A memorial scholarship, a fellowship and an endowed fund have been established in the name of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) pediatric doctor Melissa Ketunuti, who was found strangled, her body burned in the basement of her home one year ago today.
It was a crime that shocked the region. Ketunuti, a 35 year-old native of Thailand, lived alone in her apartment on the 1700 block of Naudain Street in the Graduate Hospital neighborhood of the city. She was found by police with her hands and feet bound, rope around her neck, and her body in flames, on January 21, 2013. Police said they believed Ketunuti had been strangled and then set on fire.
Ketunuti came to the United States from Thailand in 1995 to attend Amherst College. She graduated from Amherst in 1999 with a degree in neuroscience. She continued her education at Washington University in St. Louis, and later transferred to the Stanford School of Medicine.
A scholarship win in 2005 afforded Ketunuti the opportunity to spend 10 months in Botswana where she did research on HIV. This trip, friends said, fueled Ketunuti's passion for international medicine.
Melissa's college roommates from Amherst established The Melissa Ketunuti Basselier Memorial Scholarship last summer. The scholarship was created to help international students with a financial need and an interest in science.
Ketunuti's longtime friend and Amherst College roommate, Manisha Pai said she hopes the scholarship will "honor Melissa's memory and help continue her passions for science, medicine and the care of children in Africa."
Ketunuti had worked at CHOP for five years, having first served as a resident in the Department of Pediatrics. She was in her second year in CHOP's pediatric infectious diseases fellowship program when she was killed. Following the fellowship, Ketunuti had planned to return to Botswana to help children with HIV and AIDS.
The CHOP Foundation board establish two funds in Ketunuti's name. The Melissa Ketunuti Endowed Fellowship in Infectious Diseases and Global Health will be used to support other fellows' endeavors in infectious diseases, global health, or related fields of study. A second fund, the Melissa Ketunuti Basselier, M.D., Endowed Fund for Pediatric Health in Africa is administered by the CHOP Global Health Department and would help defray costs for CHOP residents-in-training that are studying global health. Donated funds will be used to pay for medicine treatment, HIV research, pediatric surgery, and research of tuberculosis and related diseases in pediatric populations in Africa.
According to Pai, Ketunuti's parents are in Thailand, and are still grieving the loss of their daughter. With the help of a Philadelphia attorney, her parents receive notifications every time a contribution is made to either of the CHOP funds in Ketunuti's name.
There are three ways to donate to the CHOP funds for Ketunuti:
Members of the public can contribute to the Amherst College memorial scholarship for Ketunuti online by indicating that their donation is for the 'Melissa Ketuniti '99 Memorial Fund.'