It is not the destination but the journey that matters. As the CEO of Burjeel Holdings (one of the UAE’s leading private healthcare service providers), Mr. John Sunil is an accomplished business leader with 28+ years of experience creating value for stakeholders.
In his position, Mr. Sunil is accelerating healthcare transformation in emerging markets and beyond, through key operational and strategic initiatives. His strong orientation in finance and revenue-building has helped him consistently deliver mission-critical results in terms of growth, revenue, operational performance and profitability.
In an interview with Insights Care, Mr. Sunil shares his leadership journey in making high-stake decisions relying on experience-based judgment, pursuing a solid work ethic and leading with irreproachable integrity, which makes him an inimitable leader in the healthcare industry.
Following are the excerpts from the interview.
Brief us about yourself and shed some light on your journey so far. What inspires you to serve the healthcare industry?
In a career spanning more than 28 years, I have worked in various capacities in the finance and operations domains in India and the UAE. In 2012, I joined Burjeel Hospital as Finance Manager and made my way up the organization through roles including Financial Controller, Chief Operations Officer, Regional CEO of Burjeel brands, and finally, the CEO of Burjeel Holdings. Today, as the Chief Executive Officer of Burjeel Holdings, one of the UAE’s leading private healthcare services providers with a growing presence in Oman and the GCC, I am fortunate to be at the forefront of cutting-edge healthcare innovation and delivery.
I draw inspiration from the visionary leadership of Dr. Shamsheer Vayalil, Founder and Chairman of Burjeel Holdings, who has blazed a trail of success in the region’s healthcare industry. Working in healthcare is rewarding as it offers the opportunity to positively impact people’s lives. With new technology and treatments emerging, this is an exciting time to be in the industry. I am thrilled to work alongside dedicated and compassionate healthcare professionals in advancing healthcare and finding innovative solutions to complex healthcare problems.
Can you elaborate on the core values, vision and mission based on which your services are aligned?
As one of the leading healthcare providers in the MENA region, Burjeel Holdings works to deliver exemplary medical care by combining state-of-the-art technology with highly skilled medical experts. We strive to treat every human life in our hands with the utmost care as we work to raise healthcare standards every day.
As the CEO, my work is to translate the Group’s vision and purpose into actionable priorities. I consider this role an opportunity to lead with purpose while openly and continually communicating our values of balance, unity, respect, justice, efficiency, empowerment, and leadership with my colleagues. I feel a shared sense of values drives our performance, helps us cement our presence, and even navigates change more successfully.
What role does compassion play in caring for patients in need? In what ways do you ensure that the company/hospital delivers it?
Compassion is the foundation of the patient-centered care we practice at Burjeel Holdings. We strive to create a compassionate care environment in our hospital that fosters healing, comfort and hope for our patients in need. The philosophy of compassionate care guides every touch point from the call center to registration, reception, clinic and billing. You will often find members of the senior leadership team on the floor interacting with patients and ensuring they get the best possible care and attention.
We prioritize compassionate care at our facilities by practising empathy and active listening, offering holistic care that addresses each aspect of the patient’s needs, and providing support and training for our staff so they can cope with the challenges of caring for patients in need. Through our service Burjeel Darak, a one-of-its-kind long-term care and rehabilitation facility, we place equal emphasis on offering compassionate care to patients at every stage of the recovery process and patients with end-of-life conditions and terminal illnesses.
What are some of the challenges you face when conducting projects and how do you turn them into opportunities for growth?
The COVID-19 pandemic jolted the entire healthcare system. Under the guidance of wise leadership in the UAE, we were able to quickly swing into action through significant testing, early detection, and dedicated facilities and wings for patients. We were at the forefront of supporting the UAE government in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic from the beginning. The group conducted over 2 million PCR tests, administered over half a million vaccines, and treated over 10,000 in-patients across the UAE and Oman for COVID-19.
Another challenge was developing and implementing ground-level plans to successfully manage bio-secure bubbles for the first time for several international sporting events. We developed unparalleled expertise in the medical management of international sporting events, including the Indian Premier League, T20 Cricket World Cup, Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and UFC, to provide highly integrated medical services and bio-secure bubble management. Each project was evaluated on various parameters, with swift action taken to drive improvement and growth opportunities.
How do you envision scaling your services and operations in 2023 and beyond?
Elevating utilization across our world-class assets and adding to our service portfolio are our priorities. We have adopted a unique hub-and-spoke model to lift patient yield by expanding our focus area of high-value complex medicine. We look forward to geographic expansion across key markets in the region and beyond that will enable us to offer specialized and highly personalized medical care to more patients. To this end, we have stated our intention to invest up to USD 1 billion to establish and expand healthcare offerings in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. We are also focused on achieving asset growth, driving patient yield, and elevating operational efficiency through centralization and digitalization. Our key areas of focus are oncology, nuclear medicine, orthopedics and spine, women’s care, fetal medicine and pediatric specialties, organ transplant, bone marrow transplant, and stem cell therapy, which allow us to ensure a higher reach and build on our expertise in complex care to address unmet medical needs.
What are some of the testimonials or recognition that accurately highlight your position in the market?
In 2021, Burjeel Medical City became the first private hospital in the UAE to perform a kidney transplant. The procedure was conducted on a patient from Kazakhstan with end-stage kidney failure.
In 2022, Burjeel Medical City’s bone marrow transplant unit successfully performed the very first bone marrow transplant from a donor to a child in the UAE. The highly advanced, matched sibling transplant treatment was successfully carried out on a five-year-old girl from Uganda whose donor was her 10-year-old sister. To date, the hospital has performed 59 Bone Marrow Transplants including 24 pediatric and 35 adult transplants.
In 2022, as part of a collaboration between the renowned Prof. Kypros Nicolaides and Burjeel Medical City’s fetal medicine department, the Kyrpos Nicolaides Fetal Medicine and Therapy Center were opened.
In 2022, in collaboration with the renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. Dror Paley, The Paley Middle East Clinic was opened at Burjeel Medical City to offer complex orthopedic procedures to patients in the region.
In 2023, Burjeel Holdings partnered with IFEM Endo to set up a specialized clinic for endometriosis and offer highly advanced minimally invasive surgeries for endometriosis.
In 2023, Burjeel Holdings partnered with OncoHelix Inc. to establish a cutting-edge laboratory in Abu Dhabi to provide advanced molecular genetics, cellular and immunological profile testing to patients in the country.
Over the years, Burjeel Medical City has developed into a regional hub for oncology care that offers the most advanced services through world-class doctors. The hospital has a track record of treating the most complex cases, including a patient with SCID or ‘bubble boy disease’.
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