Association of Fundraising Professionals - Outstanding Individual Philanthropist Award
Subhas (Sam) and Uttra Bhargava are outstanding philanthropists. Their generosity stems from personal tragedy. They turned tragic events in their lives into investments in research that they hope will help others avoid the same suffering.
Sam and Uttra came to Canada from India in 1956. They worked hard, built successful careers and businesses, raised their five children, and cared for their aging parents.
Sam’s parents, both of whom were brilliant scientists, authors and successful industrialists, passed away after years of suffering from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Sam and Uttra watched as these diseases mercilessly stole the essence of the people they loved and respected.
In 1989, they were struck by another tragedy. Their eldest daughter, 23-year-old Suruchi, was hit by a drunk driver in New York City. Suruchi went from being a vivacious, young woman, to a quadriplegic unable to move any of her limbs. She spent the next 16 years confined to a wheel chair, and undergoing extensive rehabilitation. Her dream of walking again seemed about to be a reality when she did take a step. Sadly, Suruchi passed away a few weeks later.
These experiences provided Sam and Uttra with the empathy, knowledge and desire to make a meaningful impact on the lives of people who are enduring similar long term debilitating traumas. Finding a cure for devastating diseases and injury of the brain and spinal cord become their life’s mission.
In 2011, Sam and Uttra contributed $1 million dollars to establish the Bhargava Chair in Neurodegeneration with Dr. Michael Schlossmacher as chair holder. As a physician scientist, Dr. Schlossmacher provides innovative care to Ottawa’s Parkinson’s patients and conducts cutting-edge laboratory research.
The Bhargavas also saw research as a hope for the future of those who suffer from spinal cord damage, and wanted to support spinal cord research in honour of their beloved Suruchi.
“We want to help others with spinal cord injuries take that first step and we believe research is the key,” said Sam Bhargava.
Sam and Uttra committed to actively fundraise for The Ottawa Hospital Foundation’s campaign to raise $1million to establish a term chair in Spinal Cord and Brain Regeneration Research (SABR) with neurosurgeon Dr. Eve Tsai as chair holder. Within a year, they had successfully raised $100,000 from family members and friends. In September 2014, the Bhargavas decided to complete the chair with a $500,000 contribution.
Dr. Tsai, as the Suruchi Bhargava Chair in Spinal Cord Research, is researching the use of stem cells to reverse neurological damage and potentially uncover how to stimulate a patient’s own stem cells to repair themselves.
Sam says, “We believe it is time to complete Suruchi’s journey and want to help others with spinal cord injuries take that first step. We believe stem cell research is the key.”
On November 19, 2015, Sam and Uttra Bhargava were recognized by the Association of Fundraising Professionals for their marvelous philanthropic gestures. The results of the research at The Ottawa Hospital that they support will have a resounding impact on generations of people who suffer from debilitating brain and spinal cord disease and injury not only in Ottawa, but around the world.