Suniti Solomon, 76, of Chennai, India, died July 28, 2015. Globally renowned as the pioneering force in India for treating people with HIV and slowing the rate of infection in that country, Solomon worked closely with Alpert Medical School faculty and students for more than two decades. For her achievements, Brown honored her with a Doctor of Medical Science degree in 2006.
The growth of a tiny clinic with an earthen floor and one examining table to a large in- and outpatient medical center, the YRG Care facility in Chennai, “is all Suniti,” says Susan Cu-Uvin, MD, director of the Brown Global Health Initiative and professor of obstetrics and gynecology and of medicine. Cu-Uvin recalls how Solomon was driven by her embarrassment about how the Indian government was treating HIV issues and patients when the epidemic was first discovered. Solomon also was active in education efforts and worked to break down the stigma of AIDS.
Through a grant from the NIH’s Fogarty International Center and other sources, many doctors from Solomon’s center were able to come to Brown for training. Alpert Medical School faculty and students regularly went to work at YRG Care. “It’s been great bilaterally,” says Charles C.J. Carpenter, MD, professor of medicine and former director of the Lifespan/Tufts/Brown Center for AIDS Research. “She has developed a program that is remarkable and has made a huge difference.”
Rami Kantor, MD, associate professor of medicine (infectious diseases), traveled to YRG Care many times and says Solomon “was a tremendously impressive lady, with unlimited energy, wisdom, and almost visible power.” Of her partnership with Brown, he says, “She greatly valued the clinical care teachings, the research, and the technology transfers that occurred through the years and resulted in numerous publications in the medical literature, new generations of YRG Care students and physicians, and most importantly, better care for HIV-infected patients.”
“She quite simply transformed me, changing the way I view medicine and scientific research,” says Kartik Venkatesh ’06 PhD’11 MD’13, an ob/gyn resident at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “For many of us who were fortunate to have trained under her guidance, we frankly wouldn’t be who we are today: physicians and researchers always aiming for socially and culturally relevant care.”
Solomon’s work, including active collaboration with Brown, is continuing at YRG Care through the leadership of her son, Sunil, and other colleagues.