Neil Patel is the Head of Partner Strategy and Solutions for the Amazon Web Services Non-Profit Healthcare Business. His work supports the team’s vision to become the most trusted strategic partner for technology and innovation to its non-profit healthcare customers in the United States. Before joining Amazon, Neil was a management consultant to healthcare providers and a strategic investor in digital health start-ups.
What made you choose Johns Hopkins?
I chose Johns Hopkins because I was looking for an academic experience that would challenge me and a student body within which I would grow as an individual. I had attended my oldest sister’s graduation right around the time I was deciding where I wanted to apply. While visiting Baltimore, I fell in love with the city and the campus. However, what solidified the choice was our University’s biomedical engineering program. Rankings only matter so much, but when a program is perennially ranked #1, it not only means that they are the best, but that their faculty and the administration continuously innovates on behalf of their students.
Do you have any memories that stand out from your time as a student?
During my senior year, I was co-leader on our design team. We had decided to enter the Greater Baltimore Technology Council’s annual business plan competition after placing second in the Hopkins business plan competition with our project — a device that allowed people to control a computer mouse with their eyes. While we did not win, the competition opened my eyes to the business side of healthcare and the transformative impact technology can have when invention is applied at scale. Up until that point, I had wanted to work as an engineer at Medtronic or St. Jude. After that competition, I recognized that I might have a larger impact if I pursued a path in business. I switched my job search toward healthcare consulting and never looked back.
Do you have any advice for aspiring engineers?
Never stop being curious. While at Hopkins, I regret not taking advantage of opportunities to get involved in academic areas outside the engineering curriculum. I thoroughly enjoyed my classes in the Carey school and the Entrepreneurship and Management program, but I did not take courses in International Relations, Economics, or other equally interesting and important fields of study at the Krieger school. When I went to business school at Northwestern University, I purposely wandered with respect to my course selection. I made sure that I was diving deep into the finance curriculum as it was my goal going into the MBA program, but with my remaining schedule, I took the opportunity to pick courses and experiences that challenged me and expanded my perspective. For example, I spent my summer between my first and second year at an impact investing firm in New Delhi, evaluating start-ups in the energy, housing, transportation, and healthcare sectors. I took a classical guitar class at the undergraduate music school. I ended up with four majors — one that I intended (finance) and three (healthcare, entrepreneurship, international business) that I did not. I look back on my time at Hopkins and truly wish that instead of taking more math classes, I tried something a little less obvious.
Where are you working now? How did you get involved in this line of work?
I am currently at Amazon Web Services and am a leader on our Non-Profit Healthcare team. My career started at a healthcare technology content and advisory firm called Sg2. I learned about the power of entrepreneurship from the company’s late founder and CEO, Michael Sachs, and I learned about the complexity of the US Healthcare system from the company’s health system clients. I left Sg2 for the Chartis Group, where I advised health systems of all types on long-range strategy. At Chartis, beyond the deepening of my expertise in the provider side of healthcare. I learned about the importance of a company’s values and culture on its success. My career turned back toward technology at Healthbox, one of the world’s first digital health accelerators. I led the company through a leadership transition and assumed the role of President. Healthbox provides innovation consulting and strategic investment services to health systems, payers, and healthcare technology companies. We sold the business to the Healthcare Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS), and there I was an Executive Vice President. I decided to join Amazon because I believe no other company in the world is better positioned to positively impact all aspects of healthcare by bringing technological innovation and customer obsession together to improve the lives of people around the globe.
Why and how do you choose to stay connected to Johns Hopkins as an alumnus?
I choose to stay connected to Johns Hopkins because the university has given me so much. I am not ignorant of the fact that the name on my resume opens doors. I still have to walk through that door and earn my place in the room, but I am privileged to have a degree in Biomedical Engineering from Johns Hopkins University. I stay connected as a means of giving back and paying it forward. I’ve focused my energy on Alumni activities, first as the young alumni chair for the Chicago Chapter, later as President of the chapter, and now as the “Engaging Alumni” Committee Co-Leader on the National Alumni Council.