By: Shelby Lawson
In 2018, Mitul Patel and his wife, Aditi Patel, got married and were looking to start a family when they first experienced issues with infertility. Over the course of two years and various doctor’s appointments, Patel says they were surprised by the lack of research and options addressing infertility. The couple was overjoyed when Aditi finally became pregnant, and they began preparing for life with their new son, until tragedy struck at 37 weeks, when Patel says a true umbilical knot took his son’s life. Currently, there is no medical technology that allows umbilical knots to be detected early enough.
“In a moment we went from excitement to devastation,” said Patel. “In hindsight, I think we were naively going through that process as if nothing could go wrong, because it doesn't go wrong for too many people, and when it does, you often don't hear about it.”
Afterwards he says many people started opening up to them about their own infertility journeys, pregnancy complications, and issues in women’s health that they had experienced. After multiple conversations with friends, universities, and hospitals, Patel realized there was a critical lack of research and innovation in the area of women’s health.
“When you peel back every women's health disease or concern or issue, it's the same thing no matter where you look, whether it's pharmaceuticals, clinical trials, or tracking the health of women and pregnancies. It really is just abysmal, the lack of research compared to other areas.”
It was then that Patel decided to start the Aarush M. Patel Foundation, named after their late son, in order to fund more research on maternal-fetal medicine and fertility, and change the landscape of women’s healthcare. Patel’s entrepreneurial background allowed him to assemble a team and create the foundation within just 3 months. The goal of the foundation is to inspire new technologies and techniques that can improve women’s health and bolster pregnancy outcomes, and ultimately prevent other families from suffering the same loss that they did.
The foundation just donated a $100,000 award to Patel’s alma matter, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, towards research on fertility and miscarriages. Specifically, the fellowship will support one Master’s or Ph.D. student in their studies on the effects of different external factors on implantation failure. Patel hopes the research will provide new insights as to why some people have more difficulty becoming pregnant compared to others, and can be used to improve fertility treatments in the future. The research will be conducted at the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology as part of the Environmental Impact on Reproductive Health theme.
“This is just obviously just one topic amongst a million in women’s health that need to be researched,” said Patel. “But we're just getting started, and we hope to be able to double, triple, quadruple that gift year over year as we continue growing our foundation, increasing our fundraising, and getting more people to join in.”
The foundation has also recently pledged $50,000 to Northwestern Feinburg School towards research on improving fertility outcomes and providing emotional support to parents. Patel says they also started distributing care packages to hospitals in Illinois to give to post-partum families after fetal loss, as a way to support them during times of uncertainty and grief. The foundation ultimately hopes to inspire research into less-explored areas of women’s health, and spark more conversations surrounding the current state of women’s health and medicine. Patel says the foundation is also a way to make a legacy for his son, Aarush.
“Our son’s name, Aarush, means the first light at dawn,” Patel explained. “Our foundation’s website, sunshineson.com, reflects this, as it could be read as Sun Shines On and Sunshine Son depending on how you want to interpret it. It’s meant to be inspirational, and a way to make a name for my son who can’t make a name for himself. By naming the foundation after him, it’s my hope that over the course of my life his name reaches further than mine, and leaves that legacy.”
The foundation holds many events to raise money for research, including golf outings which draw in many participants. The foundation’s 2nd annual golf outing in Lemont, Illinois is coming up on June 30th, and everyone is invited to attend. The golfing event will be held at the Cog Hill Golf and Country Club, followed by a reception and raffle drawing.
More information about the Aarush M. Patel Foundation’s initiatives and upcoming events, as well as how to donate, can be found on their website: https://sunshineson.com/.
By: Shelby Lawson