BY MAHADEV DESAI
Photos by Paresh Patel
Atlanta, GA: The Georgia Association of Physicians of Indian Heritage (GAPI) held its 25th annual convention cum a glitzy banquet at the Crowne Plaza, Atlanta Perimeter at Ravinia, on Saturday, April 13, 2013. The gala event was attended by over 250 members from the medical field and graced by the presence of the chief guests; Consul General of India in Atlanta, Hon.Ajit Kumar, and Congressman Rob Woodall, and special guests President -Elect of Medical Association of Georgia (MAG), Dr.William Silver; and President of AAPI Dr. Jayesh Shah.
Consul General Ambassador Ajit Kumar attended the social hour of the GAPI function and met Congressmen Rob Woodall, Dr. Gaur, President of GAPI and other GAPI members. This was the third GAPI function which Consul General Kumar was attending since he came to Atlanta. Due to his commitment to another function, he conveyed his congratulations to GAPI on its 25th annual convention, lauded it for ‘doing sterling work in healthcare and education with the Indian American community in the State of Georgia, and also providing health to uninsured and indigent patients through health fairs and the charitable volunteer clinic at Global Mall in Norcross’, and wished it success in all its endeavors.
Just prior to the social hour at 5.30 p.m. there was a Board Meeting and educational meeting consisting of CME and Non-CME segments:
1. Moderated by Dr. Rakesh Sarma: Inner Engineering, Technologies for Well-being. Presenter, Jayanth Eldurkar, Occupational Medicine, TN. Isha Yoga Foundation. The talk offered tools to engineer one’s self through the inner science of Yoga
2. Moderated by Dr. Mohak Dave: Stable Ischemic Heart Disease and Diabetes. Udho Thadhani, MD, Professor Emeritus of Medicine, Univ. of Oklahoma. He discussed about evaluation and treatment options for diabetics who have Coronary artery disease with angina or congestive heart failure.
Harish Thadhani, Prime Agency LLC: He talked about newer Long-term care/ disability insurance policies with cash options.
Other sponsored lectures:
1. An update on Home mortgage, Insurance and Real estate market by Sonia Walia, Amita Sood and Parminder Saini.
2. Role of testing for drug levels in individuals on pain medications. Shawn Desai, PhD, JD, Aeon Clinical Laboratories.
3. Emily Scott from Lantheus Pharmaceutical discussed the use of intravenous contrast for cardiac ultrasound (echocardiography).
4. There was lecture on estate planning and tax reduction strategies by representatives by LPL financial, Solomon/ Davis
There was a session with Pre-medical students from Georgia Tech moderated by Dr. Rahul Garg which provided career counseling and shadowing opportunities with physicians.
There was also a MAG-IMG section meeting.
During the social hour, the attendees intermingled and networked with each other, enjoyed Café Bombay Restaurant’s tasty snacks and also visited the booths set up by pharmaceutical corporations, banking and insurance providers, health care related businesses; and not for profit Isha Foundation. Atlanta’s popular Mumtaz Fashions enticed ladies with its array of designer-name saris, jewelry, bags,etc. Robert Arnett, the well-known author of the internationally acclaimed and awards-winning ‘India Unveiled’ and Finders Keepers’ and Smita Turakhia, illustrator of the Spanish version of the latter book also had a booth.
The program was emceed by composed UGA student Karishma Amin, and Lakeview Academy school student Dhruv Gaur. After GAPI President Abhishek Gaur welcomed all, Karishma, Dhruv and Garv Gaur recited a prayer to Lord Ganesha. After Karishma gave a brief history of GAPI, Congressman Woodall(R-7th Dist. Of GA),lauded the Indian-American community for taking care of one another, growing stronger together and building relationships. “You have a heartfelt desire to serve people who do not get healthcare services.” He voiced his concern at the decline of private practice due to ridiculously low reimbursement to the physicians. He urged the audience to believe in their elected representatives and share their experiences and problems in helping small town families on a daily basis so that he can find solutions in his role as a senator.” If I can be your partner-your advocate in any way. You will do me a favor if you let me serve you’.
Dr.Silver said that it was a pleasure for him to represent MAG. It is the leading voice for the medical profession in Georgia. It has about 7,000 physician members across the State and represents every medical specialty. He commended Dr.F.Yousuf for his initiative in founding GAPI,an organization strongly dedicated to service. He said that the role of a physician is different now. He has not only to practice medicine, but also involve in community, help in medical education and also lend support to elected officials. A physicians input is important to help community grow. He said that MAG and GAPI have common objectives. “Your input as a group can exert tremendous influence “he emphasized. He requested all to be members of MAG-‘strength in numbers can get better results for all.’ He warned the audience of the problem of overdose of narcotic drugs. “More deaths are caused by prescription drugs than street drugs. So please support the National Prescription Drugs Take Back initiative at various collection sites” he said.
