Profile: Dr. Kiran C. Patel
A Tampa cardiologist-philanthropist lives and gives on a grand scale.
Fifteen years ago, Renu Khator, a political science professor who'd come to Tampa from Purdue University to take a position at the Univeristy of South Florida, sat at a fund-raising dinner as a Tampa cardiologist named Kiran C. Patel unveiled plans to build, of all things, an Indian cultural center that would hold 1,000 people -- more Indians than Khator figured lived in the city.
"My father said, 'If you come in second, do not put your foot in this house,'" says entrepreneur Kiran Patel, who sold his WellCare HMO in 2002 for $200 million.
Khator remembers rolling her eyes. "I remember thinking that his plans were way too much. We had very few Indians in Tampa at that time, and not even an Indian restaurant," she says. "What was this man thinking?"
Patel was thinking big. It's the only way he thinks -- from outsized success in the business world to charitable giving that places him among Florida's most generous philanthropists. Raised Hindu, Patel believes it's his karmic obligation to spend his fortune in the places that helped him make it: Africa, India and Tampa, where last year he made the largest donation in the history of Florida's public universities, funding a global solutions center at USF that targets crises from AIDS to water shortage.
"God put each of us on this world for some reason," says Patel. "Each person will figure that reason out for himself. But everyone must try to make the world a better place."
The words seem to befit a man whom friends and colleagues unfailingly describe as "humble," "very humble" or "the humblest man I've ever known." What, then, to make of the Lamborghini, the Ferrari and plans for the biggest house in Tampa -- 40,000 square feet of marble, glass and stainless steel complete with a 450-foot-long swimming pool -- with an estimated cost of up to $20 million.
And how to square them with Patel's ego, which he admits is as grandiose as the rest? "From day one I created my own world and lived in my own world," Patel says. "I've always been different -- bigger than life in everything I do."