Published: September 2022
Subhas “Sam” and Uttra Bhargava have been giving back to their community since they first met 60 years ago — and that giving took on new meaning after a series of personal losses.
Together, they cared for Sam’s father and mother who suffered from Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s respectively. They also saw their oldest daughter, Suruchi, left paralyzed from the neck down after she was hit by a drunk driver. Sadly, all three family members passed away from their deteriorating conditions. These tragedies ushered Sam and Uttra into the world of healthcare and research, inspiring them to step up for others facing similar challenges.
“We knew we needed to do something so nobody would suffer as we did,” says Uttra.
“We knew we needed to do something so nobody would suffer as we did.”– Uttra Bhargava
Volunteers and philanthropists for decades, the Bhargavas are shining a light on the research being conducted at The Ottawa Hospital — forming a close bond with Dr. Michael Schlossmacher, Director of the Neuroscience Program and clinician scientist working to improve the lives of those with neurodegenerative diseases.
“Research is the only thing that provides hope and innovation.”– Sam Bhargava
“Dr. Schlossmacher is a great scientist and a great man…I admire him so much,” says Uttra, as she and her husband speak about the importance of keeping some of the world’s greatest research minds in Ottawa. “There’s so much talent,” adds Sam. “They can achieve anything.”
This belief has inspired Sam and Uttra to support The Ottawa Hospital’s research and care for patients suffering from brain and spinal cord damage. They hope their support will help lead to cures for some of the most devastating conditions and injuries — but they know it won’t happen overnight. They call their support a down payment on their dream for a cure. “Research is the only thing that provides hope and innovation,” says Sam. “You just don’t give up.”
The Bhargavas give generously — and consider themselves fortunate to be able to do so. In 2012, they donated $1 million to establish The Bhargava Research Chair in Neurodegeneration at The Ottawa Hospital — Dr. Schlossmacher is the current Chair holder, and Sam is also the Founding Chair of the Parkinson’s Research Consortium. In honour of their oldest daughter, they also established the Suruchi Bhargava Chair in Spinal Cord Research, which supports neurosurgeon Dr. Eve Tsai’s research.
Most recently, they donated $500,000 to the Campaign to Create Tomorrow — a Campaign that will not only support the construction of the New Campus Development, which will be home to a new neuroscience institute, but will also take research to unprecedented heights.
“If you want to help the community, you have to put the money into research. Unless we try, it will not happen.”– Uttra Bhargava
In addition to their support of The Ottawa Hospital, Sam and Uttra’s philanthropy has extended to many other community initiatives, such as early literacy programs, hearing screening programs for pre-schoolers, and they were instrumental in the Parliamentary declaration of National Child Day in Canada. Today, along with their work supporting research at The Ottawa Hospital, they are pushing to make changes in how we care for our aging population. With the help of a team of early supporters, they are mobilizing at the grassroots level to petition the House of Commons to put more focus on the health and well being of seniors and those living with disabilities. Sam and Uttra believe it is through research and innovation that we can improve the quality of life for all Canadians.
As business and community leaders, the Bhargavas are using their voices to lift up those around them — many of whom they will never even meet. They are working to shield others from the tragedies they suffered — through financial support and by giving their time and energy to the causes that personally affected them. “We want to give the money,” says Uttra, “and at the same time, we want to work with the community.”
“And if you want to help the community, you have to put the money into research. Unless we try, it will not happen.”
The Ottawa Hospital is a leading academic health, research, and learning hospital proudly affiliated with the University of Ottawa.