It began with volunteering at an elderly care facility; an experience that led Dr Gaurav Mrinal Sharma towards the field of medicine. The Indian Weekender talks to him to find out more about his life, career and his future endeavours.

Tell us a little about how your journey in New Zealand began.

I was born in the Himalayas in India and first came to New Zealand when I was 12 years old. My father had migrated to the country a few years before my mother and I came. He had $250 in his pocket and multiple degrees and diplomas. He worked hard so that he could provide his son with the best education.

I began schooling in Form 5N/Year 11N in Auckland Grammar School. Over the years, I moved from being at the bottommost class in 5N to being the Runner up Dux in Form 7A/Year 13A, topping every subject and bagging nine awards including the prestigious and highly venerated Ben Gould Prize for Chemistry, O’Sullivan Prize for Biology, Rabone Prize for Science and Eric Astley Prize for Mathematics.

How did you decide to get into the field of medicine?

During sixth form at Auckland Grammar, I volunteered at the local rest home. The incredible experience at the elderly care facility led me to cancel my scuba diving training at school and commit to working in the rest home for further four years and embark on a career path in medicine.

I was accepted into undergraduate medicine and surgery programme at the University of Auckland, where I developed an interest in public health issues and policy making. At 21, I was the elected representative for more than 3,000 medical students on the board of New Zealand Medical Student Association (NZMSA) for two years. I worked closely with the Ministry of Health, medical schools, various specialty colleges, DHBs and Medical Council of New Zealand in organising events and conferences as well as in drafting health policies such as the Voluntary Bonding Scheme for encouraging healthcare workers to consider training in rural health and in-demand specialties.

It began with volunteering at an elderly care facility; an experience that led Dr Gaurav Mrinal Sharma towards the field of medicine. The Indian Weekender talks to him to find out more about his life, career and his future endeavours.

In my fifth year of medical school, I was involved in writing and presenting a paper that examined climate change as a population health issue for New Zealand, evaluating its potential impacts, and critically appraising existing strategies. Based on the above paper, I was encouraged to apply and was accepted for an internship at World Health Organisation Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

At WHO, I was able to broaden my public health experience by working with the Non-Communicable Diseases cluster on projects that looked at implementation of known health research findings in developing countries, many of which suffer from extreme poverty and poor health outcomes.

During my time in Geneva, I sat on the board of Geneva Intern’s Association, which advocates for and represents interns from all the UN or UN-related organisations and missions. I also had the pleasure of attending the 130th biannual Executive Board assembly and meeting and learning from some of the visionaries of our times such as Dr Bruce Aylward who has been the driving force behind eradicating polio in the world.

You are a part of Young Leaders Network. Tell us a little more about it.

Over five years ago, I was handpicked to be part of Young Leaders Network—an incubator group under the Asia NZ foundation funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade that provides guidance and networking to emerging young leaders from various fields who are committed to forging a brighter future for New Zealand.

In August last year, the Young Leaders Network sent me to the University Scholars Leadership Symposium in Manila as a representative from New Zealand. I met other young leaders from across the globe. The platform provided an opportunity to share some of my own encounters while learning more about challenges faced by others in their endeavours to address global issues. The seven-day event provided academic, cultural and social programmes with many distinguished young speakers that helped me establish a strong network.

How did Pillion come into being?

Upon my return to New Zealand from Manila, I launched a new medical device start-up called Pillion, using ideas I had been nurturing after meeting Tom Chi in Spain, with further inputs from networks I had established in Manila, Geneva, Spain and Australia. The group comprised electrical and electronics engineers, IT specialists and pharmacists and was building innovative solutions to simplify pharmaceutical and healthcare delivery to the elderly in New Zealand. Pillion was selected as one of the top 13 finalists in University of Auckland’s SPARK Entrepreneurial Challenge. 

What are your plans for the future?

My long-term plan is to bring clinical medicine, public policy and business together to provide a novel and affordable solutions to the challenges of our society. From my experiences in healthcare, I have realised that while organisations such as the United Nations and the World Health Organization have done an incredible job in bringing down the incidence of preventative medical diseases and prevalence of non-communicable diseases over the last 50 years of their mandate, the future will require focusing on establishing and providing better, affordable and efficient solutions in conjunction with public partnerships with private stakeholders.

This is where an MBA, Public Policy and clinical medicine would work seamlessly and that is what I am keen to pursue. With my previous experiences in Public Health and three years of work as a doctor, I am certain an MBA specialising in healthcare management with entrepreneurial engagement strategy would provide a vessel to nourish my entrepreneurial skills and marry them with my understanding of medicine and global health in helping me learn skills in planning, managing and implementing successful solutions to the current and future challenges in healthcare and beyond.