October 26, 2014

Profile: Dr. Kiran C. Patel

Great Expectations

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

Florida Staff | 5/1/2006

Global giving

Patel's philanthropy has blossomed at both the local and global levels. The India Cultural Center that seemed so excessive to Renu Khator, the political science professor new to USF 15 years ago, is now far too small for the Indian community's annual nine-day festival. The community, which has grown to 20,000, works to maintain cultural traditions for children and has helped make India the top foreign feeder of students to USF. Khator, now provost at the university, says she believes the Patels "have shaped and defined the future for Indian children here in Tampa Bay."

Patel is applying his "better-cheaper" philosophy to solve local and global problems more efficiently than governments or other non-government organizations. In perhaps the most ambitious example, in southeast Africa, Patel is working to build specialized hospitals across a 1,000-mile zone to give residents access to world-standard care at a fraction of the usual cost. A heart hospital he is building in Tanzania will provide heart surgery for about $3,000 -- 10 times less than the government paid for residents to receive surgery outside the country.

Patel envisions building centers of excellence for other medical specialties, such as liver care or kidney care, in nearby countries, including Zambia, where he grew up. Instead of traveling to Europe or elsewhere for top medical care -- or more likely not getting the care at all -- the region's residents will be able to find it within a couple hundred miles of home.

The Patels try to fund a spectrum of the needs in a small community rather than target one cause in a country; for example, they don't build a school without also making sure its children have enough food and proper healthcare. They also look to fund work that creates model solutions that can be exported. In Chhotubhai Patel's native village of Mota Fofalia, a private academy founded by the Patels is one of the most progressive and rapidly growing on the subcontinent. The 800-student school, in a rural area where the pass rate for the national exam is less than half, has a 100% pass rate. The Patels' foundation will use some of the academy's experiences to try to turn around three "D" schools in Hillsborough County over the next three years, including a charter school they founded at USF, which draws disadvantaged students.

The Patels plan to eventually give away their entire fortune to help solve some of the planet's most intractable problems. "God wants you to acquire wealth, but what you do with it is very, very important," he says. "We provided our children with great educations, character and moral and spiritual grounding so they will generate treasure of their own."

Like Kiran and Pradip, the third Patel brother, Dinesh, also followed their father's course, making his fortune in a new country with his own capital. Dinesh, a venture capitalist in Salt Lake City, founded a pharmaceutical company and sold it for more than $300 million.

Kiran Patel's ego vanishes when asked if he thinks he's met his father's expectations. Choked with emotion, he says, "He would be very, very happy."

Tags: Tampa Bay

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