Dr. Babu Prasad’s recent $1 million donation to the HSHS St. John’s Foundation for the neonatal intensive-care unit (NICU) at St. John’s Children’s Hospital is his love letter to the hospital and community.
“I am giving back to a hospital, a community and a country that I dearly love,” Prasad said Thursday at a press conference at the hospital. “Springfield is a beautiful city and a wonderful place to live. I gave this contribution because I want Springfield to continue to grow, to bring new jobs here and to build upon the excellent medical community and medical services that we all enjoy.
“Children are our future, so I wanted to direct my gift to the neonatal intensive care unit to give the babies a healthy start to their lives.”
Dr. Babu Prasad came to the United States in 1971 after graduating from medical school in India with no money. But Prasad became a successful anesthesiologist, including an 18-year stay at HSHS St. John’s Hospital, where he retired in 2004.
Prasad joined St. John’s in 1986. He still works two weeks per month at Interventional Pain Management Specialist in Carterville, Ill.
In October, St. John’s began a $19 million renovation and expansion of the NICU to provide single-family patient rooms for premature and critically-ill infants.
The project will more than double the size of the NICU, taking it from 15,000 square feet to 36,500. It will open in February.
Each year, approximately 2,000 babies are born at St. John’s Children’s Hospital. The NICU cares for about 700 babies annually from a 35-county area.
“Dr. Prasad’s gift is a beautiful testament as to who he is as a person,” said Beverly Neisler, chief development officer for the HSHS St. John’s Foundation. “He is a generous and kind man who has built a successful life through his hard work, dedication and determination.
“Today, St. John’s and our most vulnerable patients are benefiting from his generosity. It’s a wonderful day for St. John’s Children’s.
“He means so much to all of us.” Neisler said Prasad has been “a consistent donor” of the NICU. “He wanted to make a difference for Springfield and he wanted to make a difference for St. John’s,” Neisler added. “He has a real heart for babies and we’re delighted that he does.”
“Donors, like Dr. Prasad, make all the difference by giving so generously to provide exceptional care and comfort to our most vulnerable patients,” said E.J. Kuiper, president and chief executive officer of HSHS Illinois.
Dr. Beau Batton, director of newborn services at St. John’s Children’s, pointed out that the hospital was one of the first in the state to have a unit dedicated to the exclusive care of premature babies.
“The NICU renovation, made possible through generous contributions, like of those of Dr. Prasad, will allow St. John’s to remain in the forefront of innovative, high quality care,” Batton said.
Prasad called coming to the U.S. nearly 50 years “a golden opportunity. “It felt like heaven,” he added. “There was no comparison to India in the 1970s.”
Prasad passed an exam given by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) that granted him a residency in the U.S. “It was the first time I saw TV,” said Prasad, who was 24 when he came to the U.S.
Prasad first worked in Canton, Ohio, before moving to the University of Illinois Chicago, where he completed his anesthesiology residency. He practiced for 10 years in Alabama before coming to Springfield. Prasad has three children, including two daughters who followed him into medicine, and six grandchildren.
“I was so pleased this project came up and I was able to do it,” Prasad said. “Those who can afford it have to step in and contribute. “I was amazed. This place looks beautiful. Springfield has the best medical community in the country.”