Once a dream, now a reality

SUNY Poly alums/adjuncts open medical clinic in Syracuse

Bikash and Kumari Regmi’s passion for the medical field was ignited thousands of miles away from Caring Family Health, a clinic they recently opened in the Syracuse area.

At a young age, both left their native Bhutan, and spent the next 17 years in Nepal refugee camps.

“Many lives were lost due to the absence of basic medical care,” Bikash expressed. “In the US, we have access to primary healthcare services like immunizations and regular check-ups to monitor our health. However, in the refugee camp, such facilities were non-existent, and sanitation was inadequate. We always carried the belief that we could make a difference. Upon arriving in the United States, we were determined to turn that dream into a tangible reality.”

A young Bikash and his family when they were in a refugee camp in Nepal.

The couple, now married, didn’t meet until both of their families relocated to Syracuse. Their paths in education were nearly identical, aside from Bikash being a year ahead. They both attended St. Elizabeth’s School of Nursing before transitioning to SUNY Poly, where Bikash went through the accelerated BS/MS in Family Nurse Practitioner program. Kumari completed the traditional BS/MS program at SUNY Poly. Bikash and Kumari, in addition to working full-time, are currently adjunct professors in SUNY Poly’s nursing department, and Bikash intends to complete PhD programs in the near future.

Bikash (left), Kumari and their children.

As SUNY Poly students, they took a class with Professor of Anthropology Dr. Kathryn Stam, who is very active at the Midtown Utica Community Center (MUCC). Given their history and ability to relate with the experiences of the refugees who utilize MUCC, Bikash and Kumari have both volunteered their time interpreting and with various medical efforts there. They’ve also established a scholarship, in collaboration with MUCC, to help others achieve their dreams.

“Bikash and Kumari are truly impressive, both individually and as a couple that support each other in the name of helping others,” said Dr. Stam. “I had each of them as students in anthropology and they stood out immediately as people with a larger vision in mind of peace and justice. It is no surprise that they have won so many awards and been honored widely. They came from such a prolonged and difficult situation in Bhutan and then Nepal, and arrived in the United States ready to get the best education they possibly could so they could give back to the country that welcomed them.”

“I was very moved when they set up a scholarship for refugee students in the health fields,” Dr. Stam continued. “In the ten years that I have known them, they have always worked selflessly towards the most effective ways to help their communities, honor their Nepali and Bhutanese cultures, and grow as people and as a family. Our SUNY Poly and Utica communities think the world of them.”

Kumari (far left) and Bikash (second from right) established a scholarship in partnership with MUCC.

Kumari noted that when her and Bikash met, they wanted to do something to better healthcare options for local refugees, as well as the Syracuse community where they reside. With their involvement at MUCC, and now with the opening of Caring Family Health, they’ve done just that.

Bikash said the idea behind Caring Family Health was born from a deep-rooted belief in the power of compassion and the importance of family values.

He explained that, on average, Onondaga County has approximately 92 providers per 100,000 people, according to the NYS Community Health Indicator Reports, which he said underscores the “significant need” for primary care services.

“The demand for primary care providers has reached a critical level, with many not accepting new patients,” he said. “Consequently, individuals find themselves compelled to choose urgent care centers or emergency rooms as their primary care facilities.”

Bikash adds that by establishing a primary care office and providing comprehensive care within their community, there is potential to yield substantial cost savings in Medicaid and Medicare expenditures.

“Additionally, this approach ensures that individuals with acute healthcare needs can receive timely and appropriate treatment in emergency rooms and urgent care centers,” Bikash explains, “relieving some of the burden on these critical healthcare facilities.”

The response since their early September opening has been tremendous, as Bikash already had a case load of over 300 patients. He currently runs the practice, but there are plans for Kumari to join in future as patient volume grows.

Syracuse Mayor declared the clinic’s opening date as Nurse Practitioner Day in the City.

Moreover, Bikash and Kumari’s dedication to equal access to healthcare has not only been recognized by many but also resulted in the proclamation of September 6 as Nurse Practitioner (NP) Day in Syracuse, NY, a significant milestone that highlights their positive impact on the community and emphasizes their unwavering commitment to improving healthcare accessibility for all.

“We’re so thankful for SUNY Poly,” said Kumari. “We learned so much from our professors that we’ve been able to put into practice.”

Bikash echoed those sentiments, thanking his advisor, Associate Professor of Nursing Louise Dean-Kelly, and all of the teachers he and Kumar had, including Dr. Stam, for their support.

 “SUNY Poly has given us a platform to make our dream a reality.”