First “Do No Harm… and then Do Massive Good.” The amazing story of Dr Sam Prince

Zambrero - Dr Sam PrinceDr Sam Prince is a Scottish born, Australian medical Doctor with Sri Lankan heritage running a chain of Mexican restaurants. He’s an aid worker and founder of ‘One Disease at a Time’ which is currently on a mission to eradicate scabies from our indigenous communities.  It seems that Dr Prince knows no limits.  In fact he lives by a motto his mother gave him… ‘Expand your life to the limits of your mind and expand your mind to the limits of your life.’

Zambrero Plate 4 PlateThis incredible man started working in a Mexican restaurant while studying at medical school. He saw a gap in the market and started his own Mexican restaurant at the age of 21 whilst studying fulltime. He graduated medical school from Monash University and built up a chain of 17 restaurants, 170 staff and a turnover of $13.7m in between working full time as a doctor.  He is so passionate about helping others less fortunate than himself that he set up a program to help end hunger called ‘Plate 4 Plate’ where he partnered with a company called ‘Stop Hunger Now’ to make sure the money went to the right places.  Every burrito or salad purchased at Zambrero’s buys a meal for someone in a developing country.

This is what Dr Prince has to say about his philosophy:-

Zambrero Logo“We are not greedy and when you eat with us, neither are you. Every burrito or bowl you purchase, we pay it forward by helping provide a plate of food to someone less fortunate.  How?

Zambrero has been working with ‘Stop Hunger Now’ to help provide high protein, high vitamin meals that help strengthen people suffering malnutrition.

Every month, we add up all the burritos and bowls we have served at Zambrero and deliver the resources to provide meals to our distribution partner, ‘Stop Hunger Now,’ who provides the logistics to distribute the food relief to the areas most in need.

‘Plate 4 Plate’ is funded through the profits of Zambrero, which means we’re never going to ask you for money. All you have to do is enjoy any delicious meal from our fresh, healthy menu and we’ll donate a meal in return—a definite win-win!’

The program aims to feed ten million people each year.

Clearly, just feeding the world is not enough for Sam Prince. Off the back of the success of his rapidly-expanding group, Sam has also created the Emagine Foundation in 2007. They have built and equipped fifteen IT learning centres in rural Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Far North Queensland to date, ensuring that children in these areas are not prevented from accessing the education required to better their lives simply by virtue of their geographical location and socioeconomic circumstances. There are plans for one hundred centres across Asia Pacific by the end of 2014.

Zambrero - Stuart CookIn 2009 Prince appointed his first CEO, Stuart Cook, to run the Mexican food chain. He’d met the then 23-year-old Cook on a bus on the way to the Taj Mahal. Prince was in India to pick up an award from the Junior Chamber International as one of the ten ‘Outstanding Young People of the World in 2008,’ in recognition of the aid work he’d done in South-East Asia and the public education campaigns he’d run in Sri Lanka to reduce the number of deaths from snake bites and dengue fever.

The Zambrero chain now has more than thirty restaurants and there are plans to build it globally to over one hundred restaurants in the next two years. Stuart has continued the great work started by Sam. In 2010 funding from Zambrero has allowed Sam to launch a multi-million dollar project, his not-for-profit organisation ‘One Disease at a Time,’ where he is also tackling a health issue closer to home:- the eradication of scabies, a disease prevalent in indigenous communities, where our indigenous children suffer from this disease at epidemic proportions.

Zambrero - Indigenous HealthSam Prince intends to advance education and eradicate disease through ‘One Disease at a Time’ across the globe, starting with a three year ‘Healthy Skin Program’ in East Arnhem Land, and to demonstrate a best-practice model of partnering with (not working on) indigenous communities to create sustainable change.

“Sam Prince does the work of one hundred men, improving the lives of thousands through his innovative medical, business and aid projects,” stated GQ in naming him the 2011 Man of Chivalry in its annual Men of the Year list.

From the wise old age of 28, Prince admits to being fairly naïve when he first headed to Asia as a 21-year-old. He’d made a bit of money in business and wanted to give something back. He chose South-East Asia as the initial focus of his aid work because he’d seen the value that a free education had given his own parents who came from humble beginnings in Sri Lanka.

He learnt three significant lessons.

Lesson Number One:  Before you do any kind of aid work be sure that you have a clear understanding of what you believe is a basic human right vs what you believe is a basic human responsibility. There’s a clear line between the two, he says.  “As doctors we take the Hippocratic Oath of ‘First do no Harm’. If you actually don’t understand where that line is you can end up harming people by taking power away from them when you start doing things that you think are basic human responsibilities,” says Prince.

