Meet a storyteller within a surgeon, an academician, an entrepreneur and a philanthropist - Dr. Sharad Paul
‘Why do Europeans have fair skin whereas Indians are brown? What are the major pain points of medical education in India? What all it takes to do free check-ups of over 3000 cancer patients per year?’ Either you've to approach individual experts from respective fields to answer these questions, or get Dr. Sharad Paul answer it for you. An epitome of ‘Been there, done that’, Dr. Sharad is a well-known surgeon, academician, entrepreneur, author and a philanthropist. His third book ‘Skin, a biography’ has recently hit the book stores across the world and receiving an excellent response from the readers.
He considers himself just a creative thinker who has challenged existing norms or created better systems in whatever field he worked. “That has been my legacy or work, in medicine I’ve created some new surgical techniques, won health innovation awards; as a fiction writer obviously you create make-believe worlds, and in my social entrepreneurship work, I try to make people understand that business life is all about creating a better place.” he added further.
“I may live out of India, but India lives on my skin, and in my heart”
Sharad’s social conscience was shaped in his childhood days only when his parents moved to India to do medical mission work. Though he had to surrender his Indian passport later on, he feels that as he moved away geographically, he became more aware of his Indian-ness. Being born in England and with a surname Paul, he had jobs offered that disappeared when people saw him and realized his Indian ethnicity.
He mentioned, “Like the old adage, my association with India is more personal and unofficial, like faith should be.” Given his expertise in surgical education and medical innovation he is keen to work with universities in India in a visiting professor kind of role.
“Philosophically the best way to practice medicine is to treat your patients like your family”
From the point of view of a reputed surgeon and faculty at medical institutes in Australia & New Zealand, Dr.Sharad thinks that one of the greatest problems in medicine (especially procedural medicine like surgery) is that commercialism often overrides patient needs. However, even having money does not guarantee good medical care. He expressed his concern, “I think philosophically the best way to practice medicine is to treat your patients like your family – that is my mantra and what I teach my students. In my own practice, we keep cost down and treat huge numbers at no cost. The main point in medicine should be improving our public health. We need people with passion for making a difference, and more creative thinking.”
Writing ‘the book of the decade, if not the century’
Being the first narrative & non-fiction book by Dr. Sharad, ‘Skin, a biography’ differs from his previous literary fiction novels: Cool Cut, To Kill a Snow Dragonfly and Kite Flyers. Perhaps skin being a universal subject makes it more widely read. One of the book reviews by Dr. Kamat called Skin, a biography: ‘the book of the decade, if not the century’ which is both humbling and thrilling for any author.
However, sharing the unexpected rewards of being a fiction writer, Dr. Sharad remembered someone emailing him from overseas to say that his novel, To Kill a Snow Dragonfly helped them overcome their grief at the loss of a loved one. Nandita Bose, a reviewer for IBN called it ‘vast enough to be epic’ and wrote that the book stirs a sense of faint envy at its brilliance’, yet this novel has been lying under the radar in India, and still undiscovered.
“For me money has been an accomplishment not an aim”
Dr. Sharad has founded Baci Lounge which is the only bookstore in Australasia to feature in international editions of Time. He is also looking for Indian partners with scale in retail to bring a similar concept, which will work well in India. At present BaciCosmetologie, his skin care company is keeping him busy.
Speaking about his entrepreneurial journey, Dr. Sharad said, “Fundamentally, I am a social entrepreneur, and a creative person, but not a businessman at heart. What drives me is the thrill of developing new ventures and adding value to people’s lives. Not all entrepreneurs are businessmen and vice-versa. For me money has been an accomplishment not an aim, the way it should be, in my opinion.”
“Self-belief is important. If you don’t believe in your dreams, no one else will.”
According to Dr. Sharad’s underlying fundamental belief, we are given one life on earth and all people can be classified into three types: Judaeo-Christian-Islamic with beliefs in heaven or hell; Eastern-Hindu-Buddhist with beliefs in reincarnation; or greenie-atheist who get recycled by earthworms. If all we did was amass wealth without caring for others, or not give people a bit of our time, it would have been a waste of this one opportunity to make a difference.
Addressing a stadium full of teachers and children, he stated, “The real democracy of heroism lies in the fact that you and I, all ordinary people are capable of extraordinary acts of courage and conviction.” He further added, “So, let’s all makes our actions count. That is what I try to do, add value to my profession, business or people I associate with.”
He teaches creative writing to children in economically-disadvantaged schools to help improve literacy. The message he shares with the kids is what he wants to share with the global entrepreneurial community, “Self-belief is important. If you don’t believe in your dreams, no one else will.”