June 19, 2024

Health Minds

Nourishing Minds, Elevating Health

Sustainable And Equitable Healthcare Delivery

6 min read

Two recent events create a fascinating intersection in my mind:

  1. The first is the demonstrations on US college campuses by young people. Regardless of how you feel about the Middle East conflict, the passion of youth backing a cause they believe in is admirable. More on this in a minute.
  2. The second is a recent leadership development program I designed, developed, and delivered in Mumbai, India, this past month for Cipla, one of my global clients and one of India’s biggest pharmaceutical companies with a passion for care. While in Mumbi, you definitely observe a woefully apparent contrast: the vastness of the haves vs. the have-nots and the need for sustainable and equitable healthcare delivery! In this metropolis city of 24 million residents, you’ll experience every possible want of a modern affluent lifestyle. You’ll also see abject poverty and real suffering by the less fortunate.

These events make my recent conversation with Pulkit Kumar particularly inspiring and highly relevant. Born in Mandi Gobindgarh, Punjab, India, and currently living in Edmonton, Canada, Kumar is not your typical young idealist or activist. He is currently pursuing a Master of Science degree in Surgery at the University of Alberta (UofA) while pursuing a passion focused on exploring sustainable and effective medical treatments and a project with significant implications for type one diabetes to hopefully one day eliminate the need for insulin shots! From the onset of our conversation, you can hear a drive for the evolution of healthcare in his voice.

He’s the co-founder and President of P&D Innovatives Ltd., specializing in developing sustainable medical devices while consulting for eco-friendly healthcare facilities, promoting telemedicine to reduce carbon footprints, and researching environmentally sustainable pharmaceutical practices. In his spare time, he’s the founder of the Service Over Self Foundation (SOSF) and co-founder of the UofA Cancer Society. Through SOSF, he has led various international healthcare initiatives, including setting up relief camps and clinics in disaster-affected areas and launching the Science for All initiative in South Asia. The UofA Cancer Society, under his leadership, has been instrumental in cancer research and community support, contributing to Edmonton’s reputation as a hub for cancer research.

So, what motivates this highly determined medical student to blend scientific inquiry with technological advancements driven by philanthropy and empathy? “Born in northern India, I saw first-hand the inequalities of those who had wealth and had access to great healthcare versus those who could barely afford a standard of living and had no meaningful access to healthcare. I guess my passion for healthcare delivery was sparked at age 18 when I was diagnosed with depression,” he said in our conversation. “So many young people of my age experience adverse side effects from the medication therapy. I thought, how can I aim to decrease or negate these adverse side effects?” he added.

The more time we spent together, the more I thought of my trip to Mumbai and the rural communities’ need for reliable, affordable, and sustainable healthcare delivery. In our conversation, I learned that Pulkit’s work in low to mid-income countries (LMICs) has been incredibly impactful. “In today’s world, sustainability in healthcare is not an option; it’s a necessity. We need to envision a healthcare system that is as sustainable as it is lifesaving,” he shared. From establishing makeshift clinics in crisis-hit areas to deploying eco-friendly healthcare technologies, his efforts have transformed lives. He creates highly controlled environments, first in Canada, and then works diligently to transfer those learnings to his target LMICs.

Pulkit has played a crucial role in enhancing healthcare infrastructure by fostering partnerships between local health authorities and global health organizations. His strategic initiatives involve upgrading local healthcare facilities with modern equipment and training protocols, thus ensuring sustainable improvements. These efforts are part of a broader strategy to empower local healthcare systems, making them more resilient and capable of providing advanced care. This approach has been particularly transformative in South Asia and parts of Africa, where Pulkit’s leadership in project development has led to significant enhancements in both the quality of medical care and the operational efficiency of healthcare services

In northern India, heavy rainfall every year often leads to landslides and the general displacement of local residents. In 2020, Pulkit worked with several NGOs and local government bodies to create eco-friendly housing structures with solar panels and water conservation capabilities in three communities, helping an estimated 10,000 people. Separately, given the recent tribal civil conflicts in the northeast part of India, Manipur, towards their Chinese neighbors, Pulkit worked diligently to set up healthcare camps for those injured in these protests, helping more than 13,000 people. Providing them with food and better residences improves lives beyond their means. By focusing on their immediate needs, they can then focus on better healthcare, having recently received approval and funding to build a health clinic.

Under Pulkit’s leadership, the UofA Cancer Society has made significant strides in both research and community support. His approach has been to bridge the gap between scientific research and real-world application through two parallel efforts. “Without resources, we can’t possibly create impact, so we quickly realized that fundraising would be instrumental to any measure of success,” Pulkit shared. The society has raised substantial funds for cancer research and has played a crucial role in supporting frontline healthcare workers. The second path has been almost the equivalent of creating an exchange between seekers and solvers, connecting the relevant researchers to professors and supervisors to help guide and validate their efforts. He has now extended this partnership model beyond Alberta to Calgary and British Columbia, expanding the reach of students interested in particular fields of research with professors willing and able to guide their efforts. Pulkit’s own research focuses on reducing islet transplant rejection, critical for improving organ transplantation outcomes.

So, what’s ahead for this extraordinary young man? “I’d like to become an MD and a surgeon-scientist,” Pulkit shared. He envisions a world-leadership role, integrating sustainability with healthcare practices, where healthcare is not just a privilege but a universally accessible right. He sees a world where healthcare systems are sustainable, equitable, and integrated with environmental stewardship. His vision extends beyond treating diseases to preventing them through holistic, eco-conscious healthcare practices. “Healthcare must incentivize research and real innovation, not just for the wealthy but globally for the forgotten population and those with restricted or non-existent access to quality, affordable care,” he added. In essence, Pulkit Kumar’s expertise offers a visionary perspective on healthcare, intertwining scientific excellence with a passion for sustainable and equitable global health outcomes.

At the beginning of this article, I also mentioned Cipla. In working with their leadership teams over the past several years, I’ve learned that their mission, “Caring for Life,” fundamentally shapes the company’s approach and operations, aiming to make healthcare accessible and affordable globally. This mission is deeply rooted in the company’s history and drives its efforts in several critical areas of healthcare.

From its inception, Cipla has been at the forefront of providing affordable medication, particularly notable in its revolutionary HIV/AIDS treatment priced at just $1 per day, making a significant impact on the global HIV movement by enhancing accessibility and affordability. The company also extends its mission through various other initiatives, including the Cipla Palliative Care and Training Centre in Pune, which offers care for terminal cancer patients and their families free of charge, demonstrating their commitment to compassionate care beyond just pharmaceuticals.

Innovation and patient-centricity are at the core of Cipla’s operations, reflected in their wide range of products across therapeutic areas such as oncology, cardiology, and women’s health, addressing critical and chronic conditions effectively. They consistently aim to develop new drug delivery systems and formulations, enhancing the quality and accessibility of healthcare.

Moreover, Cipla’s corporate philosophy extends to environmental sustainability and community engagement, reinforcing its credo by actively participating in health education, skill development, and disaster response, illustrating a holistic approach to “Caring for Life.” Cipla’s enduring commitment is not just about treating diseases but improving overall health outcomes, making a tangible difference in the lives of millions worldwide through continuous innovation and responsible action.

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