At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Nandy and Shobana Nandakumar were struck by the Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s quick efforts to contain the virus and keep patients, physicians and staff safe. The longtime patients called the PAMF philanthropy department to see how they could help, and within two days, they’d made a significant cash gift.
The Nandakumars’ efforts didn’t stop there. They immediately began calling on close friends to ask them to donate too. Ultimately, they convinced two other friends to follow their lead and give to PAMF’s COVID-19 response efforts.
“We saw the pandemic put so much stress on frontline workers and physicians, and we knew we should help them serve the community effectively and efficiently,” Nandy explains. “For much of our personal giving, I reach out to others for contributions so we can make a bigger impact.”
Close Ties to PAMF
Since the Nandakumars moved to the Bay Area 28 years ago, PAMF has provided all of the family’s healthcare. “We had an immediate connection with our primary care physician, Dr. Anu Kottapalli,” Shobana says. “She saw our son grow from a small boy, and she made all three of us feel comfortable in her care.”
More recently, Shobana underwent two ankle surgeries, beginning during a break from her 24-year teaching career with the Cupertino Union School District. Both surgeries were performed by podiatrist Nicholas Bolognini, M.D. “He is an amazing doctor with great bedside manner,” Shobana says. “He made me feel at ease before and after each surgery.”
Along with the patient connection, Nandy’s work has also intersected with PAMF. As partner at Sand Hill Construction Management, he oversaw the construction of the Los Gatos Center in 2014. Currently, he is leading a unique project to transform the former Vallco Shopping Mall in Cupertino into a 55-acre mixed-use development. It will include retail, 2,400 residences and 2 million square feet of office space, plus 30 acres of green space on top of the buildings that will create three miles of trails and plenty of open areas for the community to enjoy.
Tradition of Medicine
Also driving their desire to support PAMF, medicine is deeply rooted in both Nandy’s and Shobana’s families. Their grandfathers were both pioneering doctors in their communities near Chennai, India. Nandy’s grandfather made house calls throughout the region and brought many patients back to his clinic for free treatments. His uncle and brother were also doctors. While his brother has stopped practicing due to worsening multiple sclerosis, he worked for 30 years beyond his diagnosis and still consults with the Indian government to help provide MS services to the underserved and underinsured.
As for Shobana’s grandfather, he practiced medicine until he was 89 years old while her father, also a physician, worked until age 78. Her brother and nephew, both based in the U.S., followed in the family’s medical tradition as well.
Clearly, enjoying long, healthy, productive lives is another family trait — one that Nandy and Shobana aim to continue, thanks in part to the excellent care they receive from PAMF. Nandy’s parents are in their 80s and 90s while Shobana’s mother is in her 80s.
Before the COVID-19 crisis put the brakes on international travel, Nandy would fly around the world, literally, every other month to visit his parents and Shobana’s mom. He’d travel from California to New York to Europe to the Middle East to India before routing back through the Middle East on his way home. As a couple, they enjoy visiting different countries and learning about new cultures, but the first thing they are both eager to do once the pandemic ends is reconnect with their parents in person.
Families Helping Families
The Nandakumars’ multiple connections to PAMF and their firsthand knowledge of healthcare providers’ difficult jobs left no doubt that giving to our organization was a meaningful way for them to serve their community. “We believe that charity begins at home,” Shobana says. “We believe our God uses us as a vehicle to help others, our community and organizations whenever the need arises.”
Thanks to the couple’s generosity — and their efforts to rally others to support caregivers — PAMF is better able to care for patients and their families, both during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
“We are so moved by generous donors like the Nandakumars,” says Raya Elias-Petros, vice president of philanthropy for Sutter Health Bay Area. “They treat us like family while giving us the honor of keeping their family healthy.”