In The News

Simi Valley Hospital Receives $1 Million Pledge for Expansion of Emergency Services

Simi Valley Hospital (SVH) has received a generous gift from two doctors who specialize in kidney disease. Dr. Kant Tucker and his wife Dr. Irma Harriman Thakkar have pledged one million dollars to Simi Valley Hospital. Hospital officials say this is the first million-dollar donation ever made to the Hospital and is one of the largest individual gifts pledged in the community. In recognition of this gift, Simi Valley Hospital will name the Emergency Department the “Thakkar Family Emergency Pavilion.”

“This incredible gift will help us expand our emergency services, which include the emergency department, cardiac services, surgical services, NICU and other life-saving departments,” said Darwin Remboldt, president and CEO for Simi Valley Hospital.

“We appreciate the leadership and commitment of Drs. Tucker and Harriman to Simi Valley Hospital, not only for their time and insight, but also with their demonstration of financial support.”

The story behind Dr. Kant Tucker is a remarkable one. He is a resourceful entrepreneur who started with nothing and now is a leader of one of the largest nephrology groups in Southern California and has several successful Kidney Dialysis centers. He recognized the business opportunities in the field of nephrology and developed a business model that brought him financial success while practicing medicine in a way that provides clinical benefit.

He was born and raised in India as Ushakant Thakkar at a time when his family was struggling financially. Once prosperous, the family business had collapsed due to a change in the laws and a devastating monsoon. He saw his parents and brothers juggle several jobs, and they moved from a house to a hotel.

Ushakant’s parents valued education. Despite their financial crisis, they made sure that their children’s education was not affected. Their values greatly influenced their youngest son and he applied himself to excelling in academics. As a teen, his heart was set on becoming an engineer and he eventually was accepted to India’s most elite school, the Indian Institute of Technology. At the end of his first year, India’s economy was in a recession, with the engineering field being particularly hurt. After speaking with family members, Ushakant decided to go into medicine instead of engineering. Earning high marks, he was accepted, with full scholarship, to the medical college – where he prepared for a career in internal medicine.

He came to the US with only $108 and stayed with a relative in New York. He sat on a bench in Battery Park and gazed up at the Statue of Liberty. Like in the books he read growing up in India, he was certain he felt the same feelings of exhilaration and promise that immigrants from Europe felt landing on Ellis Island. The sight of the huge statue had turned his planned ten minute visit into a two hour contemplation of what the future held. He had no prospects for work as a doctor. Two weeks later, he was mugged at knife and gunpoint and lost everything but a token for the subway. To make matters worse, he had missed an important appointment at St. Barnabas hospital in the Bronx. The next day, he called Dr. Larson, Director of Internal Medicine at St. Barnabas, told him what happened and was given another interview. After meeting him, Dr. Larson offered him a position – as an intern.

Ushakant worked hard and the next year he was accepted into an accredited program in Internal Medicine at the Jersey City Medical Center. He was working with doctors in the field of nephrology – a subspecialty of internal medicine which studies and treats disorders of the kidneys. The memory of a personal tragedy – his brother-in-law lost his life due to renal failure several years before – fueled a new interest in nephrology and thus became his area of expertise.

In 1978, he began a two-year fellowship in nephrology with the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine and VA Medical Center in the Bronx. He joined a research team and loved it. Working on his own he made some important discoveries, but was reprimanded by his superiors for unauthorized use of the lab. He continued his exhaustive research and his study was finally accepted and published by the prestigious Journal of Clinical Investigation. This incident taught him “to never ignore your ‘gut’ feelings and to not let anything stand in your way if you believe in something strongly.”

Ushakant next continued his research at the Sepulveda VA hospital in Los Angeles. In 1980 he became an Asst. Professor at the UCLA School of Medicine and was made Chief of Nephrology at the affiliated Olive View Medical Center. Again, fate intervened when he learned the county would soon be closing its dialysis centers as a cost-cutting measure.

At about this time, for the convenience of page operators he changed his name to Dr. Kant Tucker. In 1981 he started private practice in Simi Valley. Soon an emergency situation developed where a patient needed dialysis immediately. No local hospital had the equipment, so with the help of Mr. Jim Roberts, President of Simi Valley Hospital, Dr. Tucker arranged to buy a machine, which arrived that night, and he was able to provide the patient with dialysis. This was the first hemodialysis done in Simi Valley Hospital.

