June 11, 2019

Alumnus supports transformative international travel experiences through endowed fund

Inspired by Gandhi, family and his medical school alma mater, Abdhish R. Bhavsar, M.D. ’91, and his wife, Mary A. Bhavsar, M.D., decided to establish an endowed fund for medical student international travel experiences.

“When I was growing up, my father used to tell me stories about the Indian independence movement, about perseverance, about valuing those who have no rights, those who are downtrodden or less privileged or oppressed. Those stories were largely based on Gandhi’s work, his experiences and his fight for freedom against all odds,” Dr. Bhavsar said. “Dr. Raman N. Bhavsar grew up in a poor inner-city neighborhood in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India, in an apartment no larger than 10 feet by 10 feet. Yet against all odds, my father became the first medical student on his street. Eventually he came to the U.S., became a psychiatrist and directed the residency program at Northville Regional State Hospital. He embraced Gandhi’s ideals in his life and work, and in turn, he taught me to embrace them as guiding principles – to help those who are unable to help themselves or are oppressed. I hope those same principles help to guide future physicians who are trained at Wayne State. This fund is one way that I can help to further that cause and those ideals.”

The Abdhish R. Bhavsar, M.D., Endowed International Clinical Experience Support Fund will help offset the cost of international travel for awardees and allow them to focus on serving their global communities. Dr. Bhavsar, a retinal surgeon, understands the importance of international travel and how such opportunities are often transformative experiences.

“Although I did not have a chance to travel during medical school, I did travel as a resident, and I had a chance to not only observe surgery but perform surgery in some very small cities in India,” Dr. Bhavsar said. “I had the opportunity to gain exposure to a very different health care system with different population and demographic needs. That helped me to grow tremendously as a physician and surgeon.”

The time Dr. Bhavsar spent in India as a resident allowed him to more deeply understand a different cultural paradigm for health care. This experience, he said, , catalyzed his career as a physician in ways that went above and beyond traditional medical education.

“Some functions are essential to medical school training, for example gross anatomy and biochemistry lectures. Traveling to another country to get an experience is not essential, but rather enriches the experience and can help us to become more rounded physicians with a global perspective. In today’s world, where many folks are trying to see only to their polarized special interest, it is even more important to train physicians who have a global perspective,” Dr. Bhavsar said. “Philanthropy is one way that can further that accomplishment.”

Through his gift to the School of Medicine, Dr. Bhavsar hopes to inspire future physicians and provide the means for them to gain a well-rounded understanding of both medicine and culture. His views are in keeping with the School of Medicine’s priorities, and he credits Wayne State with providing him an excellent clinical foundation.

“Wayne State is unique in that it has a very active, vibrant inner-city medical center, with excellent academic and particularly outstanding clinical exposure, and has one of the largest medical school classes in the country. It is placed to train medical students on how to become real physicians caring for real patients who take care of everyone, whether poor, rich, privileged or not,” he said.

Dr. Bhavsar’s perspective and his philanthropic support align with the School of Medicine’s four-part mission: high-quality medical education, clinical excellence, pioneering research and social accountability. As Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson, M.D., explained in his speech to the Association of American Medical Colleges, social accountability is an essential element for medical education. This new fundamental component of the mission speaks to the ways in which medical schools lead the charge in setting the example for students and physicians to learn how to properly care for their communities and better understand the cultural components of health.

Dr. Bhavsar and his wife — who trained as a glaucoma surgeon alongside President Wilson — believe strongly in the mission of the School of Medicine and hope that all future Wayne State physicians show compassion and high-quality care to all the patients they serve.

To learn more about how to support the School of Medicine and the International Clinical Experience program, please contact Jon Goldstein at jgoldste@med.wayne.edu or 313-577-3033.