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Couple endows scholarship to put dreams in reach for YSPH students

Dr. Subasree Srinivasan, MPH ’98, is in her dream job. She serves as medical director of the Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership (GARDP), a nonprofit seeking to develop and make widely accessible antibiotics effective against drug-resistant infections. But her education and career both encountered detours. Together with her husband, she established the Subasree Srinivasan, MD, '98 MPH, and Sunil D’Cunha, MD, FACP Scholarship Fund to give future students the opportunity to follow a more direct path to their own dreams.

When Srinivasan was working toward her degree, she became pregnant with the first of the couple’s three children. She had to take extra time to finish her studies, but because of her immigration status (She had earned her MD in her native India), she did not qualify for most subsidized loans and grants. After graduation from the Yale School of Public Health (YSPH), the infectious disease specialist cared for patients with HIV and Hepatitis C in community health centers. D’Cunha practiced in similar settings and concentrated on racial and economic disparities in health and diabetes.

Realizing they couldn’t maintain public service careers and still put three children through college, Srinivasan made the hard choice to work in the industry for more than a decade. “I know that many people cannot sustain a career in public health because of loan obligations,” she said. “We wanted to endow a scholarship to support the next generation of public health leaders.”

An anonymous donor has added a match for all endowed scholarship contributions to YSPH. That donor expressed sentiments much like Srinivasan’s. “YSPH students should be able to accept their dream jobs upon graduation without worry about how they can pay down so much student debt,” the donor said. “Endowed scholarship funds can enable this and launch these amazing students quickly into the public health careers that so desperately need their help.”

Several donors have taken advantage of the match, which puts scholarship creation within reach of many alumni. Generally, starting a scholarship requires a gift of $50,000. With the match, a donor can create a scholarship with a $25,000 gift – and that can be spread over five years.

Similarly, thanks to a new $50 million challenge from the University, all commitments to endowed funds at YSPH will be amplified: For every gift committed to a YSPH endowed fund between July 1, 2021, and June 30, 2026, the university will transfer an identical dollar amount directly into the school’s endowment. The earnings from these unrestricted, endowed funds will then become available for the school’s new dean to use at their discretion to advance top priority goals.

The pandemic brought home the need for a robust public health workforce to Srinivasan and D’Cunha. When the Covid-19 outbreak began, D’Cunha was serving as Chief Medical Officer of the Charter Oak Health Center in Hartford, where he saw wide racial and ethnic disparities in the people contracting and dying from Covid. Now he is medical director of New Britain Hospital’s outpatient clinic and also teaches University of Connecticut medical residents.

“We both want to get more involved with students, to talk with them and to inspire their careers,” Srinivasan said. With the establishment of their scholarship, the couple will also make it possible for more public health students to go where the inspiration takes them.