One of Tampa Bay’s most influential and wealthiest leaders, Dr. Kiran Patel paved the way for others to succeed, including his family, who continue to leave a big mark inside and out. outside the community.
The famed serial entrepreneur and philanthropist spoke alongside his son and daughter — CEO and Founder of HealthAxis Shilen Patel, and COO of the Patel Family Office Sheetal Patel — at the TIE Tampa Bay TIECON event on Sept. 8. The Fireside Chat, hosted by Joe Hamilton, St. Pete Catalyst editor and network manager at Cityverse, shed light on Kiran’s successes and how he will be emulated in future generations.
Kiran, who was born in Zambia, Africa to Asian Indian parents, has built an empire brick by brick acquiring businesses and helping them out. His legacy began when he moved to Tampa in 1982, initially beginning his practice in cardiology. His practice grew and he added offices throughout the region.
Kiran Patel is best known for growing WellCare Health Plans Inc. from a struggling Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) to one of the largest healthcare companies in the United States. Patel has worked with more than 95 hospitals and hundreds of doctors to settle late payments. medical claims.
He then sold the company to a group of investors for $200 million.
In 2007, Patel launched a new insurance holding company called America’s 1st Choice Holdings of Florida and acquired two Tampa-based Medicare Advantage health plans, Freedom Health and Optimum Health. He grew these businesses to over $1 billion in revenue and eventually sold them.
Patel’s name could also be found on buildings and plaques throughout Tampa Bay. Through his philanthropy, which largely focuses on education and health care, he and his family donated money to the University of South Florida and committed $200 million to create a Clearwater campus for Nova Southeastern University, including Dr. Kiran C. Patel College of Osteopathic Medicine and Dr. Pallavi Patel College of Health Care Sciences. He also built schools and hospitals in India and Zambia.
Today, his business encompasses luxury real estate development, medical software, healthcare solutions and more.
“My approach has always been that for better or for worse, I believe I’m smart, I know what I’m doing and you follow my instructions. You can chat with me and if I feel it’s [what is said] it’s true, I will change it, but most of the time I have made a decision, I take a path that I lead and I will continue,” Kiran said of his stubborn strategy.
Giving an example of being approached by someone who said they wanted to grow their business and were hyper-focused on revenue to succeed, Patel said: “I’m always focused on quality, taking care of customers , in my case, patients. I always say, don’t chase the money, let the money chase you. I think money is the by-product. I’m doing something I’m passionate about and love. I’ve always said to do the right things for the right reasons and the good results will follow.
“One of the things I admire about him is his refusal to accept ‘no,'” Sheetal Patel said of his father, describing his mindset of “either you’re going to help me make it happen, or I will find someone else who will partner with me to make it happen.
Sheetal said growing up in an environment surrounded by medicine and entrepreneurship, she was naturally drawn to science more than any other subject.
“Becoming a doctor, for me, was the choice I had in the natural environment in which I grew up. I managed to do it and practiced for a few years. Somewhere in the middle of it all, I was at a turning point in my career, and a bit frustrated,” she said. “All I know how to do is be a doctor. I was faced with choices and I felt a bit on track. I only felt comfortable in certain roles.
She then pursued a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) to chart her course. She then began to become more involved in the family business.
“As we grew, I started to take ownership of certain projects, mainly on the real estate side. At the time, our portfolio was small enough that I could still practice and participate in property management. As we became more committed to developing certain areas of the family offices and business, I got to a point where I had to make the decision to go all out one way or the other. ‘other,’ she said. “I put all my chips on us and said this is something I’m going to build for us and the next generation.”
Shilen Patel, meanwhile, jumped straight into the business world after watching her father forge his own future.
“You saw WellCare’s journey go from a handful of people sitting in a small office to a building that I remember my dad driving around saying we were going to occupy it,” Shilen recalls. “People who started working for my dad for $7 or $8 an hour became millionaires because they stuck it out – seeing how it changed the trajectory of their lives was so compelling for me.”
He also mentioned how he would see the impact his father created in India as well in the 90s.
“There’s always pressure to make something out of yourself,” Shilen said, saying his father told him to only become a doctor if it really resonated with him and not for other factors such as notoriety. or the money.
Shilen said he was never attracted to the idea of entering the medical field in this capacity, but always wanted to achieve a meaningful goal, which he experienced watching his father’s success. .
“It comes from our culture and our family values - you can’t be afraid to mess things up,” Shilen said, greeted by a room full of applause. “You look at companies [Kiran was involved in] and it wasn’t a “let’s go, put $50 million behind it and buy some virgin assets” story. Each time it was about taking something that people were running away from and having a plan to turn it into something.
Senior Patel advised others wishing to follow in his footsteps, to focus entirely on their project and find people who are enthusiastic, and not just focus on the money.
“Money can buy you comfort, but that comfort doesn’t give you the pleasure of the outcome you see saving that money for different reasons,” Kiran said, becoming visibly emotional. Speaking from personal experience, Kiran understands the financial challenges faced by Indians and Americans trying to lift themselves out of poverty, and that providing them with a support system through education and generosity is invaluable.