2012 Alumni Award of Merit

Swati A. Piramal, MPH '92

As one of India’s leading scientists and industrialists, Dr. Swati Piramal has used her background in medicine, public health and business to change the trajectory of healthcare, education and public policy in India.

Dr. Piramal is the Vice Chairperson of Piramal Enterprises, which she and husband Ajay Piramal grew to be an Indian multinational, having operations in the US, Europe and India, employing over 10,000 and selling products in over 100 countries. With interests in a myriad of industries, encompassing healthcare, drug discovery and research, glass and real estate, Piramal Enterprises is propelled by their core values of “Knowledge, Action and Care,” and Dr. Piramal believes wholeheartedly that business and ethics must go hand-in-hand, a philosophy which has made them leaders in drug discovery, developing affordable medicines to reduce the burden of disease globally.

As Director of the Piramal Foundation, she helps promote health in rural India through mobile health services, women’s empowerment projects and support of community education to create young leaders. Her work in the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries is inextricably linked with her work in preventive health. Under her leadership, initiatives to democratize healthcare include e-Swasthya, created to explore ways to dramatically increase access to modern medicine, considered by many Indians a luxury today, and Sarvajal – meaning “water for all” – to find viable mass-market solutions to India’s clean drinking water crisis.

Dr. Piramal earned her medical degree from Mumbai University and her MPH in International Health in 1992 at HSPH, where she was the Student Commencement Speaker and served on a task force on chronic health issues in developing countries.

Author of several books on clinical nutrition and a book on nutrition for patients of kidney disease, Dr. Piramal is a founder of Gopikrishna Piramal Hospital in Mumbai, where there has been an emphasis on polio prevention, known for creating a no-polio zone in Mumbai city. The Sports Medicine Centre at the hospital was the first of its kind in India, focusing on arthritis treatment for disabled children and the elderly, as well as sports injuries. She started Ostop India, an osteoporosis prevention program and a center for detection of diabetes and epilepsy, and launched a nationwide campaign for the prevention of chronic disease in India.

Dr. Piramal has a strong interest in public policy. She was an influential advocate for the Patent Law that was approved by India’s Parliament in 1995, and she is an adviser to India’s Prime Minister in science, technology and industrial policy, as a member of the Planning Commission’s Expert Committee, the Council of Trade and as the only woman on the Scientific Advisory Board. She was the first woman to be elected President of the Apex Chamber of Commerce in its 90-year history, and in 2012, she was a recipient of a Padma Shri Award, one of India’s highest civilian honors for distinguished contribution to the nation, and she was elected to the Harvard Board of Overseers.