February 19, 2016

A Legacy of Giving

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Gifts from Gunavant N. Shah, M.D., Support Programs That Touched His Life
Charles Barkley with Dr. Monica BaskinGunavant N. Shah, M.D.The School of Medicine and UAB have played a remarkable role in the life of retired Birmingham OB/GYN Gunavant N. Shah, M.D. So, in the winter of 2014, while reading about the generosity of another physician who established a scholarship in the School of Medicine, he was inspired to make gifts of his own totaling more than $2.6 million.

Shah was born in Bangalore, India, and earned his medical degree there before moving to New York City to complete his residency. After residency, he and his late wife, Gunvanti Shah, moved to Birmingham where he established an obstetrics and gynecology practice at Medical Center East that continued for more than 30 years.

Shah’s initial gift of $101,200 established the Dr. Gunavant N. Shah, Mrs. Gunvanti G. Shah, and Dr. Parul Shah Nguyen Endowed Medical Scholarship in honor of his late wife. A portion of the gift was set aside for a current-use scholarship award in academic year 2014/2015. Third-year medical student Sarah Jenkins, Ph.D., of Cartersville, Ga., was the inaugural recipient of the Shah scholarship.

Like her husband, Gunvanti Shah was born in India and earned a medical degree before coming to the United States, where she studied cytotechnology at Cornell University. After moving to Birmingham, Mrs. Shah joined the staff at UAB in 1974 and attained the position of director of the cytotechnology program in the School of Health Professions. She served in that role until her retirement in 2000 and, even after retirement, continued to volunteer at UAB.

Shah feels that an endowed medical scholarship, which will live on in perpetuity, is the perfect way to honor his wife’s legacy and to demonstrate the couple’s philanthropic philosophy. “I believe it is my duty to help the next generation, and I think the best gift one can give is the gift of education,” says Shah. “Education gives one the tools to overcome any obstacle.”

The Shahs’ daughter, Parul Shah Nguyen, M.D., met her husband while both were in medical school at UAB. After earning her medical degree in 1998, Nguyen followed in her father’s footsteps and completed a residency in obstetrics and gynecology at UAB. She and her husband, Giang Dai Nguyen, M.D., practice medicine in Kansas.

In recognition of the training his daughter received, Shah designated a portion of his planned gift to the principal of his scholarship and another portion to support current-use educational and training needs for obstetrics and gynecologic care.

There is yet another profound tie between Shah and the School of Medicine—in the mid-1990s, he received a kidney transplant, performed by former Chair of the Department of Surgery Arnold G. Diethelm, M.D. In recognition of the transplant, as well as the excellent follow-up care he received from Robert S. Gaston, M.D., the Robert G. Luke Endowed Chair in Transplant Nephrology and director of the UAB Comprehensive Transplant Institute, and Vineeta Kumar, M.D., associate professor of medicine and medical director of the UAB Incompatible Kidney Transplant Program, Shah directed part of his planned gift to create the Dr. Gunavant N. Shah, Mrs. Gunvanti G. Shah, and Dr. Parul Shah Nguyen Endowed Support Fund in Organ Transplantation. The fund will support various components of the transplant programs, particularly organ transplantation training.

“Dr. Shah is now a 25-year beneficiary of a successful transplant. We are humbled that he has reaffirmed the family’s ongoing commitment to medical education through a generous gift to UAB’s Comprehensive Transplant Institute,” says Gaston. “The Shah family has guaranteed that UAB will have the resources necessary to educate the next generation of transplantation researchers and clinicians.”

“We are honored that the School of Medicine played such a prominent role in the Shah family’s life, and are deeply grateful for the philanthropic commitment Dr. Shah has made to our programs,” says Selwyn M. Vickers, M.D., FACS, senior vice president for medicine and dean of the School of Medicine. “Dr. Shah’s life and career serve as an example of the impact a compassionate and skilled physician, and a generous and principled man, can have on his community.”