tampa Tribune. Dr. Kiran and Dr. Pallavi Patel, along with their son, daughters, and grandchildren, live inan elegantly built beautiful house with the combined square footage of the buildings within the estate amounts to 35,000 square feet, with the main residence contributing 15,000 square footage of the total. Each of the six satellite homes is more than 7,000 square feet.
Dr. Pallavi serves on many boards and is a member of several organizations. She is president and CEO of Stat Care and Bay Area Primary Care Association, Inc. with five locations across Tampa. She is also a founder, trustee and administrator for the India Cultural Center. She is a member of the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center Board of Trustees, Shakti Krupa Charitable Foundation Board of Directors and the ICC Hope Scholarship Foundation Board of Directors.
In 2003 the couple set up a nonprofit Foundation for Global Understanding. Dr. Kiran Patel serves as the chairman and Dr. Pallavi Patel is president of Foundation that develops and funds a wide variety of programs in health, education, arts and culture. Together they have made possible the USF/Dr. Kiran C. Patel Charter School along with the Dr. Pallavi Patel Pediatric Care Center at the school as well as the highly celebrated Dr. Pallavi Patel Performing Arts Conservatory.
The Patels not only earned a highly cherished reputation as physicians, but also gained a unique vision of the future of the medical care. Rather than shunning the growing trend toward managed health care, they began to develop solutions that made sense from the physician’s point of view.
Recognitions came their way with several awards and honors from around the country. Among the honors and awards that he has received is the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for the Southeast United States, Jefferson Award for Public Service-National Media Award, Community Leader Award-Community Development Corporation of Tampa, Lions Clubs International Academy Award for Humanitarian Service, and Ike Tribble Award from National Urban League.
Volunteers of America, one of the nation’s largest and oldest human services charities, presented its highest honor – the 2012 Ballington and Maud Booth Award – to Drs. Pallavi and Kiran Patel on during the organization’s national conference at the Hyatt Regency Tampa.
On New Year’s day in 2007, Dr. Patel was honored with the “Glory of Gujarat” award from the Chief Minister of his home State in India. In May 2007, Dr. Patel received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor for Exceptional Immigrant Patriots. Both Dr. Kiran Patel and Pallavi Patel were inducted into the Tampa Bay Hall of Fame in 2010 by the business community of Tampa Bay.
Dr. Pallavi Patel was honored as the Business Woman of the Year in 2006 for her outstanding role in the community. In 2007, she was awarded Woman of Distinction by the Girls Scouts of Florida, and in 2008 she was inducted into the prestigious Florida Women’s Hall of Fame.
The Patels were selected for the 2012 Booth Award because of their generous philanthropic work to support programs in health, education, arts and culture, both in the Tampa area and around the world. Their foundation supported the Pepin Heart Hospital Research Institute in Tampa as well as the Dr. Pallavi Patel Conservatory for Performing Arts. In 2011, the Dr. Kiran C. Patel for Global Solutions, based at the University of South Florida, was established to develop solutions to some of today’s major global problems.
In 2003, Dr. Kiran Patel was appointed by Florida’s governor to the University of South Florida Board of Trustees. In 2004, the Patel were awarded the Cultural Contributor of the Year Award by the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce. The Foundation also support a yearly U.S. scholarship fund for underprivileged youth and the IMAGINE Project, which teaches philanthropic entrepreneurism to young leaders. USF CHART-India Program, another innovative foundation project, works aggressively to provide HIV/AIDS treatment, prevention and education programs throughout India’s rural and urban populations.
The Patels believe that “education gives the maximum impact. In my father’s village, we built a school that has transformed a generation. Uplifting a single student will uplift five or 10 families.” And the noble mission goes on with no boundaries, benefitting millions of deserving people across all continents.