Fellowships Honor Families and Faculty

Physicians Ashvin Patel, A84, M88, and Mary Frates found the perfect opportunity to honor those who inspired their careers through establishing student research fellowships at the School of Medicine.
Portrait of two men and a woman standing outside, arms around one another

Spine surgeon Ashvin Patel, A84, M88 (center), pictured here with his parents, named two fellowships at the School of Medicine to honor their support of his pursuit of a medical career.

When radiologist Richard Frates, M55, spoke at conferences, he reveled in having X-rays at the ready. “Dad had a certain joy in holding on to a film with the answer until they asked him. Only then would he put it up on the view box and reveal what the answer was,” said his daughter, Mary C. Frates, MD, who followed her father into radiology.

Portraite of an older white male, gray hair and glasses, wearing a suit.

Richard Frates, M55, inspired his daughter Mary to follow him into radiology. After he passed away, she created a student research fellowship in his name at Tufts.

To honor her dad, who died in 2014, Mary Frates has established the Richard E. Frates, M.D., M55, Fellowship to support medical students who want to do summer research. She describes him as a dedicated physician and lifelong learner. After a Radiology residency at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, he completed advanced training in pediatrics and interventional radiology at Tufts-New England Medical Center. He went on to create the state’s first interventional radiology suite at Rhode Island Hospital. He headed that unit for 20 years before becoming Chief of Radiology at the Women & Infants Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island, retiring in 1998.

As a medical student, Mary did a two-week rotation in the department he created at Rhode Island Hospital, which led to a Radiology residency at Tufts-New England Medical Center followed by fellowship training at Brigham and Women’s and a career in Ultrasound at the Brigham. Her father would often attend her lectures at postgraduate courses and greatly enjoyed the opportunity to send up thought-provoking questions through the moderator, she said.

After Richard passed away, Mary and her family decided to use their inheritance to honor his love of learning and medicine. “My father firmly believed that most answers in the future are going to come out of the labs,” said Mary Frates, the Assistant Director of Ultrasound at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “We have to encourage med students so those who are inclined to do research have the support they need.”

And, she added, “I still love the fact that radiologists have a lot of answers.”

When he arrived in the United States at age 11, Ashvin Patel, A84, M88, didn’t speak English. His parents insisted that should not be a barrier to dreaming big.

“They said you should always try to reach for something you think you may not be able to get,” says Patel, who has established several fellowships at Tufts University School of Medicine.

In that spirit, Patel applied to the undergraduate program at Tufts University, where he received a crash course in English idioms and American culture from his roommates while earning a B.S. in biology. A research opportunity in the biology department proved particularly enlightening, he said, but “I realized I wasn’t patient enough [to do] research.”

Inspired by the 10 doctors in his family, Patel decided on medical school, graduating from Tufts in 1988. When he did his residency at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, one field in particular caught his interest: spine surgery.

“You’re constantly trying operations you haven’t done before and being challenged in new ways,” he says. “And there are visible, immediate results.”

Now a successful spine surgeon in Sarasota, Florida, Patel has established the Dr. and Mrs. Ishvarbhai S. Patel Fellowship for M.D. students pursuing orthopedic research. He did it to honor his parents, whose financial support and faith in him made his career possible.

Patel also created the Toby Wesselhoeft, M.D., Fellowship for students pursuing family medicine research, in memory of the big-hearted Tufts professor who inspired him to go into orthopedics.

“I hope [these fellowships] will help a student better define their career goals and have the opportunity to do all the things I’m able to do now,” Patel says.

Dean of Students Amy Kuhlik said that fellowships like the ones Ashvin Patel and Mary Frates have established provide valuable opportunities to students. “They help foster close relationships with faculty members, allow students to connect concepts from the classroom to real-life scientific inquiry, and often provide an important credential for students’ residency applications,” she says. “We know the students’ experiences have a lasting impact.”