Atlanta, GA: Many Georgians face severe economic hardship and find it difficult to pay for health insurance premiums and it has become increasingly difficult for them to conduct even simple health assessments, let alone avail of complicated procedures. To assist people in dealing with this, there are different health fairs held periodically across Atlanta and other regions of the state and these are usually linked to certain religious groups and temples. Recently, there was buzz about a historic, Indo-Pakistan health fair held in Global Mall, Norcross.
GAPI (Georgia Association of Physicians of Indian Heritage) & GA- APPNA ( Georgia chapter of American Pakistani Physicians of North America descent ) held their free health fair on May 4th 2014 in Global Mall, Norcross graced by many dignitaries including Hon. Governor Nathan Deal, First Lady Sandra Deal , Senator David Shafer and Indian Consul General Ajit Kumar. This was the first such health fair orchestrated by the physicians from both India and Pakistan in US history. It all started when Dr. Indran Indrakrishnan, then president–elect of GAPI was invited as a special guest to the APPNA Annual Gala convention in November 2013. Dr Asif Taufiq, the newly elected APPNA president, in his acceptance speech extended an invitation to Dr Indrakrishnan to work together for the betterment of Georgians‘ health. Having cautiously accepted this invitation, Dr. Indrakrishnan discussed and obtained the blessings from the senior GAPI stalwart leaders such as Dr. Manoj Shah, Dr. Naresh Parikh and Dr. Natrajan to proceed with the project. He then began a series of discrete meetings behind the closed doors of the home of Dr Sara Hyat, a past president of APPNA, in Sugarloaf country club in Duluth. They were joined by Ms Grace Multani, originally from Punjab, and the inspiration behind the concept of joint health fair and later by Dr Ghazala Khalid, a seasoned health fair organizer in the Pakistan physician community who spearheaded the logistics of coordinating the work of volunteers. After several weeks of strategy planning with patience & compromises, these community leaders’ efforts blossomed in to a history making successful , celebrity stars studded health fair during which more than 300 attendees were able to receive not only free specialists consultations but also obtained otherwise costly tests from mammograms to vascular studies besides the routine blood tests at no cost to them.
Senator David Shafer, pro tempore president of the Georgia Senate inaugurated the health fair at 9.00 AM by lighting the candles along with GAPI president Dr. Indrakrishnan, and GA-APPNA president Dr. Taufiq . Three candles were lit for peace and love, colon cancer awareness and breast cancer awareness. Senator Shafer thanked the Indian and Pakistani physicians & the community leaders for their dedicated efforts in helping less fortunate Georgians with health care issues. He greeted all the physicians and volunteers at their stations discussing their specialties and interests. Many specialists from various fields including Internal Medicine, Endocrinology, Gastroenterology, Cardiology, Dermatology, Pulmonology, Neurology, Ophthalmology, Pediatrics, Psychiatry, ENT, Family Practice, Gynecology and Nephrology provided the consultations. Blood tests results were made available to the attendees immediately and they were able to obtain the suitable advice from the physicians for any abnormal test results. EKGs, dental and visual screening tests were also available. There were separate booths for nutrition, the Affordable Health Care Act, communicable diseases, and colon cancer screening. The energy in the event hall was amazing with all the doctors and volunteers seeing and helping patients from all walks of life and communities.
The Hon. Governor Nathan Deal and first Lady Sandra Deal instantly won the hearts of the physicians, volunteers and attendees in no time after their arrival. Governor Deal remarked that it was a very nice event and he appreciated all the work that GAPI and APPNA are doing not just in the Indian community but the Gwinnett community. He was glad that he was able to see this gratifying event first hand. He thanked the doctors and volunteers and spent an ample amount of time talking to the people in the event hall. This was their first visit to Global Mall, and as expected they were surrounded by many in the hallway on their way out and the couple kindly spent time with them to answer their questions.
Dr Indrakrishnan was certain that he personally wanted to invite the Governor Deal and Senator Shafer to this historical event but was in a dilemma about requesting the presence of Indian Consul General Ajit Kumar given the delicate relationship between India and Pakistan. Charismatic Ajit Kumar ‘s appearance at the event had a charming effect, and as usual he interacted very freely with all attendees from both Pakistan and India and was even able to solve some of their questions on site.
Many attendees have expressed their satisfaction with what this health fair provided and requested that GAPI & APPNA repeats this historic event again next year. Physicians from both countries have also expressed their happiness in working together as a team. Dr Manjeed Singh, a senior dentist and a regular health fair volunteer complimented that this health fair is the best and the first stress free one with full of joy & happiness in her life time out of all the ones she participated in over the last decade.
Dr. Sara Hyat and Dr. Indrakrishan awarded the appreciation certificates to GAPI and APPNA physician volunteers. Dr Ghazala Khalid having thanked the volunteers from Pakistani community and from Third Eye Dancers organization, an Indian not for profit organization in GA, provided them with the community work hours certificates. Drs. Taufiq and Hyat were very pleased with the exceptional success of the health fair and that they were able to provide free health services to all the Georgians without any ethnicity, race, religious and gender discrimination. For Dr. Indrakrishnan, besides what Drs. Taufiq and Dr Hyat experienced, it was a golden opportunity to work closely with and help the Islamic community leaders and people. Born as a Hindu, he is in the board of trustees of Hindu Temple of Atlanta, in the board of directors of Grace chapel Christ church’s Grace by meals program in Cumming and he also works with Georgia Buddhist Vihara ‘s chief priest & helps with their needs. This health fair was the first opportunity in Georgia for him to work with the Islamic community. A number of Indian and Pakistani business organizations whole heartedly supported this event with their sponsorships, another evidence of healthy relationship between the Indian & Pakistani communities of Atlanta regardless of the atmosphere in their respective home countries. For years, the physicians from both countries have co-existed peacefully in US as their respective countries are still conflicted neighbors. This was one step forward in their attempt to overcome the nationalistic sentiments and extend a friendly gesture to each other and jointly serve the communities they live in. The physicians from these two organizations came forward to demonstrate their willingness to help those who needed assistance and to give back to society and be positive contributors to this State of Georgia, they call home.