Doctorpreneurs: Dr Vikram Palit
This week's Doctorpreneur of the Week is Dr Vikram Palit.
Vikram is a paediatric doctor, passionate about innovation in healthcare and adopting digital solutions to affect sustainable, patient-centred care.
He has led several transformational and quality improvement programmes across acute and community healthcare settings in Australia and the United Kingdom.
His background in clinical medicine, tertiary education and management has led him to a career in healthcare consulting and entrepreneurship.
What organisation/startup did you found? What is its noble purpose?
I co-founded the ‘The Healthcare Consulting Group’ in 2017 when I was working as a Clinical Innovation Fellow at an acute NHS hospital trust in London.
Our team of experienced clinicians support public and private healthcare organisations develop and plan improvement strategy, help SME’s navigate the rapidly transforming digital healthcare space, and provide tertiary-level training to the next generation of clinicians in health services management and quality improvement.
Since moving to Sydney earlier this year, I have also been working on the thehealthtrust Ltd., a digital health start-up that will hopefully transform the way patients and GPs interact with specialist services. It is an exciting venture and due to launch in the next few months - so stay tuned!
Tell me about the first 10 years of your life?
My parents moved to Australia in search of a better life for their children when I was three years old. My dad’s contractual work at University meant that my first few years in Australia was about trying to settle in, abruptly uprooting our lives and repeating this cycle until age ten. Three cities, seven addresses and six different primary schools later, we finally decided to call Melbourne home in 1996.
Looking back, the regular upheaval during those early formative years have probably played a large part in my willingness to drop everything, move cities, and start again. I enjoy taking on a new project or trying my hand at something different, and to a large part medicine and the many opportunities that come with it has enabled this to happen.
My parent’s decision to move to Australia and the sacrifices they made, meant that my sister and I would be given the best start in life. For them (and us), it has always been about making the most of opportunities that come your way.
What age were you when you had your first paying job? What was it?
I was 17 years old when I joined a company that sold educational software for school students. Prior to that I had tried working at a café, and quickly realised that becoming a barista was considerably harder, and much less glorious, than it seemed.
I sold ‘Mathemagic computer tutors’ every Saturday morning during my first year of University. I do not look back at the job fondly, but it paid well (a sizeable commission) and alongside tutoring funded my first few years at medical school.
After that stint, I worked as a ward clerk at the hospital I was placed in during my clinical years and have not left healthcare since.
What made you want to be a Doctor and what speciality did you choose?
I wanted to be a doctor because practicing medicine is inherently fulfilling; you have a personal connection with almost every patient and family you meet; it opens the doors to so many different opportunities; and the skills you learn in problem solving and analytical thinking translates across sectors.
I chose paediatrics because I never enjoyed adult medicine. So it was an easy decision, and one that I made quickly during medical school.
Broadly speaking, the diseases that children suffer from are interesting (e.g. congenital) and often not self-inflicted (e.g. smoking), kids want to get better and leave hospital and there is usually a strong support network around them (i.e. their parents or carers).
They also have an amazing resilience and ability to bounce back.Even on the most stressful days, you cannot help but smile when you see a child during ward round making faces or pretending to be a doctor and playing with your stethoscope.
And when you see a parent embracing their child, worried sick, you remember how precious every single moment is.
What made you want to be an Entrepreneur? When exactly did you decide?
Halfway through 2015 I passed my paediatric exams and with certificate in hand, I caught a one-way flight to London. I didn’t know it at the time, but this would be the start of three transformative years that have completely changed my view of healthcare and my role as a clinician.
I completed a degree in management, worked in healthcare consulting, university teaching and public health. I learned about how hospitals and health systems work, and the complex interplay between policy, management, operations and the front line.
I learned both about the inefficiencies in healthcare, and also the solutions being developed to address them. I watched the NHS, an enviable public health system under significant strain, innovate and adopt digital health solutions to improve patient experience.
I met many inspiring people from all different backgrounds, working together to tackle system-wide inefficiencies, develop new models of care and challenge the status quo.
It was around about this time, encouraged from what was happening around me and motivated to improve the system, that I decided that this was for me.
Are you still practicing as a Doctor now? If yes do you intend to stop if your organisation takes off?
Yes, I am currently working as a paediatric fellow at a large children’s hospital network in Australia.
I want to continue practicing clinically but also appreciate that for my projects to take off, I will need to invest *much* more time in them. It is that ongoing battle clinician entrepreneurs face between their day-to-day work and everything else that they want to achieve outside of medicine.
I think the key to success here is to redefine ‘other projects’ as central to what I want to do long-term. And following that, make an active decision to go full throttle and manage the risk (and unemployment) as it comes.
What is your favourite quote?
"Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t".
What would you do in the event of a Zombie Apocalypse?
If you can’t beat them, join them. I think this quote refers specifically to politicians but is probably equally as applicable here.
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