Spearheading a campaign to provide quality healthcare to the impoverished people of Pakistan and breaking barriers when it comes to women entrepreneurship, doctHERs’ co-founder Dr Sara Saeed won the prestigious HRH The Prince of Wales Young Sustainability Entrepreneur Prize 2016.
“I was humbled to receive the award after being selected from seven finalists who came to the final stage from 927 applications from the world. This is the first time a Pakistani company reached the final stage and the first time a Pakistani company won the award,” Dr Saeed said, while speaking to The Express Tribune.
This is also the first time a women-led start up has won the award, Dr Saeed shared. Over 900 entrepreneurs from 99 countries were in the running for the award.
Using video conferencing, doctHERs connects qualified female doctors, who are not practicing medicine due to social pressures or family constraints, to under-served patients in rural as well as urban areas.
The award is part of efforts of Unilever and University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) to support 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and celebrate inspirational entrepreneurs aged 35 and under who have developed a product, service or application that tackles some of the world’s biggest sustainability challenges.
Strangely, of 150,645 licensed doctors in Pakistan (till October 25, 2015), 69,670 are women yet only 9,000 are registered as specialist physicians, according to the PMDC. Also, there is approximately one doctor available for every 1,475 persons and one nurse for every 3,644 persons. This is the gap that the 29-year-old aims to bridge with her initiative that not only provides quality healthcare to the poor but also reintegrates qualified female doctors into the workforce.
Dr Saeed has been awarded €50,000 and she will be supported with a tailored mentoring programme delivered by CISL and Unilever over the course of the year.
The award will help doctHERs expand in 20 more communities and in all four provinces over the next year. “Furthermore, the mentorship from the University of Cambridge as well as the connection from Unilever Global will help us launch our corporate and direct to consumer model in the later months of 2016,” the co-founder of doctHERs said.
Upon receiving the award in London, Saeed said, “When a patient gets treated in my clinic, and when a doctor gets a job and when a nurse is empowered in a community – my passion increases every day. I’m honoured to have received this award and delighted that the work of doctHERs in Pakistan has been recognised, especially in light of the innovative and inspiring projects of the other finalists.”
“With financial and mentoring support, I am now looking forward to working with community partners and organisations such as Unilever to impact even more lives,” she added.
DoctHERs currently works in seven communities, employs 20 plus doctHERs, and has a network of 400 female doctors. It has directly impacted 15,000 plus lives and indirectly impacted 100,000 lives. The initiative aims to increase its nurse assisted video consultation programme to over 300-500 clinics across Pakistan, hoping to directly impact 1.2 million people by 2020.