Posted on: March 22, 2021
Avinash Prasad, MD, was a gifted neurologist and epilepsy specialist at Hartford Hospital. Before turning to neurology, he was a neurosurgeon in the chaotic, urban jungle of Delhi, India, where among many other achievements, once saved a patient who was attacked by a Royal Bengal tiger. His roots were humble. He was born in Patna in the poorest, most-illiterate state in India – Bihar. But because he excelled in academics, he earned one scholarship after the next – to an all boys’ boarding school called Netarhat and then to medical school at the Institute of Medical Sciences in Varanasi. Varanasi is where people in India go to give birth and die, and it was on this holy ground that he met his wife Dr. Manju Prasad, who was also attending medical school. It was also in Varanasi that Dr. Prasad’s only daughter, Sonejuhi Sinha, was born. Dr. Prasad then moved to Delhi, where he completed a highly competitive neurosurgery residency at the All India Institute of Medical Science. In 1994, he moved from Delhi to a new urban jungle – New York City – to pursue a neurology residency at New York University, followed by a neurophysiology fellowship at the University of Virginia. He continued to discover the nooks and crannies of America when he was recruited as Assistant Professor of Neurology at the University of Alabama, finally settling at Hartford Hospital in 2004, where he remained until his demise. Medicine was an artform for Dr. Prasad. He believed in not just looking at test results and medical charts but in speaking and listening to patients and their families. Compassion and empathy were the tools he used more commonly than medical instruments. He believed his patients deserved the truth rather than false hope, and many of his patients became life-long friends. He loved patient care and teaching residents, winning the Best Teacher award at Hartford Hospital. Ironically, or perhaps as a result of twisted divine humor, he was afflicted by a rare neurological disease. He read his own MRIs and scans and knew precisely how the disease progressed. Even when his doctors painted an overly optimistic picture, he knew his sobering prognosis better than anyone.
Beyond the world of medicine, which he loved so dearly, he enjoyed traveling, photography, singing old Hindi songs out of tune and telling bad dad jokes. He was a staunch feminist and a dedicated vegetarian with a green thumb. But perhaps the thing that was most deeply at the core of his ethos was his commitment to service. From giving to the Black Lives Matter Movement to treating poor patients in rural India for free – he took “being of service” very seriously. He is survived by his medical school sweetheart and wife of 41 years, Dr. Manju Prasad, his only daughter, filmmaker Sonejuhi Sinha, his son-in-law and lawyer Aaron Bourke, and a two-year-old granddaughter Zia Sinha-Bourke, who inherited his expressive eyes and dark hair.
Dr. Prasad’s keen intellect carried him to the highest levels of his profession, yet his humility and his deep sense of ethics remained unshakeable. He was a star that will continue to burn brightly in our hearts. His legacy is perhaps best encapsulated by that immortal Neil Young line: It’s better to burn out than to fade away.
Avinash requested that in lieu of flowers or other gifts to the family, contributions should be made to Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres – MSF).