Lesson Number Two: When he thinks back to working in emergency departments in hospitals, Sam recalls the look of sheer desperation in the eyes of people wheeled into the emergency departments after suffering a medical emergency, such as a heart attack. He saw the same look in the eyes of the people he was helping. “It’s the eyes of people who are truly desperate for your help, money, time, effort, education or healthcare,” says Prince. “For me to sleep at night and to be able to look into the mirror and know that I’ve done things ethically every step of the way, I knew I could have no agenda. No political or financial or religious agenda. It is a value that we don’t ever cross.”

Lesson Number Three: You have to run an aid organisation with the same rigour as you would a business. “I thought that just because people were in need and needed a hand up that they were all good people,” he says. “The reality is that’s not the truth. People are good and bad, just like there are good and bad people in every other demographic.”

111005ANU: Reporter Magazine Portraits. Picture by Belinda PrattenThe idea behind ‘One Disease at a Time’ was sparked by a conversation with one of his mentors, Frank Bowden. The professor of medicine at the Australian National University Medical School had eradicated the sexually transmitted disease Donovanosis out of Australia permanently in four years at a cost of $4 million and ten staff. “That’s not a lot of money, time or resources and I thought ‘wow, that’s something I can do as a doctor, aid worker and entrepreneur’,” says Prince.  Professor Bowden now sits on the board of ‘One Disease at a Time.’

Professor Bowden says, “I am constitutionally suspicious of medical entrepreneurs who, in my experience, can put the pursuit of financial gain before the desire to care for their patients. The exact opposite applies to Sam. The son of one of my friends had been looked after by Sam in our emergency department one Saturday afternoon. My friend described the appearance of Sam amid the controlled chaos of the hospital as something like a magician waving his wand to create a bubble of peace and calm around his son. This is a special and rare talent.”

Through his work supported by funding from Zambrero, Sam intends to achieve his dream of providing the infrastructure and opportunity for disadvantaged young people across the globe to empower themselves through good health and a quality education. Sam’s success in business derives from an unusual ability to visualise practical solutions to seemingly vast problems, and to drive these through implementation through a calculated approach and by force of willpower and inspiring others to believe in his vision.

Samantha Cran, Chief Executive Officer of ‘One Disease at a Time,’ first met Prince at a business/networking event. She recalls being taken aback by his ability to translate his core values into actions and felt she had to be part of the movement. She started as a volunteer before becoming the CEO.

Zambrero - Samantha Cran“Sam is the ultimate definition of an entrepreneur,” says Cran. “Whether it’s in business or healthcare, for each industry he is the visionary who can see a gap in the market before others do and then diligently backs himself in to fill it. He also has the tenacity to push through any barriers – it is this ‘will’ that people recognise early and are truly inspired by it.”

Prince puts the willingness of others to get involved down to him wearing his dreams on his sleeves.

“By virtue of claiming it and saying, ‘I want to do this’, and being open about it, this activates the people around you,” says Prince.

Dr Prince is also a sought-after speaker on both a local and international stage. His achievements have been recognised through a number of awards including the 2012 ACT Young Australian of the Year; the Junior Chambers International ‘Outstanding Young Person of the World;’ the 2008 National My Business Awards ‘Best Young Gun in Business;’ and the 2008 Canberra Business Council Excellence Award. In 2011 he received the Weary Dunlop Fellowship.

It seems that Dr Sam Prince is taking the Hippocratic oath of ‘First do no Harm’ to a whole new level of thinking…. meaning ‘First do no Harm and then do Massive Good.’

You can also read more about what Sam Prince and other business entrepreneurs like him are doing with regard to making money and making a difference on the website of Leaders of Distinction which along with Precision Profiling is showcasing the new breed of entrepreneurs arriving on the scene today.

What are your thoughts on the work and success of Dr Sam Prince? I’d love to hear them.

Drop me an email to if you would like to discuss further how to create the environment that attracts and retains the young leaders of the future for your organisation.

Until then… Let’s seek to understand more and judge less. Have a great week – Brian

Precision ProfilingWhat Makes You Tick? Through ‘Motivational Fingerprinting’ we uncover what you do, how you do it and why you do it, and most importantly, the hidden patterns that lead to your success, and that of your team.

About Brian Clark

Brian Clark is the principal director of Precision Profiling®.

He is a renowned practitioner, writer and speaker on building total customer cultures; values driven leadership and world best practice strategy and implementation.

He has been a guest lecturer on world best practice for the executive management programme at Monash University’s business college (Mt Eliza campus); an adviser to and key note speaker for the Singapore Productivity Association and a consultant to many major Australian and overseas corporations and government departments.

Read more about Brian Clark Here


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