People before profit.
This is what Dr Wesley Greaves, the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Nexgen Pathology, says is his business’ core value and it is also what he believes will make it successful.
“Our first core value is actually people before profit, and we consider ourselves a value-driven organisation so our core values are extremely important to us,” Greaves said.
Greaves, 44, said the people element has two components; staff and customers.
“Our internal employees and staff are our first customer so we prioritise the well being of our people before and above profit,” he said.
“We believe that that is what ultimately drives profit or profitability and then in addition to that the second component is our actual clients and customers. So I think being able to ride this COVID wave and all the challenges associated with it I think really enforced that we are on the right track in terms of prioritising our people before profit and that is what has taken us through the hard times,” Greaves said.
How it all began
Nexgen Pathology was founded in 2013 after Greaves returned from studying overseas.
“Our mission is to make world-class medical lab diagnostics accessible to all,” Greaves said.
“The idea is that in Trinidad and Tobago healthcare is easily accessible because we have free public healthcare however one would be hard-pressed to call it world-class. While where I studied in the US the quality was the best in the world but it was not accessible to the man on the street,” Greaves said.
Speaking to Greaves you can hear his passion.
This he says comes from his life’s journey.
“I grew up without pipe-borne water, I grew up toting water from a spring every day. I didn’t know what it was to have running water in a house, what it is to have a toilet I grew up with a latrine,” Greaves said.
Greaves attened St James Government Secondary and Queen’s Royal College.
“Neither of my parents went to secondary school, my father was a maxi taxi driver and my mother was a domestic worker. I came from very humble beginnings but I was bright. In Trinidad and Tobago, we have the blessing of free education so I was always able to excel in school and then I got a scholarship to do medicine in Brazil 1996,” he said.
“That scholarship was a huge blessing but it was only for tuition. I had to pay for living expenses, and books which I didn’t actually have the money for it was only because of my church, my community, neighbours used to contribute money to my family so I am literally a product of my community,” Greaves said.
Greaves said he is the embodiment of the adage “it takes a village to raise a child.”
“Everything I do I feel like I owe it to pay it forward and to come back and give back and that is the reason why I am here,” he said.
After completing his medical degree at the Universidade Gama Filho in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, Greaves completed post-grad training and America Board certification in Anatomic and Clinical Pathology at Brown University, Rhode Island in 2009, as well as in Hematopathology and Molecular Genetics Pathology at MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston Texas in 2011 and 2012 respectively.
“I could have very well pursued a successful personal career out there but I decided to come back home to Trinidad,” Greaves said.
When he returned to T&T he was appointed the Head of the Pathology Department at the South West Regional Health Authority.
He held that post until 2018.
Greaves said he owes a lot to his mentor Dr Neville Jankie.
“He was a very brilliant but humble man. He is the one who inspired me to give back as well, he always used to say make sure and come back to Trinidad make sure and come back,” Greaves said.
When Jankie passed away in 2012, his lab was handed over to Greaves.
“He and his wife passed on his lab to me and that is how Nexgen Pathology was born. We started humbly out of pocket and today we are recognised as one of the top labs in Trinidad and Tobago for quality which is no small feat,” Greaves said.
From nothing to something
“Business-wise we are pretty solid, we are definitely one of the top three labs in T&T,” he said.
Greaves said Nexgen went from starting at zero dollars to now experiencing exponential growth in annual sales.
“The statistics show that a high number of small businesses fail within the first five years of existence and so we have been able to weather several storms and then COVID was a big storm for us as well,” he said.
Nexgen Pathology achieved full accreditation with the College of American Pathology in 2017.
It is the only lab in T&T that is fully accredited.
“In T&T there is no regulatory framework, so in other words, there are no laws regulating the function of medical labs in Trinidad so in other words if you wanted to go and open up a lab because you saw a business opportunity right in your yard there and say ‘alright I going to start offering COVID 19 testing or blood sugar testing,’ you can go and do it there is nobody to verify that you are competent, that you are qualified, that you are certified to do so,” Greaves said.
“The results that you are producing who knows if they are right or wrong. There is no obligation in Trinidad and Tobago for any lab to be accredited. We chose to become accredited because of our mission and our goal which is to be on par with the best lab anywhere in the world,” he said.
Greaves lamented the lack of regulation in the country.
“It is a very sad thing because patients at the end of the day suffer and they don’t even know they are suffering,” he said.
Greaves said the vast majority of medical decisions, around 70 to 80 per cent, depend on a lab test to guide the doctor as to what to do.
“So imagine if that lab test is wrong then that obviously affects the management of the patient and I have seen many wrong lab results. For example, things being called cancer and is not cancer, patients getting chemotherapy and it is not cancer in the first place I have seen cases where it was cancer and another lab called it benign and the patient ended up dying because they did not get the correct treatment. If they had gotten the correct treatment in a timely fashion they may not have died,” he said.
Greaves said his personal mantra is that every patient deserves world-class healthcare at an affordable price.
“The driving force is to impact the entire space. So the idea is not only for us to offer high-quality products in terms of lab tests but also to raise the bar and also challenge other labs to raise the bar as well. At the end of the day the standard in the entire country would be elevated,” Greaves said.
“That is the journey we are on right now, obviously it is very difficult, it is challenging and how do you make that into a viable business model,” he said.
Greaves said he has not let his lack of a business background stop him.
“I never had any business background I never had any capital investments it was all out of pocket so I just dived into self-education. I probably have two or three MBAs from the amount of reading and studying and stuff I have done on my own,” he said.
“It is an intense experience building a small business from scratch to where we are today. I am so passionate about what I do that I study and need to learn how to do business “ Greaves said.
Teamwork makes the dream work
Greaves applauded his team of 20 employees.
“My team has been amazing, we have gone through a lot of tough experiences and COVID was the most recent one,” Greaves said.
“The dream is impossible without the team, I cannot do this by myself and the way I intend to build this as well is that it has to be way bigger than me as an individual because you know I could walk out the road and a car knocks me down but what happens to the dream, to the mission it should not die,” he said.
“So I would like to build this organisation such that the impact is greater when I leave the scene than while I am on the scene that is my personal goal,” Greaves said.
Greaves said Nexgen hopes to focus on growth over the next few years.
“We believe that we can be the Google, the Apple, or the Microsoft of lab medicine so we want to expand significantly throughout Trinidad and Tobago as well as the Caribbean region,” Greaves said.
Nexgen currently does business in Guyana, Grenada, and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
“Our idea to expand our services throughout the entire Caribbean region as well as perhaps beyond,” he said.
“There were several moments when I felt I would not make it, there were existential moments when I felt we were going to crash and we were going to die but I just feel tremendously blessed, tremendously grateful for still being able to be around,” Greaves said.
Greaves said Nexgen has a comprehensive and diverse test menu including from routine blood tests to histology to molecular and genetic testing.
“We offer a wide range of laboratory testing all under one roof,” he said.