Director of Clinical Innovation and Medical Services, MercyAscot Hospitals, Healthcare Holdings Limited
What kid wouldn’t want to grow up with parents owning a dairy? All that ice cream and lollies right there for the taking.
For Manoj Patel it certainly had its advantages but it also came with an obligation to contribute to the family business that saw him regularly stocking shelves from the age of five.
It was an early lesson about the value of hard work, but it also gave him a taste of entrepreneurship and business risk. It didn’t take Manoj long to put his newfound knowledge to work.
Buying a second-hand photocopier and selling previous exam papers to his fellow students at high school, his first foray into business quickly turned into a profitable venture, establishing a healthy bank balance for the young teen.
But it was a knee injury and a six month stay in hospital while he was still at school that was to have the greatest influence on his future career choice.
Having plenty of time to observe the health system in action at a young age, Manoj says the experience cemented an interest in healthcare and he left hospital determined to make this his chosen pathway.
“Each day I would wait for the doctors’ rounds to update me on how I was progressing. Doctors and nurses have a unique and privileged relationship with their patients - a relationship that is delicate, intense and significant. I wanted to be in a position to help people through my relationship as a doctor.”
Enrolling in a Bachelor of Medicine satisfied one side of his academic curiosity but what to do about the business side proved to be more difficult. The challenge he faced was how to reconcile the two?
Manoj recalls a visit to the Business School one day to explore his options, which wasn’t particularly successful, but it did lead to a connection with someone who would prove to be pivotal in his career.
“While they more-or-less sent me back to the Med School, I did find out about the Entrepreneurs Challenge, or Spark as it was known then (now Velocity) and that allowed me to connect with the challenge’s legendary founder Geoff Whitcher who has been a wonderful mentor, friend and supporter over the past 15 years.”
Gaining a Fulbright Scholarship and subsequent admission to the prestigious Harvard MBA program Manoj soon found his earlier situation reversed as he immersed himself in business studies for the first time; a world he initially found completely foreign.
“Coming from a non-business background I found the finance papers a bit of a challenge particularly when I was trying to make the most of all the opportunities on offer. But studying at Harvard is a privilege and so you just double down and eventually you get through it. I really wanted to do my MBA at Harvard because of its proximity to Boston which is home to some of America’s leading health organisations and businesses.”
After time with Orion Health both before and after his MBA and eventually realising that working on the vendor side of the desk wasn’t his thing, he switched to Healthcare Holdings, the parent company of MercyAscot, where he is now both Director of Clinical Innovation and Director of Medical Services.
It’s a busy role that neatly combines his interest in medicine and business.
“One thing I have come to realise is that our systems in healthcare are not patient centric. There is so much more we could and should be doing by being much more innovative in our approach that brings together clinicians, funders and technology specialists to achieve better outcomes for patients. In particular I would really like to see much more collaboration between the public and private sectors.”
But for those aspiring to follow his footsteps into a career in medicine Manoj has some important advice.
“Just because we’re doctors doesn’t necessarily mean our career has to involve providing care one patient at a time. Healthcare is a significant and complex industry that needs leaders who can straddle both clinical and business. I advise all med students to take a keen interest in the ‘business’ aspects of healthcare and to consider their options with a very wide lens. There are so many possibilities on offer where clinician leaders are required.”