Heart-to-Heart with KMH’s Neena Kanwar
On June 21st, 2011, Neena Kanwar validated to a throng of guests at the HSBC Great Canadian Woman Awards that anything is possible. At the time, she was being honoured for her inspiring entrepreneurial success by founding an independent health-care centre in 1988 with her husband, Vijay Kanwar, that has since become North America’s largest provider of nuclear cardiology. “Nobody should be able to tell you that you cannot succeed where others have failed,” says Neena.
With a family history of heart disease and a father who suffered two heart attacks in his 40s, Neena felt inclined to pursue a career in cardiology. In the early ’80s, she obtained a degree in nuclear medicine from the Toronto Institute of Medical Technology, which led to a position at St. Michael’s Hospital as a nuclear medicine technologist. It was there that she became perturbed by the long waits patients endured to see doctors, take tests and receive results, noticing a major gap in the field of health care. “I felt like something better could be done.”
Rather than watch these issues progress, she took initiative, and in a valiant demonstration of faith and ambition, Neena and Vijay sold their family home to finance the development of KMH Cardiology and Diagnostic Centres’ first facility in Mississauga. “The thought never occurred to me that it wasn’t going to work. I didn’t have any thoughts, my only thought was, ‘this is what I want to do. So what do I have to do to get it done?’” says Neena.
Today, KMH has grown to more than 10 locations across Ontario, Canada and Maryland, U.S., and has provided more than 600,000 cardiology, nuclear cardiology and nuclear medicine diagnostic tests. “It created a different environment on how humans should be respected, treated and how quickly and efficiently testing should be done. Businesses exist to serve people, and one must give back to communities,” says Vijay, who was named Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year in 2006 for his work as KMH’s president and chief financial officer.
By providing timely services to approximately 90 – 100,000 community members annually, KMH helps detect health problems while still in their early stages, allotting hospitals more time to care for the critically ill. “If you know that there is something wrong with you, then there is the possibility of a cure. We just love what we do. We are able to have an impact on people’s lives,” says Neena.
Neena has overcome several obstacles to get to where she is today, but according to her, having the XX gene has never been one of them. “If you think that being a woman is going to make a difference, than it will, but at the end of the day, if you want what you want you are going to do whatever you can to get what you want. I don’t think it makes a difference if you are a woman or a man,” she says. “Woman is twice smarter than man,” adds Vijay.
Being honoured by a roomful of people isn’t an inaugural experience for Neena, who could easily fill a library with accolades. From her entrepreneurship to numerous philanthropic endeavours, Neena makes it clear that you can’t simply wait around for success to fall on your lap – you have to get out there and grab it. “If you have a goal in mind, or if there is something you really want to do, then figure out how to get it done and do it.”