MERCED — A local cardiologist has given UC Merced a $150,000 gift with the idea of helping graduates stay in the area after completing their degrees, and help improve and expand the community.
Dr. Vikram Lakireddy wants to continue his family's long tradition of giving back and donating to the community. The money will be used to establish The Dr. and Mrs. Lakireddy Innovation and Design Clinic Endowed Fund.
The clinic is a spring semester-long program that allows senior engineering students to find solutions to problems that local businesses and nonprofits face.
By working with businesses and nonprofits, students get to understand the agencies' needs, then use their engineering experience in applying their knowledge to solve problems, said Daniel Hirleman, dean of the School of Engineering at UC Merced. The funds also will allow more nonprofits to participate in the program.
"This is a unique experience for our students," he said.
It gives the students the opportunity to become entrepreneurs. Students in last spring's program developed projects including a unique valve that improves how medications are administered into veins. It's already in use with infants at Children's Hospital Central California near Madera, according to university officials.
"I think it also helps the local businesses, too," Lakireddy said. "Local businesses have real problems that need to be solved."
Sometimes businesses may not have the time, money and research resources to undertake important project, Hirleman said. And it's better for the students when someone cares about the project they are working on, he added.
The program creates the potential for students to become employed locally or even start their own businesses in the area and help create jobs. Graduates tend to stay in the area if there are opportunities available for them, Lakireddy said.
"I don't want great ideas to move away," he said. "That's where I see Merced growing -- keeping these kind of positive ideas locally."
Having more students remain after graduation can gradually help improve the community, Lakireddy said. "I don't expect to see overnight changes in Merced, but when you look back 15, 20 years, what I would like to see, is slow but incremental changes in improving our local community, including creating businesses and jobs."
Hirleman said having an internship is a very important way to enable graduates to to hit "the ground running" in their first career. "This is along those lines," he said about the hand-on experience students will be able to gain.
Lakireddy, who returned to practice in Merced in 2009, said Merced is the town where he grew up, and he wants to see it grow the right way. His father, Dr. Hanimireddy Lakireddy, a well-known cardiologist locally, has been funding scholarships at Merced High since the early 1990s. He donated money for the Lakireddy Auditorium at UC Merced, he said.
"I think that's a reflection on how much we care about the town and our community," Vikram Lakireddy said. "That we are local people helping the town."
Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 385-2482 or firstname.lastname@example.org.