Changing the Future of Healthcare: One Alum’s Vision

Ketan Patel, founder and director of Dr. Interns, (right) with Dr. Hitesh, a physician at Shree Prannath Hospital (left) in a clinic. (Photo: Joanne Yi)
Ketan Patel, founder and director of Dr. Interns, (right) with Dr. Hitesh, a physician at Shree Prannath Hospital (left) in a clinic. (Photo: Joanne Yi)

Remember our Class of ’08 spotlight about double alumnus and entrepreneur Ketan Patel? Patel is the founder of Dr. Interns, a non-profit that aids health care issues in developing countries by providing medical and healthcare internships abroad. Our friends at the Luther Rice Society recently caught up with Patel to learn more about Dr. Interns and why giving back to GW is so important to him:

Ketan Patel, SEAS BS ’08, GWSB MBA ’10, came to GW in 2004 with aspirations of becoming a doctor.

In the summer of 2005, Patel spent several months in India visiting clinics and hospitals, recording his observations in a journal. After graduating from GW’s School of Engineering and Applied Science in 2008, Patel began applying to medical schools.

Needing inspiration to tackle the essay portion of the applications, he picked up that journal from his trip to India. While reading, he remembered several experiences that made him question the country’s healthcare system. One entry described how a severely burned 23- year-old woman was denied care because there weren’t enough resources for all the patients.

Patel himself suffered from burn injuries when he was 7 years old, so he felt a powerful connection to that woman.

“As I read that journal entry again I thought, what could I do differently as a doctor,” he said. “These doctors wanted to help this woman but they didn’t have the authority to do it. I realized that instead I wanted to travel around the world and build a different kind of healthcare system.”

In 2010, after graduating from GW’s School of Business, Patel founded Dr. Interns, a non-profit organization that brings doctors and medical student interns to Surat, India for two weeks to provide healthcare to community members and bring awareness to the health care disparities around the world. In the past four years, more than 100 interns from more than 50 universities have traveled to India with the program. This year, approximately 40 interns will travel to Surat to work at Shree Prannath Hospital.

Patel works with Dr. Interns team members, including directors Wade Schifferli and Paul Gonter and his twin brother, Kamal Patel, SEAS BS ’08, SMHS MD ’13, an emergency room doctor in Philadelphia, to offer fellowships to a few students every year, which covers the full cost of the trip (around $2,200).

Patel recently donated $10,000 to Dr. Interns, and his employer PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) matched the gift for a total of $20,000. He views his donation to GW and the matching gift from PwC as an investment in Dr. Interns and its students, who will hopefully go on to make an impact in the fields of public health and healthcare.

“I am donating to the students at GW,” he said. “I feel that as an alumnus I owe it to the students.”

For Elizabeth Gomes, GWSPH BS ’13, her time with Dr. Interns in 2010 challenged her lifelong dream of becoming a pediatric oncologist.

“About halfway through the internship I started realizing that I was becoming more interested in how and why people were getting sick and ending up in the hospital, versus how they were going to treat them once they were there,” she said.

After her trip, Gomes changed her major to public health, and this June she will move to Togo, Africa to be community health and AIDS prevention worker for the Peace Corps.

Despite his busy schedule, Patel stays connected with GW through campus visits and frequent conversations with his GW mentor, director of SEAS advising and administrative records Howard Davis. Patel said Davis helped him focus his interests and create a successful career path for himself while at GW.

“Howard Davis is the reason that I came and excelled at GW,” he said. “I owe a lot of my success to Mr. Davis and SEAS in making sure I did not sway from my potential.”

Patel hopes to one day establish a fellowship in Davis’ name at GW, in honor of the man who gave him so much. He also hopes it will help GW students who, like him, are searching to find a way to make a difference in the world.

“I owe a large portion of my success to being a GW student,” said Patel. “The only truth after college is what your legacy will be, and for me I realized I wanted to motivate others to help those in need. I may not be a doctor, but I can certainly help provide care. And there is no reason to ever give up.”

–Julia Parmley

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This story was originally published by the Luther Rice Society on April 2, 2014.

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