School of Medicine

The Bera Family Legacy: Education is a gift of a lifetime

The Bera Family
“We solidly believe that higher education is the key to success in life. No matter what the situation, you can always survive if you are educated,” the Bera Family, pictured above including six UCI alumni and current medical school students.

Believing that education is a prerequisite for success along with a strong desire to improve the lives of others is the foundation of the Bera family legacy. Coming from the most humble beginnings in a small village in Gomta and Vadodara, India, Kanta and Babulal Bera would spend their entire lives living out this philosophy and inspire their children to do the same.

Together, they immigrated to the United States more than 60 years ago to pursue higher education and make a better life for their family. They raised three sons while working several jobs and obtaining master’s degrees. They raised their children to make a difference in the world, to wholeheartedly value education, and to look for ways to help those who were underprivileged and marginalized. Today, the Bera family has a longstanding history as champions of education and activism with a deep commitment to community service.

The Bera family has a long and meaningful history and connection to the UCI School of Medicine, with two generations of family members having attended the medical school. This past spring, with a desire to improve education and healthcare in communities with few resources as well as recognizing the need to bring richer educational opportunities to UCI medical students, the Bera family gave a gift of $100,000 to the UCI School of Medicine Summer Travel Program to support students to work in Rajkot, India—the largest gift ever received for this program. For decades, students in the program have traveled to underserved areas across the globe to share knowledge with local medical providers, implement socioeconomically and culturally appropriate biomedical technologies, and conduct novel research. This generous gift ensures that every UCI medical student participating in the upcoming India program will be fully supported.

Rajkot is a special place for the Bera family. As a young girl, Kanta broke barriers by becoming the first girl in her village to attend middle school there. Inspired by her childhood struggles, Kanta and Babulal founded an all-girls school in Gondal near Rajkot in 2000, complete with a boarding facility for underprivileged students. They also established an all-purpose community hall nearby, which is used for social events and weddings for families that otherwise would not have the means.

Now with their gift to the UCI School of Medicine, they are supporting efforts to transform health and wellness in Rajkot and the surrounding area. This generous gift is just one way the Bera family has touched the lives of countless individuals on a global scale by “paying forward” the gift of education.

Building a Bridge to Education in the United States

With small children in tow, Kanta and Babulal immigrated to the United States in the late 1950s. Babulal studied chemical engineering at USC in Los Angeles. Kanta began pursuing a master’s degree in education at Cal State Los Angeles to become an elementary school teacher. They soon became U.S. citizens.

Even with their busy schedule and the added pressure of raising three young sons in a new country, the Bera family never wavered from their principles and stayed committed to serving others whenever possible. They sponsored immigrants from across India and Africa who came to settle in the United States as students to pursue their dreams of achieving a higher education. Originally opening their doors to close family and friends, the Bera family home soon became a transit point for nearly 300 students, many of them pursuing careers in the field of medicine and who are now practitioners in the United States today.

Their son Rimal Bera, MD and Clinical Professor of Psychiatry & Human Behavior at the UCI School of Medicine, remembers the impact that unique time had on him as a child. “It was not uncommon to have up to ten students staying with us at a time. Here I am five or six years old, and new people are always coming into the home. That was the norm growing up. It was quite satisfying to see them all save their money for tuition, books and rent. Many have gone on to have very successful careers and businesses and are living the American dream in their own right.”

Babulal and Kanta also instilled a love of learning in their three sons, Rajesh, Rimal and Amerish. They carried on their parent’s mission to value higher education through their own families and personal successes.

Rajesh earned a bachelor’s degree in finance and economics from UC Berkeley and his MBA from USC. He went on to develop many successful businesses throughout Southern California and both of his daughters are physicians. His oldest daughter, Sabina, is a faculty member at the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medicine and younger daughter, Risha, graduated from UCI School of Medicine in 2017 and is in her fellowship at Cedars-Sinai.

Rimal earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from the UCI, and his medical degree from the UCI School of Medicine in 1987. He also completed his psychiatry residency at UCI as well. His older son Kevin is a current fourth year medical student at UCI and the co-president of his class and his younger son Kishen is pursuing his Master of Public Health at UCI, while currently applying to medical school.

Amerish earned a bachelor's degree in biological sciences from UCI and graduated from the UCI School of Medicine in 1991. In 2012, he was elected as the U.S. Representative for California's 7th congressional district and has been re-elected four times since then. As the only UC physician ever elected to Congress he is an advocate for implementing changes in healthcare and education, and has developed unique models of care that pertain to cost effectiveness and primary care.

All three son’s wives have also understood the importance of higher education and community service and became leaders in their respective fields. Rajesh’s wife Rekha has been a senior clinical pharmacist for Kaiser Permanente, Rimal’s wife Tuhina is a senior engineer for Northrup Grumman and Amerish’s wife, Janine, is a physician and medical director for WellSpace Sacramento.

Making a Difference with Team India

After 32 years of teaching, raising a beautiful family, and tirelessly working to better her community, Kanta still had a mission she vowed to carry out. A true visionary and pioneer for women’s advancement, she wanted to break barriers for underprivileged girls from small villages across India with the establishment of a progressive all-girls school. With Babulal’s full support they set out to acquire funding for what seemed like a huge undertaking.

Their dream finally came to fruition in 2000. Made possible through philanthropic funding, the Vidyalay (K.B. Bera) school, in Gondal, India, 20 miles from Rajkot, was established. The school provides full housing and education for 600 underprivileged girls, grades K-12, who come from underserved villages in the surrounding area.

Now, with their generous gift to the UCI School of Medicine, the Bera family legacy is coming full circle.  As part of the Summer Travel Program, UCI medical students will visit the school on a weekly basis, make meaningful connections with the students and teach them about public health policy, preventive care and careers in health-related fields.

Additionally, medical students will collaborate with local clinics and hospitals. Under the leadership of a faculty advisor, UCI medical students will dedicate their time to helping rectify healthcare disparities in Rajkot. Students will work alongside local medical providers and use their ultrasound training and medical expertise to provide healthcare to those with a wide-range of conditions, including anemia, cancer, hypertension, diabetes and more.

This life changing and culturally enriching experience will help shape the next generation of physicians to practice medicine with greater empathy, humility and a shared sense of responsibility to give back to the community. Dr. Rimal Bera believes the experience will give first-year medical students a deeper understanding and appreciation for the field of medicine beyond just their practice.

“The patient care is the easiest part of medicine. It's the other things that come with that, the responsibilities to your community, to your family, to people outside your community, and being a voice to legislators and decision makers. We have big voices as physicians that I don't think any other profession has. And imparting that to students at the onset of their education and career will not only lead to a richer experience of medical education at UCI but inspire them to more creative contributions after graduating,” Rimal Bera says.

A Legacy That Lives On

Sadly, Kanta passed away in 2018, but her family’s work ensures that her legacy lives on through education, activism, leadership and philanthropy.

Her son, Dr. Rimal Bera reflects on their continued work in Rajkot, “I think an experience like this, especially as you get older, and you contemplate what is important in your life, you really reflect on the interpersonal connections you've made. And I believe this kind of opportunity, without question, will be something that students will look back on at times and remember the personal connections that were so meaningful—the child they saw in the clinic; the elderly person that is having difficulty finding treatment in India, that they are now able to successfully treat; the students at the all-girls school they have the opportunity to inspire. It’s these impactful, interpersonal connections that will enrich their lives. It’s these moments that will put things into perspective.”