Dr Anuschka Coovadia is currently Head of Healthcare at KPMG Africa for KPMG, a member of a Global Task Team for Universal Healthcare Coverage and an Executive Director for Ayurveda Investments, which is a fund that invests in hospitals, pathology, radiology, Health IT and medical education. She is also a Non-executive director at Dischem, a director for the Africa Health Federation, a trustee for the Kendra Educational Trust and sits on the Innovation Board for the North West University.
The Healthcare Centre of Excellence at KPMG, which she heads up, operates throughout the continent, offering advisory services to governments/policy makers, donors and funders, hospital groups, pharmaceutical manufacturers, medical professionals, private equity and health IT operations. Recently, she presented at the World Economic Forum in Davos and worked on global health projects, such as advising the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Health in the Bahamas on the implementation of their NHI.
Healthcare and social responsibility are part of her DNA. She is the daughter of a paediatrician and a dermatologist, Prof Jerry Coovadia and Dr Zubie Hamed, who were active in the struggle against apartheid and who worked tirelessly to dismantle racial barriers when it came to ensuring healthcare access. So when the time came to choose a career, she knew she wanted to focus on working towards the further development of the country and its healthcare services in particular. She qualified as a doctor in 2000, at the peak of the HIV epidemic, which hit KwaZulu-Natal especially hard, so her initial experiences were indeed the proverbial baptism of fire. “It was both a dramatic and a traumatic environment,” she recalls. “Hospitals were overwhelmed, the mortality rate was high, denialism was paralyzing and one also had to deal with the stigmatization that went with the disease.”
The experience made her realize that she needed to be more than just a clinician – in order to effect positive change in the healthcare system as a whole. “I subsequently worked on various projects that crossed over between health, development and economics.” A stint with pharmaceutical giant, Novartis, gave her deep experience in Africa, further to which she obtained a Masters in Economics and started a degree in actuarial sciences; and subsequently moved into the funding environment. She worked for both Momentum and Metropolitan (as Head of GEMS Clinical Services) before moving to KPMG, where she has worked for the last three years.
“I have a passion for innovation, strategy, entrepreneurship and development. I love working with people who are courageous and constantly bring fresh ideas to the table,” she says. “We need this if we’re to move forward, expand access to healthcare and address the critical stumbling blocks that hinder the delivery of better quality, patient centric care. I enjoy moving across all the different components of the healthcare ecosystem – learning from people who have deep vertical experience and capabilities; and then applying those skills more broadly, in the interest of creating a better healthcare system for all Africans.”
In addition to her work at KPMG and on the Investment Fund, she is very committed to giving back to the community. She has recently conducted a turn-around strategy for the Aryan Benevolent Home, which is a NPO that looks after 1800 elderly, disabled, orphans and victims of abuse. She provides ongoing advisory support to the NPO to ensure that it is sustainable and delivers a high quality of care to all its benefactors. She also addresses many health and educational forums; contributes to relevant publications and hosts forums for global and local leaders to find areas for collaboration. In her ‘spare time’, among others, she works on a programme that mentors young girls from rural backgrounds with a view to grooming them for tertiary education, specifically in the sciences. She also works with local business forums, to stimulate the women entrepreneurship at a community level.
“If we wish to correct the injustices of the past, create social cohesion, build a healthy nation and unlock our true economic potential, then our healthcare system needs urgent priority.”