Dream big: Sam Prince inspires Notre Dame alumni

28/08/2012

Notre Dame News Story
Dr Sam Prince addressing Notre Dame’s alumni.

Stoke the fires of your dreams and work towards them; the universe will conspire to do the rest.

That’s the message medical doctor, entrepreneur and philanthropist Dr Sam Prince had for The University of Notre Dame Australia’s alumni at a reunion function which included the Sydney Campus’ first cohort of medicine graduates.

Dr Prince, current ACT Young Australian of the Year, described his life as something of a "dog’s breakfast"; he is a Scottish-born, Australian doctor who runs a chain of Mexican restaurants and spearheads aid work in Sri Lanka and east Arnhem Land.

The trajectory of Dr Prince’s career may look haphazard at first glance, but the 28-year-old allowed the Notre Dame community an insight into the life-changing moments that have shaped his outlook and demonstrated that his path is anything but random.

In 2006, while studying medicine, Dr Prince believed a market existed for healthy Mexican food, so he opened a restaurant in Canberra called Zambrero. Today, the chain has 20 outlets across Australia and its profits have funded a myriad of philanthropic projects, including the construction of 15 IT schools in Sri Lanka, the Philippines and far north Queensland; the creation of public education campaigns in Sri Lanka aimed at reducing deaths from snake bites and dengue fever and, through Dr Prince’s charitable organisation, One Disease at a Time, set in motion a project aimed at eliminating scabies in Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory.

Dr Prince said he is passionate about education and made his first foray into philanthropy by looking for a means to bridge the "digital divide" that hinders the education of children in developing countries like Sri Lanka. The lessons he learned through this project have informed the way in which he now runs his charities.

"The first thing I learned was that if you’re going to run an aid organization, it is a full-body contact sport; you have to run it with the same rigor as you would any private company in Australia," Dr Prince said.

"The second lesson I learned was that before you do aid work, you must have a very clear understanding of what you believe is a basic human right and what you believe is a basic human responsibility and a clear line between the two. It’s when that line starts to get blurry that you can actually hurt the people that you’re trying to help."

Dr Prince said his final lesson in the early stage of his philanthropic education was learned in an intensive care unit where he worked as a doctor. He found people who were ill, desperate and afraid would do anything a doctor asked of them.

"In intensive care, it was only when people were desperate to recover that they held onto your agenda and I knew that it was no different to the people that we saw in the Asia Pacific region, people who were so desperate to eat or to have an education, that they would do anything to get it," Dr Prince said.

"I knew that if we were going to do things ethically, we were to have no religious, political or financial agenda."

Dr Prince’s charity, One Disease at a Time, has halved the incidence of scabies in indigenous communities in its first nine months on the ground. He puts his success down to his ability to dream big and stay true to his objectives and said Notre Dame’s medicine graduates must grasp the optimism that marks the beginning of any career and keep this alive in order to make their dreams a reality.

"When I look around at you who are now at the beginning of a career, I reflect back on what it felt like when I was starting out, this feeling that everything was possible, it wasn’t even really a feeling, instead this undefined sense, a yearning, groping pain mixed with incommunicable happiness that big things lay ahead," Dr Prince said.

"At the dawn of our lives we believe in this sense and as you get older and the journey progresses, some people burn out, some people sell out, some people fall apart because of pressure, but most wake up one day knowing that they have lost their fire. It’s important to not betray this fire. It’s important to learn how to give this indefinable sense a shape, purpose and reality."

The University’s Director of Community Relations, Trish Egan, thanked Dr Prince for the presentation, which both challenged graduates to use their skills in the service of others and inspired optimism about what it might be possible to achieve.



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