Volunteer Mukund Acharya forges an encore career in service

January 2024

After four decades in aerospace, Mission Hospice volunteer Mukund Acharya is on what he calls his “encore career” – one that is particularly personal. A former professor, scientist, researcher, and scholar working in government labs, academia, and industry, Mukund found a new path after caring for his wife Sandhya in her final years.

Mukund and SandhyaThe two met as teenagers in Bombay and married in 1974 after Mukund had moved to the Bay Area for graduate school. Early in their marriage, they returned to India to help Mukund’s mother care for his dad in his final years of life. After Mukund’s dad passed, the globe-hopping family (now with a young son) followed Mukund’s career to Switzerland, Chicago, and Arizona before finally returning to the Bay Area.

Mukund says their lives changed in 2010 when a mammogram revealed Sandhya had an aggressive form of breast cancer. Radiation and chemotherapy treatment followed, and Mukund eventually became Sandhya’s primary caregiver.

“She was an amazing person,” he remembers. “She had a quiet strength and incredible grace. Her constant thoughts when she was ill were about others, especially family.”

He said this caregiving experience was eye-opening. “We learned together to navigate the chaos and complexity of the medical system. I learned how to provide care and comfort. Our journey together the last several years was extremely personal – it left a real mark on my life and the way I thought about things.”

Just after they celebrated their 39th wedding anniversary and years of remission, they learned that Sandhya’s cancer had not only returned, but metastasized. She entered hospice care and Mukund cared for her until her final breath in July 2014. “We had a wonderful life,” he says.

After Sandhya’s death, Mukund says he did “a lot of soul searching,” and decided he wanted to find a way “to give back meaningfully based on my experience.”

Mukund and familyThis second career has been just as ambitious as his first. Mukund volunteers once a week at Stanford Hospital, working alongside their chaplains to provide care and comfort to people of Hindu and Sikh faiths. He is a member of the Founding Patient-Family Advisory Council, which helps Stanford evaluate care from patients’ perspectives. He’s a certified balance coach and writes a monthly health/wellbeing article for the award-winning publication India Currents.

As if this weren’t enough, he cofounded Sukham, a nonprofit that promotes healthy aging, living well, and preparing for life’s transitions, particularly focused on the Bay Area’s South Asian community.

Perhaps the most personal of Mukund’s good deeds is the organization he founded as a legacy for his wife. Sandhya’s Touch focuses on quality of life for those dealing with chronic or serious illness. The organization provides small grants for projects and events that support these patients and their care, including bereavement support projects at Mission Hospice.

On top of all of this, Mukund is an active volunteer with Mission Hospice. One of our first Community Ambassadors, Mukund (along with fellow volunteer Kate Jamentz) helped develop workshops to lead people through the thinking and conversations to support their advance care planning, based on the Take Charge Toolkit created by Mission Hospice and a coalition of local organizations in 2017.

In 2021, he was invited to serve on the Mission Hospice Board of Directors. He is enthusiastic about his work with Mission Hospice, with a great appreciation for the team’s shared experience, effort, and dedication to “doing the best they can for the patient and family.”

He is passionate about his second career, yet finds time to walk and hike regularly, read voraciously, and enjoy his three grandchildren who live nearby.

“I’m trying to enjoy life the best way I can,” he says, “while giving back.”