Born in Zambia, Kiran as a child had to walk miles as schools in vicinity were only for Whites. It was his impulse to save even the pocket money his parents gave him that paved him the path to his future. The savings grew into a corpus sufficient enough for the family's shift to homeland in Gujarat during the early 1970s.
A brilliant student from the beginning, Kiran Patel entered the Medical college in Gujarat where he met his wife Pallavi and they made the decisive move to shift to the US in 1976 on the Thanksgiving Day in pursuit of professional expertise in their respective fields of cardiology and pediatrics. The day remained intertwined with his path to philanthropy decades later.
The 'aggressive entrepreneur' in him pushed Dr K, as he is known widely, to take over a crumbling health insurance company in 1992 against all odds and set upon his journey to rewrite the history of health insurance sector. He turned it around and sold it ten years later for $ 1 billion. When his firms faced controversies of overpricing health care cost, he paid $30 million as demanded but never admitted wrongdoing as part of the settlement.
Recalling a Gujarati adage "When the goddess of wealth comes knocking, don't run away to wash your face... I'm a risk taker always pressing the accelerator," he says. It was his wife Dr Pallavi Patel who actually "applies brakes," he admits.
After profession and business, it was philanthropy that pre-occupied the mind of Dr Kiran, who made a name for himself in the Tampa Bay area of Florida in the US. "My father didn't have a lot of money but be it in Zambia or Gujarat he was always forthcoming to help those who were in need," he says.
Following the footsteps, he had set up a 50-bed hospital in a Gujarat village and in 2017, the doctor couple made it to headlines donating $200 million to Nova Southeastern University, that is among the premier institutions churning out maximum doctors in the US. Built in a short span of just over one year, the Tampa Bay campus of the university was opened on Sept.14, 2019 by the doctor couple.
"I believe that NSU is the future of multi-disciplinary medical education. This partnership will benefit thousands of patients, students and doctors," explained Dr. Pallavi Patel. "Over the next 20 years, NSU will train thousands of new doctors and other health care professionals. We are sure that they will directly touch millions of lives."
For Nova Southeastern University of Florida, the gift is the largest philanthropic gift in its history. "This gift and additional investment will enrich NSU's ability to educate highly-qualified physicians and health care professionals who will represent the cultural diversity of our region, our nation and our world," said NSU President Dr. George Hanbury, inaugurating the newly built center in Tampa.
The 325-000 square-foot building will house the school's osteopathic medicine as well was its current program in Tampa, the university said. The road leading to the University campus is named after him.
But when it comes to his children, the family has taught them to be frugal. When his son returned from the school one day asking his father whether they were rich, his crypt answer was: "I may be rich but you are not." This has set the agenda for his children to be on their own life journey.
The doctor couple have also established a research centre focused on solving problems in the developing world in a sustainable way, and a Tampa arts conservatory.
In fact, many Indian Americans have turned to philanthropy in the last few years and Chandrika and Ranjan Tandon, another immigrant couple had pledged $100 million to NYU School of Engineering recently.