In his rousing speech, AAPI President Dr. Jayesh Shah lauded the impressive and vibrant role of Indian physicians, and of AAPI, the umbrella organization which is one of the largest ethnic Organizations with a membership of 10,000 strong and growing, and of GAPI which represents the physician members in Georgia.AAPI represents over 100,000 physicians, Fellows and Residents of Indian origin in the United States. “One in seven patients is seen by a physician of Indian origin(applause) and yours is the best model Chapter.(applause).You have shown AAPI what service means to you. You have shown U.S.what GAPI can do for the community. He recognized GAPI Free Clinic volunteers. “I admire the leadership that you have provided from this region. Your dedicated and committed and skilled leaders are capable of being President of AAPI and carry the torch. AAPI which was founded 31 years ago in a basement with a few members initially fought against discrimination. Now it is the largest ethnic Organization not only in the U.S.but globally(applause). With GAPI’s partnership we can make a difference. As we mature our vision becomes lofty. The major problem we currently face is ‘Childhood obesity. Let us bring awareness of this problem all over US and even globally.(applause)Let us adopt 100 schools in 50 States, educate our children and save the future generation. In fact the journey has already started. First school has already been adopted in Tulsa,Oklahoma.Only yesterday USAID has recognized our role. We have formed a Shankar Mahadevan Team in your city. I wish to recognize this team for Childhood Obesity Awareness-Dr.Naresh Parikh, Dr.Jayesh Shah,Dr.P.K.Natrajan,Dr.Ravi Jagirdar,Dr.Abhishek Gaur ,Dr.Piyush Patel, Dr.Sudhakar Jonallagadda,and Dr.Sreeni Gangasani. Within a short time Obama Health Care Plan will be implemented. We have the strength, knowledge and experience to deliver the best healthcare system in the US. We have been actively lobbying in Washington D.C.AAPI officials met with about 30 Senators to present their case. So please lend AAPI your full support. Dr. Narendra Kumar has personally invited you all to attend the annual Convention in Chicago during the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, so please attend ,so we can show our collective strength.”
Senator Woodall, Dr.Silver and Dr.Jayesh Shah were presented with copies of ‘India Unveiled ‘autographed by its author Robert Arnett.
Dr.Indran Indrakrishnan said that in accordance with the GAPI by-laws, he proposed nominations for the General membership as below: Dr.Piyush Patel-President; Dr.Shreedhar Nagnur President-Elect, Dr.Indran Indrakrishnan–Secretary – and Dr.Sudha Tata – Treasurer. With a show of hands, the attendees unanimously approved the new Executive Committee members.
Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda, Chairman Board of Trustees (GAPI) announced the names of new Board of trustees . Dr. Sreeni Gangasani and Dr. N Neelagaru and named Dr. P H Patel, the new chairman of Board of Trustees which was approved by the general body.
The outgoing President Dr.Abhishek Gaur said that the year 2012 had been very productive and successful. More life members and annual members were enrolled.GAPI-AAPI raised money from the GAPI Free Clinic by organizing an Educational Meeting and Shreya Ghoshal concert. GAPI also organized two health fairs-GAPI joined hands with Shiv Mandir of Atlanta and SAI Health Fair for the Health Fair at Global Mall and organized a second Health Fair in Columbus. He thanked and recognized Dr.Sujatha Reddy and Dr.Piyush Patel for their pivotal role in these Health Fairs. (applause).GAPI partnered with the Annual meeting of urologists of Indian origin. The regional Bengali conference, sponsored the Vibha dream mile, supported in initiating the Hindi language program at Georgia Tech and helped the Ekal Vidyalaya movement. He further thanked the Global Mall owner and philanthropist Shiv Aggarwal for providing accommodation for the GAPI Free Clinic at the Global Mall.(Applause) GAPI had organized three Regional Meetings in Columbus, Valdosta and Dublin, under the leadership of Dr.Piyush Patel, Dr.Arvind Gupta, and Dr. Raghu Lolabattu. He stressed that as Dr.Kamath said the future of GAPI lies with young generation. To help young students,GAPI had a new project, “Shadowing opportunities for IMGs and students prior to the residency programs”. GAPI had also initiated a second project, “Supporting Culturally Sensitive Senior Care Program’, where physicians will help seniors with their health-related problems. They will also arrange for Chaplain’s or priest’s services where needed. Dr. Gaur appreciated all members, invited guests and all volunteers who helped him to make this event successful. He complimented his wife Dr. Swati Gaur, Geriatrician and his son Dhruv Gaur for assisting him with administrative and secretarial work for GAPI.
