Minnu Paul '11
April 25, 2011
Minnu Paul ’11 knew at a young age that she wanted to make healthcare accessible to everyone by opening clinics or improving hospitals in Third World countries. “I grew up in India, a Third World country, but my family could afford healthcare,” she says. What Paul didn’t realize was that not everyone could – until she witnessed it firsthand.
“We were at a hospital in India. There was a girl who was obviously very ill, but the hospital staff turned her away because her family couldn’t afford to pay,” Paul says. “The staff told the family, ‘We cannot treat your daughter.’”
From that day on, Paul wanted to do something about it. “I asked my dad, why is it like this? What about saving human lives? He said that there are a few hospitals in the world that provide first-class medical care and also have funds to treat people who cannot afford it. That’s how I learned about it and thought – what if I could open one?”
Paul is doing just that – working to build a clinic in Haiti – an idea she developed further from a Winter Term 2009 experience in hospital management in Lebanon, Ind. She combined that experience with an independent study project on development with Ophelia D. Goma, associate professor of economics and management, to develop a plan for the clinic. She already has the land and funding, and she is working to secure a building. Klinik la Konpasyon is scheduled to open in March 2012.
During her internship in Lebanon, Ind., Paul met the CEO and shared her dream of opening a clinic. “I asked him, ‘Would you ever be interested in opening a branch of this hospital in India?’ He said that’s a crazy idea, but let me get back to you. The next day, he called and said there is a project in Haiti that he was looking at and suggested I go and investigate."
The CEO introduced Paul to Charles Heinold who works with Damou Christian Mission. The mission has a school in Haiti that opened 26 years ago and has developed a good relationship with the government over the years. Heinold was interested in opening a hospital, so Paul and he decided to work together. The Haitian government donated the land.
Last semester, Paul began working with Professor Goma on a business plan for the clinic and wrote a proposal. She spent time learning everything she could about Haiti. Klinik la Konpasyon will focus on health education and will be the first formal healthcare service for La Montagne, Jacmel, Haiti.
“The one thing that I’ve learned about nonprofits is that you have to have passion, but you also need a business strategy,” Paul says. “You need to know what you’re doing – you have to work like a business. Otherwise, it’s not going to be successful. I don’t want to tell the Haitians that I’m going to do all this, but then later on, leave because I have no money to help them."
Paul is appreciative of the support that she and Heinold have received from so many people. They have more than 400 donors and are working on a $70,000 grant. “DePauw has been so supportive, including Professors Dixon [Mary P. Dixon, professor of economics and management] and Goma. Even the DePauw International Student Association donated money,” Paul says.
“I went to Haiti with Charles [Heinold] last fall as part of my independent study. Haiti is as beautiful as it is poor. I’ve never seen such a beautiful place in my life. It’s like paradise, and the stark contrast of the poverty is incredible. When I arrived, I knew I was doing the right thing. It was an affirmation. Something in my heart told me to go with it,” Paul says.
The hope is that one day the clinic will stand alone – without American or Indian influences. “We want it to be independent,” Paul says. “Because the area is so underdeveloped, we aren’t sure how many Haitians will want to live there, but we’re planning to pay competitive salaries.”
Paul hopes to offer micro credit to Haitians living in the area. Micro credit is a small loan given to people around the area so that they can start their own businesses. “We want the economy to flourish,” she says.
“When the clinic is working properly, we want to develop a Winter Term trip for DePauw students,” Paul says. “I look forward to keeping a DePauw connection. The project will have come full circle. I came to DePauw with a scholarship funded by Chairman and CEO of Cummins Inc. Mr. Tim Solso ’69, and this is all a tribute back to him. He gave me this opportunity, and I want to use it the best I can,” Paul says.
Cummins began a partnership with DePauw in 2007 that funds partial scholarships to the University for students from India – where the company has major operations – to attend DePauw. The company also provides internships at its operations in India for DePauw students.
Solso will deliver the principal address to DePauw's Class of 2011 at the University's 172nd annual commencement on Sunday, May 22, at 1 p.m. Read more about this in a previous article by clicking here.Back