Indian American ‘genuine giant’ in infectious diseases dies in India

Dr. Rajendra Kapila
Dr. Rajendra Kapila

Dr. Rajendra Kapila went to India amid a raging pandemic to help care for his family.

A distinguished Indian American doctor considered a “genuine giant in the field of infectious diseases” has died of Covid-19 in India where he went amid a raging pandemic to help care for his family.

Dr. Rajendra Kapila, 81, was a professor at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and was a founding member of the New Jersey Infectious Disease Society.

He died in India on April 28, nearly three weeks after testing positive for Covid-19, according to local media reports citing Kapila’s ex-wife, Dr. Bina Kapila.

READ: Indian American physician Sudheer Chauhan succumbs to covid-19 (May 21, 2020)

“Both Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and University Hospital are saddened by the untimely passing of Rajendra Kapila,” the university said in a statement.

“For 50 years, Dr. Kapila served as a foundational pillar of New Jersey Medical School, the Martland Hospital and University Hospital where he provided care to tens of thousands of patients and trained numerous generations of medical students, residents and fellows.”

“A genuine giant in the field of infectious diseases, Dr. Kapila was recognized world-wide and sought out for his legendary knowledge and extraordinary clinical acumen in diagnosing and treating the most complex infectious diseases,” Rutgers said.

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“Dr. Kapila founded the Division of Infectious Diseases and facilitated its continued and extraordinary growth and development into one of the leading infectious diseases programs in the country.”

“We salute his many accomplishments and extend our condolences to his family,” it said.

Dr Kapila had returned to India with wife Dr Deepti Saxena-Kapila in the last week of March and stayed in Ghaziabad, according to the Hindustan Times. He was supposed to fly back to US by second week of April but was admitted to Delhi’s Shanti Mukund Hospital where he died.

“For the last one year I have been working at a Covid-19 lab in New Jersey and had ensured a safe environment at home,” Dr Deepti, who specializes in microbiology told the Hindustan Times.

“It is ironic that we came to India for two weeks and he contracted it here,” she said noting Dr Kapila had got both doses of the Pfizer vaccine in the US.

READ: Mumbai-born chef Floyd Cardoz dies in New York of COVID-19 (March 25, 2020)

“Irony is he was infectious diseases doctor,” Rutgers stated. “So sad to know this. Looks like the vaccine may not be as effective with the new variants.”

According to his Rutgers Medical School biography, Kapila received his pre-medical degree from St. Xavier’s College in Calcutta, and his medical degree from the University of Delhi 1964.

After moving to the United States, he was an intern, resident and fellow at a hospital in Newark, New Jersey. Kapila received his UMDNJ University appointment in 1973 and University Hospital appointment in 1976.

He also received the Excellence in Teaching Award from UMDNJ, and Life Time Achievement award from the Department of Medicine.

READ: Covid-19: Indian American Physicians bearing brunt of pandemic (April 23, 2020)

The Weill Cornell Infectious Diseases Division called him “a true legend in” New York City’s infectious diseases community.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Dr. Rajendra Kapila, a true legend in the NYC ID community. He had such a wonderful presence at our ID intercity rounds with his incredible knowledge and sense of humor. He will be missed,” it stated.

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