For Deven Patel and Vinay Chaudhry, MD, what began as a professional relationship built around a shared background as well as shared values has blossomed into a friendship that helped motivate a generous show of support for the UNC Department of Neurology.
Patel, founder and CEO of InfuCare Rx, has made a $2 million gift in honor of his father, himself a respected physician in his home country of India. The Dr. Baldev Patel Neuromuscular Disorders Fund will serve to advance patient care, research and education in the field of neurology and neuromuscular disorders, with a particular focus on providing patient care for those who may be experiencing financial hardship. As a specialist in reconstructive facial surgery in India, Dr. Patel spent his career treating patients who would have otherwise not been able to afford care.
Chaudhry’s relationship with Deven Patel spans more than 15 years, a period of time that included support of Chaudhry’s previous work at Johns Hopkins. And when Chaudhry was recruited to UNC to head the department’s Division of Neuromuscular Disorders, Patel was excited to continue that support.
“Dr. Chaudhry has a very strong reputation in the neurology community,” Patel said. “He is a known figure domestically and internationally on neuromuscular disease, and has been involved in very high-caliber research throughout his career and continues to be involved in improving care for those with neuromuscular diseases. With the team he has at UNC, it feels good to support and give him the tools so he can accomplish his vision within the neuromuscular community.”
Extending a legacy to supporting those in need
The James F. Howard Jr. Distinguished Professor of Neuromuscular Diseases, Chaudhry has more than three decades of practice in neurology, neuromuscular medicine and neurophysiology, experience that has uniquely prepared him to lead the team at UNC. But according to Patel, it is his commitment to patient care and education that sets him apart in the field.
“It is one of the reasons why I feel Dr. Chaudhry is an appropriate candidate for this gift,” Patel said. “In addition, he has a kind heart and is always interested in doing the right thing by anyone seeking his help. And believe me, he’s done the right thing with many Indian neurologists through the American Indian Neurology Association (AINA), which also speaks to his level of commitment for the community.”
That kindness was an especially appropriate connection to the fund’s namesake, Deven’s father Dr. Baldev Patel.
“It really has reminded me of what my father has accomplished over the many years of his career,” Patel said. “And certainly, setting this endowment gift is a way to honor and personally thank him. It was an idea that papa’s done something really incredible in his lifetime and have his name be attached indefinitely with a recipient of the endowment gift, entrusted with a similar type of community support.”
The fund was intentionally established in a way that would allow Chaudhry and his teammates at UNC to create the most impact possible not only in patient care, but in research and education as well. That flexibility is critical in a number of ways, including allowing UNC to recruit and retain experts at all levels of the department’s multi-disciplinary approach.
“This funding is open enough that we can use it for patient care, which is the most important thing in my mind,” Chaudhry said, “as well as for assistance in research and in education. The eventual goal is to help all of these areas benefit more patients who may be struggling with financial burdens.”
“We intentionally left it broad because we do want the department and Dr. Chaudhry to have some flexibility around some of the projects that are currently open,” Patel said. “For example, if there is a project helping to facilitate better care for the patient, without the need to review and approve, Dr. Chaudhry, with appropriate approvals, can decide to support it through this endowment gift.”
For Chaudhry, being tasked with extending the legacy of a physician like Dr. Patel is what makes the gift so special.
“This fund will help provide the best quality of life for our patients who may have disabling neuromuscular diseases,” Chaudhry said. “Dr. Patel has worked with patients who may feel like a burden, may have diminished quality of life and be dependent on others for their activities of daily living. This really is a special gift that they have given to UNC to be able to help those patients.”
“It is internally satisfying to be able to see these patients feel better. I think to have someone think about honoring their dad in that way speaks highly of Deven. I feel like this is an amazing gift that he has given us and we will do our best to make sure it is utilized in a manner that honors that.”