Feb 14, 2024

Spreading the Temerty Medicine love: Deepa Kumar honours husband Imran Rasul with endowed gift supporting MD students

Alumni Profile, Alumni, Faculty & Staff, Giving
Rasul (left) stands in a white shirt, hugging Kumar (right) who has shoulder length dark hair and is wearing a yellow shirt.
Imran Rasul (MD ’96, PGME Gastroenterology ’01) (L) and Deepa Kumar (MD ’97, PGME Surgery ’02) (R) met during their undergrad at U of T.
By Emma Jones

Love is about giving for husband and wife duo Imran Rasul (MD ’96, PGME Gastroenterology ’01) and Deepa Kumar (MD ’97, PGME Surgery ’02).

Decades after first meeting as undergraduate students at the University of Toronto, their lives are much different — having gone from juggling board exams with call shifts and dreaming of the physicians they could be, to juggling schedules and extracurriculars for their three children with professional practices and dreaming of the world in which they could one day live.

In recognition of the support they showed each other throughout their educational and early-career journeys, Deepa recently established the Dr. Imran A. Rasul Award in Gastroenterology/Internal Medicine in her husband’s name. A gift from Deepa to Imran for his fiftieth birthday, this award will assist the next generation of internal medicine residents in perpetuity. 

Imran and Deepa sat down with Emma Jones to discuss how they navigated their medical training as a couple, their recent donation in support of students in Temerty Medicine’s MD Program, and how they now focus on amplifying their love for one another through giving.

How did you both meet?

Imran: We met through a common friend. One of my classmates in undergrad was a good family friend of Deepa’s growing up. The summer before she entered university, I saw her at a party he was hosting. I immediately thought “Oh! She's cute!”

I didn't speak to her then, but once classes started, our paths crossed again through U of T’s Indian Student Association. They would host evening social events — things at pubs and stuff like that. That’s when we started talking, in 1991.

At that point, I already knew I wanted to go into medicine. Deepa wasn’t sure what she wanted to do yet — she was a lot smarter than me, so she could have gone anywhere.

What was it like being in a relationship through medical training?

Imran: It comes with a lot of uncertainty. When you're in medical school, you have all these transition points in your life. Are you going to be in the same school? Are you going to be in the same city during your residencies and fellowships? I was also one year ahead of Deepa in medical school, so we couldn’t do what they call a ‘couple’s match’ where you pick residencies that are close to one other.  

Fortunately, we were both able to do our residencies and fellowships through U of T.

Deepa: Call schedules were certainly challenging. A lot of that work is out of your control in terms of your time commitment. You regularly work evenings and weekends. That was probably the hardest part. One of us was always on call or post call. Back then, there was also no such thing as a post-call day off, so you would work a solid 36 hours, come home and crash, and then you’d be up the next morning and gone. There could sometimes be three days before we would have a chance to have a conversation.

Imran: Eventually we got to a stage where we were both established here — I was in my GI fellowship and Deepa was in her surgical residency — so that’s when our lives felt stable enough to get married, which we did in 2000. Once we had kids, then we really had to juggle things. We started staggering our call shifts because we always wanted to make sure somebody was available at home.

I think, in some sense, both of us being in the same profession allowed us to be able to be more accepting of these challenges. If one of us was in a different profession, I think the sacrifices would be a bit harder to come to terms with.

Rasul, Imran stand with their three children in front of a mountain supplied
Kumar, Rasul and their three children.

How did you stay connected with these hectic work schedules?

Deepa: Planned vacations were really important. From very early on in our relationship, we enjoyed taking vacations and traveling because that was a way to separate from work and change our environment. We'd also meet over dinner. There was not a lot of cooking happening at that time of our lives — we ate out a lot. And we used to love eating out at a different restaurant every time, so we would use those times to catch up.

Imran asks a lot of questions (laughs). I'd have to be ready to answer a lot of questions over those meals because he hadn’t seen me for three days. He'd want to know everything.

Imran:  I'm the more talkative one in the relationship, but Deepa is a better listener than I am. What drew us closer together is that we intellectually shared the same sort of mindset. But we have different personalities. I'm a bit more hyper and she's a bit calmer. We balance each other out. At the end of the day, you need find someone that you get along with, who you respect and who you love.

Can you tell me a little bit about the endowed Dr. Imran A. Rasul Award in Gastroenterology/Internal Medicine you’ve recently established at Temerty Medicine?

Deepa: That was my 50th birthday present to Imran. I wanted to give him something that would continue to give forever through the endowment.

We kept the criteria fairly simple. We wanted it to be for someone graduating from Temerty Medicine’s MD Program who's entering internal medicine with an interest in gastroenterology. When you're graduating, you don't really know that's what you're going to do. But, because gastroenterology is such a core part of who Imran is, I wanted to make sure that that was incorporated into the award.

U of T has always been very generous with us — we’ve received bursaries over the years for financial assistance and other scholarships. I feel that this was an opportunity to return what we received during our education.

Imran: I was honored when Deepa told me about this gift. It’s very touching. I'm very proud of the education I received from U of T — from undergrad, right through medical school, residency, fellowship, everything. I feel very indebted to this school for giving us a really good opportunity in life. We worked hard for it, but we wouldn't be where we are today without the U of T Faculty of Medicine (now the Temerty Faculty of Medicine). It truly was an ideal gift.

We all approach philanthropy differently. What are your own personal philosophies for giving?

Deepa: I always knew it would be important for me to give back when I was able to. This gift that we set up is structured so there’s a legacy effect — so that even when we’re gone, we’re supporting future minds who are going to continue to educate, train and give back themselves. I also hope that this gift will inspire other people to consider doing their own form of giving.

Imran: Similarly, I also tend to focus in on giving to education programs. My family originally came from Bangladesh. I've helped establish some schools there and have contributed to funds that help educate people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford to attend school.

At this stage of our lives, we are fortunate enough that we can now start to think about more philanthropy. It's an extension of what we do as physicians. There’s only so much you need yourself — giving provides a certain sense of gratification that buying objects and material things doesn’t.