Sara Saeed, a 29-year old Pakistani doctor, has won the third HRH The Prince of Wales Young Sustainability Entrepreneur Prize for her project doctHERs, according to an official announcement made by Cambridge Institute of Sustainable Leadership.
Dr Sara Saeed is co-founder of doctHERs, a digital platform which connects impoverished communities in Pakistan to high-quality healthcare while reintegrating qualified female doctors into the workforce. She was awarded the prize at a prestigious awards ceremony in London, UK on Monday.
doctHERs converts existing community spaces into walk-in clinics. Patients attending the clinics are assessed by nurses or community health workers employed by doctHERs and connected to female doctors online using a state-of-the-art telemedicine system.
The technology uses video alongside peripheral instruments operated by nurses in the clinic which are attached to the telemedicine system to diagnose patients remotely. Patients from the lowest income bracket are charged around $1 per consultation.
Those who are members of a health plan are charged $3 (or Rs 300 approx). Fees are paid by cash or digitally using mobile banking technology. Since 2014, when doctHERs ran a trial with 100 patients, the enterprise has directly impacted 15,000 lives and now employs ten doctors, five nurses and three specialists.
By 2020, doctHERS aims to scale its nurse assisted video consultation programme to over 2,500 clinics across Pakistan, directly impacting 1.2 million people.
Co-founded in 2014 by Dr Sara Saeed, Dr Asher Hasan and Dr Iffat Zafar, doctHERs connects impoverished communities to high-quality healthcare while reintegrating qualified female doctors into the workforce.
The project also reintegrates women doctors into the workforce as the exclusion of qualified doctors from the healthcare workforce is particularly problematic in a country where 90% of the 120 million citizens who live below the poverty line have little or no access to quality healthcare.
In Pakistan, socio-cultural barriers prevent many women who qualify as doctors from working as fewer than 13% of qualified female doctors actually go on to specialist practice as per Pakistan Medical and Dental Council.
Dr Sara 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 honored 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.
As part of the prize Dr Sara Saeed has been awarded capital for her start-up and a tailored mentoring programme delivered by the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) and Unilever over the course of the year.
Shazia Syed, Chairperson & CEO, Unilever Pakistan highlighted:
I am delighted by the passion and determination Dr Saeed has shown to increase access to healthcare and women empowerment in the field of medicine. Her work indicates the gaining momentum for the Sustainable Development Goals that Unilever also supports. Young entrepreneurs need our help and support to realise their initiatives and change the world to create a brighter future. I am especially proud to see a Pakistani receive this prestigious award this year.