Dr.Naresh Parikh informed the gathering about AAPI Charitable Foundation. He said that the Foundation runs 11 clinics in India which provides free medical treatment to one million patients. It runs several clinics in US including the GAPI Free Clinic at the Global Mall. The annual funding for these clinics is $300,000 raised through Concerts etc. President-Elect,Dr.Ravi Jagirdar informed the gathering about the Shankar Mahadevan Concert. The event will have three sections(i) Educational part,(ii)Community Outreach part-To tackle Childhood obesity, which is a national scourge.(iii) Cultural. The trio of Shankar,Ehsaan and Loy are top of the line performing artists who will help GAPI raise funds for worthy causes. Atlanta’s well known promoter in the field of performing arts also lauded the Shankar Ehsaan Loy Live Concert on June 23,2013 at Cobb Energy Concert Hall, Atlanta, which will be a memorable journey celebrating 100 years of Bollywood music. He urged everyone to spread the word through social media,etc. “The venue is great ,the cause is worthy and the Concert will be phenomenal, so please support it”.
Dr.Vinayak Kamath lamented that second-generation do not seem anxious to join professional or social networking sites, and apparently they do not do as well as the first generation professionals. The first generation worked hard, was dedicated and became successful by networking through organizations like GAPI and AAPI. He exhorted the GAPI members to reach out the young generation and emphasize the importance of joining AAPI,GAPI,MAG,etc.
Former president of GAPI, and former Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Dr.P.B. Rao said that GAPI helps deserving students with merit and need based scholarships. The annual scholarship of $1,000 and a Citation of Excellence for their accomplishments was given to six students:
Somnath Das, Ashka Patel,Anurag Sharma Venukadasula,,Adithya Rajasekaran,Madhavi Rajasekaran and Arulita Gupta.
Humanitarian Awards were given to Sneha Mehta and Subash Razdan.
Subash Razdan is a well-known community leader known for his tireless community service. He is also a household name through his popular TV show ‘Namaste Bombay’. He is co-Founder and Chairman of the Gandhi Foundation of USA(GFUSA) and winner of several Awards including the prestigious Ellis Island Medal of Honor and in January 2013,the coveted Pravasi Bharatiya Samman 2013 Award conferred by the Government of India for NRIs by the President of India, Pranab Mukherjee. Razdan was one of the fifteen award recipients who make significant contributions which enhance India’s prestige.
In his brief acceptance remarks Razdan said that he felt humbled and honored to receive the Humanitarian Award from one of the highest ranking Organizations in U.S. I truly feel honored to be nominated along with Sneha Mehta, who is a highly accomplished and dedicated community and social activist also. Let me recognize my friend Narender Reddy and GFUSA members present here-Dr.Sujatha Reddy, Mahadev Desai, Ravi Ponangi,Mohsin Bharmal,Dr.Farzana Bharmal and Antony Thaliath. “GFUSA would like to give one scholarship to GAPI from next year and annually thereafter.”(Applause). Dr.Rao thanked GFUSA for this kind gesture.
Sneha Mehta has done a lot of humanitarian work selflessly and with full conviction over many years. Over the last few years, she has worked really hard in helping refugees from Bhutan. She has raised funds and collected medications for them. She has organized vocational, language and driving classes for them. She helped acquire vehicles for them through a car donation program. She has served the community by playing a very active role in many non-profit organizations like SEWA,VHPA and Hindu Temples.. She has founded Bal Vihars in Atlanta that have imparted children not only the gift of learning Indian language but also culture. She has traveled in India to work in rural communities to help preserve handicrafts and provide employment to the poor. She has also volunteered in raising funds and providing blankets, gloves and warm clothes to Atlanta’s homeless and needy.Sneha Mehta thanked GAPI for bestowing the Humanitarian Award to her.
The incoming President Dr.Piyush Patel promised to do his best in helming GAPI. “My goal will be to expand the membership base, by enrolling especially the second-generation Indian- Americans and also non-physician health professionals. We will continue our relationship with umbrella organization AAPI and our support to MAG. We will also make our website more interactive, interesting and user-friendly so members can even pay their dues on-line. I look forward to your support and cooperation.”
After a delectable dinner members were treated to a Zumba and Fusion Group’s exhilarating dances and later to a high-octane Bhangra dance by Emory University’s ‘Karma’dance group. The dances were followed with Bollywood’s chart-toppers by Dr.Amit Chakrabarty and Aparajita of Geetanjali Music Group.The sound system and music were by Kaumul Patel ( Sa ni Dha Pa). The GAPI Annual Convention and Banquet 2013 was truly a memorable evening for all.