At that time, hemodialysis was a viable, life-saving treatment – but very expensive. Thousands of Americans die annually from End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD). In 1972, the federal government enacted a law extending Medicare coverage to anyone with ESRD regardless of age or financial situation. The funding resulted in more research in the field of renal disease. Today the US is the world leader in the treatment of chronic renal disease and the technology used in treatment.

In 1982, Dr. Tucker approached Simi Valley Hospital with the idea of building a chronic renal dialysis center across the street from the hospital. The hospital agreed to fund the project for 50% ownership and to sell their half back to Dr. Tucker at the end of five years. The Kidney Center of Simi Valley opened its doors in November 1985. In 5 years, Simi Valley Hospital’s $400,000 investment returned $4 million and they sold their half of the joint venture back to Dr. Tucker as promised.

Soon his medical practice was thriving, Dr. Irma Harriman joined him in practice and then in marriage. He started a new life with a new home he renovated to serve as headquarters for his growing business. With the help of his wife and extended family, new dialysis centers were established, more nephrologists joined his medical group and he continued to expand his business.

Kidney Center, Inc. was born, the head quarters moved from his garage to a modern facility in Simi Valley – offering management services to the medical group, chronic dialysis centers, acute inpatient hemodialysis-plasmapheresis business. Dr. Tucker has retained sole ownership of the corporation. His engineering interest was crucial in the construction and development of his centers. His vision for the future is to move to a disease-management paradigm. He continues to develop networks of physicians. His dream is to have state-of-the-art nephrology care centers in Southern California and beyond.

In February, the Simi Valley Hospital Foundation set a $3 million dollar fundraising goal for the emergency services & hospital expansion project and has received donations from within the hospital, from individuals, physician groups, vendors and others.

“Simi Valley Hospital has been an excellent medical resource for the community and the surrounding area. For the about 30 years that I have practiced in Simi Valley, the hospital has always supported and provided extraordinary facilities to attract the talent of well trained specialists and nurses in the community. I was a beneficiary of their generosity when the hospital helped me establish the first outpatient kidney dialysis center on Sycamore Drive. The Hospital is constantly adding to their outstanding medical-nursing staff and bringing modern infrastructure to our community,” said Ushakant Thakkar, “Kant Tucker” MD.

“On a personal note, my large extended family lives in Simi Valley and I have always brought my family and friends to the hospital for their medical needs. We have experienced outstanding care and services. I am grateful to the governing board and the administration of the hospital for constantly striving to create a medical center of excellence in my beloved Simi Valley. Nothing I give will ever match the generosity the hospital has offered me and the Thakkar Family,” said Dr. Tucker.

Strength in Partnership

Even with the tremendous financial support from Drs. Tucker and Harriman, it would be impossible for Simi Valley Hospital to expand without other indispensable contributions from many community partners and donors. Together, they create opportunities where none existed.

Simi Valley Hospital is pleased to also announce an additional $677,000 recently pledged from other donors. Donors include Simi Valley Hospital Volunteer Guild, The Medical Staff of Simi Valley Hospital, JJ&R Emergency Medical Group of California, Inc., Ted & Kathy Weiner, Simi Valley Anesthesia Medical Group, Darwin & Dr. Elisabeth Remboldt, Devenney Group, Ltd., Drs. Geoffrey Graham & Jonathan Nasseri, Sal & Caroline Esparza, Frank & Elsie Witman, Chaplain Ron Hyrchuk, Monica Berlin, Michelle Foster, Elaine Freeman, Leigh Nixon and Debi Schultze, Glendale Pathology Associates, Alta California Medical Group, Deane Wolcott, MD, The Beaman Family, Mark Newmyer, Mayor Paul & Connie Miller, Roy Parle, DDS, Richard Sanders and Valerie Thompson.

“While we are still in our “quiet phase” of the campaign, we are off to a great start with so many from our Hospital family generously giving to help us expand our emergency services,” said Richard Sanders, Chairman of the Board, Simi Valley Hospital Foundation.

Posted 7/26/10