Photograph by Simon Young
Manoj Patel seems to have a knack for timing—and the smarts to make the most of it. His last job took him to Spain with Kiwi software vendor Orion Health; now he’s about to settle in Boston, Massachusetts, as a Fulbright Scholar at Harvard University.
We look forward to his return. Patel, who graduated from the University of Auckland’s medical school in 2005 and then headed the Spark entrepreneurial challenge, is on a mission to improve the efficiency and quality of our health system—and his background in medicine, technology and business is just the ticket.
His parents must be chuffed, too. “Dad always had that entrepreneurial side,” says Patel. His parents ran a corner store in Epsom, Auckland; Patel’s father invented a few products on the side, including Manoraj peanuts, a local version of the roasted nuts sold by Indian street vendors, using a regulation-friendly replacement for the sand used in India. Patel also credits the “totally inspiring” Spark co-founder Geoff Whitcher for encouraging him: “I can confidently say I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Geoff. I owe a lot to him.”
It’s the ability of entrepreneurs to improve health delivery that interests Patel, and technology is the key. “Healthcare is a difficult game, and doctors don’t really have the best relationship with administrators,” he says. “New Zealand is coming out with some fantastic technology focussed on healthcare.”
He saw the potential at first hand as a founder of Scrubs.co.nz, a website for new doctors. “Junior doctors come in that first year and make the same mistakes, year-in, year-out. I thought that’s ridiculous.” Scrubs gave junior doctors a forum to compare notes and learn from each other. It benefits doctors, patients and management.
But will the big money on offer to Harvard MBAs turn his head? No way, says Patel. I’m quite confident about who I am and what I’m going to do. I saw years ago that it would have been easy to get caught up in that whole culture. I’m a Kiwi guy, over there with my own opinions, and standing up for what I believe in.”