November 1, 2014

Profile: Dr. Kiran C. Patel

Great Expectations

A Tampa cardiologist-philanthropist lives and gives on a grand scale.

Florida Staff | 5/1/2006
By the early 1990s, Patel had 20 doctors on his payroll. But at the former Good Samaritan Hospital, where the practice was largely based, Patel's group encountered racial backlash. Some employees took to calling the hospital "Mahatma Gandhi Memorial." Patel felt Good Samaritan's administrator used the Indian doctors as scapegoats for the hospital's financial woes. Patel left and took his doctors and patients with him. The hospital's business sank, and the administrator was gone within a year. At a new administrator's urging, Patel returned.

While the proliferation of HMOs dismayed many of his fellow physicians, Patel was intrigued. He eventually built a practice ownership and management company with 14 practices, including family medicine, internal medicine, cardiology and his wife's thriving pediatrics offices. He and his brother Pradip organized the offices into a network offering a wide range of specialties and services and pursued managed care contracts, eventually building a network of more than 8,000 patients.

In 1992, Patel bought a small HMO called WellCare. The business was unprofitable for several years, but that changed when the state began requiring Medicaid patients to enroll in HMOs. By 2002, WellCare had more than 400,000 HMO members and $1 billion in revenue. A private group led by financier George Soros took notice and bought the company that year. The Patels -- friends call them Dr. K and Dr. P -- along with family members, including Pradip, were paid $200 million.

Brakes?

Patel calls himself "retired," but he remains as busy as when he practiced cardiology. "The only difference is, when I am sitting in the theater enjoying a movie, I know I'm not going to have to run out to put in a pacemaker," he says.

Patel serves on USF's board of trustees, and his wife, too, is a well-respected community adviser described as thoughtful and analytical. She continues to juggle her eight-office pediatrics practice. Both Patels say that he is the accelerator, she the brakes. On a recent weekday morning, she left the house with this admonition: "No more deals. I don't care if there's a pot of gold in the road -- don't pick it up."

Patel shows few signs of heeding his wife. For one, there is the compound he plans on 17 acres, including a corner of Busch Boulevard and Dale Mabry Highway and 850 feet of waterfront at White Trout Lake. The Patels' architect, James McQuerter, calls the home "more than palatial," with a helicopter landing pad for visiting world leaders. Pallavi Patel would have preferred a more modest home, but her husband says, "If I want to build something, it will be a monument, a legacy that gives an impression of who I am."

Patel is not braking on the business front, either. He is developing more than $1 billion worth of condos and resorts in the Panhandle and in the Bay area, including a five-star resort and spa on Clearwater Beach. He also owns four healthcare informatics companies working to develop software with a goal to overtake behemoth WebMD in the e-medicine business. "My dream is to be the No. 1 player in that market," Patel says. "One of the philosophies I have is that if anybody can do it, I can do it better and cheaper."

Tags: Tampa Bay

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