Building a Brighter Future


AAHOA Lifetime Member, philanthropist, businessman, and hotelier, Dr. Kiran C. Patel

Dr. Kiran C. Patel, AAHOA Lifetime Member, businessman, philanthropist, educator, and much more

Born in Zambia to Asian-Indian parents, Dr. Kiran C. Patel is the embodiment of global citizenship. Having spent the bulk of his life living in Africa, India, and the United States – not to mention countless stops elsewhere throughout his life – each destination represents a step on a longer journey and played a pivotal role in shaping him into the man he is today.

Today, this AAHOA Lifetime Member wears many hats – cardiologist, philanthropist, community leader, entrepreneur, and hotelier – and earned the distinction of being named Floridian of the Year in 2018. And his keynote presentation during AAHOACON24 in Orlando, FL, drew rapt attention as he gave a tiny glimpse into a few of his countless philanthropic endeavors. As demonstrated by his many successes in business and medicine, it’s clear he’s no stranger to hard work nor the vision and work ethic required to execute his vision, time after time.

“Vision without action is merely a dream,” he said. “Action without vision just passes time. But vision with action can change the world.”

To look at Dr. Patel’s accomplishments, it’s clear he practices what he preaches. After moving to the Tampa area in 1982 to practice medicine, he quickly established himself as a highly distinguished cardiologist, eventually expanding his practice into multiple ventures, including family medicine, pediatrics, and cardiology.

After working closely with insurance providers as part of operating a thriving medical practice, Dr. Patel expanded his scope beyond providing medical care and purchased several insurance companies during his career.

He is the founder and owner of multiple unicorn companies, including WellCare, Freedom Health, Optimum Health, Concept Medical, and several others.

“If you can dream something you can achieve it, and you can create your own destiny, but you will have to work hard,” he said. “I always say there shouldn’t be a plan B; if you have a plan B, you’ll always be distracted.”

Despite his many successes in multiple facets of medicine and business, Dr. Patel is quick to advise against thinking too much in the now.

“Rewards aren’t instant,” he cautioned. “As a perfect example, in 2005 I bought land for a hotel for more than $40 million just before the economy collapsed. Suddenly, I had the world’s costliest parking lot.”

In 2013, when it seemed like this hotel might never be built, then-Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos, obviously frustrated with the delays, told the Tampa Bay Times: “This is a prime location. But if Dr. Patel can’t put this together, then maybe he ought to figure out some other plan.”

drs. kiran c. and pallavi patel

Drs. Kiran C. and Pallavi Patel

But Dr. Patel stayed the course and didn’t let his detractors discourage him. Ultimately, after years of dedication and hard work, the 750,000-square-foot Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach hotel officially opened in 2017 with Dr. Patel selling a majority stake in this property – for which many felt he overpaid more than a decade earlier – for $170 million.

“If you focus on your goals and work hard, you eventually will get where you want to go,” he said.

Not one to rest on his laurels, Dr. Patel recently opened a JW Marriott – complete with 162 guestrooms and 36 residences – with a Seaside Resort in Monterrey Bay, CA, next on his agenda.

As shaped by his travels across the globe, Dr. Patel has put a great deal of time, effort, and money into improving the condition of the world we all share. Putting his money where his mouth is, Dr. Patel founded the Patel Foundation for Global Understanding alongside his wife, pediatrician, and fellow philanthropist Dr. Pallavi Patel.

Under the foundation’s umbrella, the Patels have undertaken countless philanthropic endeavors, including the building of hospitals, clinics, colleges, high schools, and much more.

Similar to the parallel between teaching someone to fish and feeding them for a lifetime, Dr. Patel is careful to differentiate between philanthropy and charity. The latter, he says is “essential, but long-term solutions are more important. If a problem exists, of course you need short-term help, but you can make true social change through philanthropy.”

Charitable efforts, he said, tend to be more reactive vs. the proactive approach with philanthropy.”

With charitable acts,” he said, “you tend to be responding to individual needs, but with philanthropy you can mount a collective, organized response. Where charity can sometimes create dependency, you can create empowered, independent communities with philanthropy.”

Just as with his many successful business ventures, Dr. Patel said he applies the same barometers to gauging the potential success of the Patel Foundation’s ventures. Can the project be impactful, can it be replicated, can it be scaled up, and can it be sustainable? Without those four components, he said, a project faces unlikely odds of success.

“If a project relies on your involvement to survive once it’s in operation, that will be a big problem once you’re gone,” he said. “For example, the goal of the Patel Foundation is to create a self-sustaining, cradle-to-grave strategy to ensure people are healthy and educated. If I’m gone tomorrow, the foundation and all the institutions we’ve established, will continue.”

One of Dr. Patel’s earliest ventures into philanthropy occurred when he built a 50-bed hospital in his father’s village in India – “it was always his dream to build a hospital in his village,” Dr. Patel said – and that spiraled into seemingly countless future outreach opportunities.

Upon establishing that hospital, Dr. Patel said he realized the area needed better schools. Otherwise, doctors raising young families wouldn’t come to the area if there was no promise of a decent education for their children.

Fulfilling his father’s vision, Dr. Patel said, truly kickstarted his philanthropic ventures and opened his eyes to the myriad opportunities across the world for him to use his wealth and connections to create an educated and healthy populace in corners of the world where schools and hospitals are either in short supply or are woefully inadequate.

“I want people to know money and wealth can create comfort and convenience but can never bring fulfillment,” he said. “If you want happiness for a year, create a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help someone else.

To date, Dr. Patel has given hundreds of millions of dollars in philanthropic funding and has plans in place to double that total by the end of the decade.

When compared against the rest of the world, the United States is incredibly well off, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t innumerable opportunities to help domestically. When working on a U.S.-based philanthropic project, Dr. Patel said he often gets pushback from fellow Indian-Americans, or those with eyes toward more investment in foreign projects. His twofold argument is a simple one.

“First,” he said, from the perspective of an immigrant himself, “we should give back to the country that gave us wealth. Second, our kids will be going to these schools, so it’s in our societal best interest to ensure they’re as good as possible.”

In addition to the hospitals and grammar schools the Patel Foundation has successfully built, the organization has established several universities throughout the world, including in India and Africa with one on the way in Orlando.

The medical schools established by the foundation in the U.S. currently graduate 800 doctors per year, with 200 students graduating in India. By 2076, Dr. Patel estimates 50,000 graduates will leave these universities with a degree.

“Imagine,” he said, “if each doctor can touch 50 lives each day. That means 2.5 million lives would be touched each day by someone who graduated from a Patel university. That translates to nearly a billion people per year whose lives could benefit from this one effort. This is what I mean when I say philanthropy is more important than charity.”

No individual or institution in the world has been able to produce 1,000-plus physicians in one year globally, every year. But despite his many successes, Dr. Patel is as accessible and grounded as ever, working closely with his team to identify new areas for projects – in business and philanthropy – rather than spending the entirety of his days on the golf course or at a private resort.

“We all have a purpose in life,” he said. “Without purpose in life, there’s no meaning. It’s our duty to do the work but never expect any rewards from it. My message is very simple; philanthropy doesn’t mean millions of dollars. Small actions can make a huge impact and change many, many lives. Don’t focus on the dollars and sense. Focus on what you as an individual can do. We are among the top .5% of the seven billion people on this planet, so it’s our moral responsibility to try and help others who have been left behind.”


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