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Kerala comes alive at AKMG annual convention in Atlanta

BY JYOTHNA HEGDE
Photos by Krish Photography

Atlanta, GA, August 27, 2021: Resplendent with vivid, intricate flower pattern designs – Onam Pookalam, a bedecked elephant, Onam Sadhya (delightful spread of Kerala delicacies) with tables and center pieces shimmering in white and gold, and well over 400 attendees gleaming in silk, Kerala came alive across the halls of Intercontinental Hotel in Buckhead at the spectacular AKMG (Association of Kerala Medical Graduates) 42nd Annual convention on August 13 -14, 2021.

With close to 4000 members, AKMG is one of the oldest organizations of Indian physicians in North America.

Guests of Honor addresses included in-person keynotes by Consul General Dr. Swati Kulkarni, Dr. Vikas Kapil, Chief Medical Officer and Associate Director for Science Center for Global Health, CDC, Mamata Mohandas, an Indian film actress, film producer and playback singer who predominantly works in Malayalam films along with Tamil and Telugu production. The closing ceremony was addressed by Governor Brian Kemp, Surgeon General Dr Vivek Murthy and Shri Pinarayi Vijayan, Chief Minister of Kerala via video messages. Several AAPI leaders, among others were attendees at the event.

Beginning with a city tour to all attendees, the celebrations kicked off in traditional Kerala style complete with Chenda Melam, an integral part of all festivals in God’s own country. The Chenda is a cylindrical percussion instrument used widely in the state of Kerala, and Tulu Nadu of Karnataka State in India and Melam, a procession. Accompanied by the beats of Chenda, the Melam led the guest of Dr. Kulkarni along the hallway to the ribbon cutting /opening ceremony.  The ceremony also featured Kerala’s unique ritual, Thalappoli, where women and young girls carry thalam (plate) filled with rice, flowers and a lighted lamp as a symbol of prosperity and Maveli (King Mahabali) whis is believed to visit during the harvest festival of Onam in the state.

Following the traditional lighting of the lamp, Dr. Subrahmanya Bhat, President, AKMG extended a warm welcome to the audience. Dr. Kulkarni thanked the physicians for their services in her keynote address.

Mamata Mohandas released the 192-page Souvenir along with Souvenir Committee Chair, Dr. Anu Bhat. The Souvenir features articles ranging from scientific, health-related, personal experiences and stories of their own.

A patriotic themed glitzy Fashion Show showcasing India’s diversity through its regional clothing of various states, organized by Dr. Anu Bhat featuring Mamata Mohandas as the showstopper garnered much praise from the audience.

Campus Comedy, The Phoenix Bird by AKMG members provided ample entertainment along with Nadodi ganangal, alon with several entertainment segments throughout.

Prime time event, Chitirathoni carried a video message from popular singer K.S. Chitra, who was unable to attend the event due to covid. She had handpicked a few talented individuals who enthralled the audience.

Yoga, meditation classes and Bollywood dance classes kept the families engaged. Achievers and office bearers were recognized, and student scholarships were awarded.

The Convention offered 4 hours of CME and book releases by several AKMG Authors including Kiran Bhat’s We of the Forsaken World, Dr. Venkit S. Iyer’s Aging Well and Reaching Beyond, Dr. Theckedath Mathew’s Comfort Care, Dr. Jay Raman’s From the land of spice and the Land of Oil, Dr. M.P. Ravindranathan’s Second Chance, Dr. Nisha Nigil Haroon’s Covid Tales, and Dr. Venugopal K. Menon’s My Mother Called me Unni.

“During the Covid pandemic many of you made great sacrifices to care for others. Your service to the patients of United States, Canada and India saved countless lives. Marty, the girls and I are grateful for your fight against unseen enemy. Recently I was honored to appoint your President Dr. Bhat to the Georgia Composite Medical Board,” said Gov. Kemp in his message.

Dr. Murthy spoke candidly about his own and his family’s experiences during the ongoing pandemic. “I feel enormous sense of pride and gratitude for our colleagues in medical and dental field. You demonstrated true courage and families have as well,” he commended, closing with a quote of Swami Vivekananda his mother often repeated as a child, “It is in our service to each other, that we find true enlightenment.”

“It is heartening that AKMG has collaborated with various organizations in India and other parts of the world to assist those in need. Kerala is privileged to have AKMG’s love and care over the years. Even during the ongoing pandemic, we have been recipient of your generosity in the form essential equipment to tackle covid 19 and now we are grateful that you are taking the initiative to realize Kerala’s dream of setting up a center for excellence capable of providing multi-disciplinary skills in containing contagious diseases in the model of CDC,” said Chief Minister Shri Pinarayi Vijayan.

“India is now one of the largest administrators of covid vaccine,” said Dr. Kapil adding that CDC’s covid efforts in India are focused on leveraging their existing collaboration in many of the other areas, and the working closely, with trained personnel. “The government has a very extensive training efforts for training public health professionals, field epidemiologists,” he noted, adding that in working closely with the Indian government which led that effort to train close to 15 – 17 000 people across many states who are working day and night emergency management training, hospital infection prevention control effects not just for covid but all the other areas, and existing surveillance networks which have been leveraged for covid surveillance activities to learn about the hot spots nationally.  x

“AKMG s 42nd annual convention was a grand success. All 425 attendees were vaccinated and followed covid precautions. We all enjoyed the fellowship with friends and families.” said Dr. Bhat, also highlighting the achievements and enormous work by AKMG members during the pandemic.  Supporting food banks that feed the hungry and homeless, particularly raising enough funds to feed 10,000 homeless people during Christmas last year, Dr. Bhat said was among his gratifying moments of presidency. Under his leadership, AKMG raised over $ 200 K for covid relief in Kerala, along with providing Pulse oximeters, PPE s, masks to hospitals, doctors and health care workers in Kerala, initiated tele-health service Dronacare, in collaboration with Innovation Incubator to provide free health care advice to people in Kerala and initiated initial steps for bridging Kerala CDC and Atlanta CDC

Dr. Nigil Haroon took over as new President following the Presidential address by Dr. Bhat. Dr. Haroon echoed the feelings of the attendees and thanked the organizers for organizing a wonderful convention. He acknowledged the years of hard work by former leaders of the association that has paved the way for AKMG to become the premiere organization that it is today. He went on to talk about the AKMG’s vision of its members achieving their full potential and enriching the lives of people around the world. He reiterated that he will continue to work with this vision and further strengthen the presence of AKMG in promoting leadership, education, health, equity and justice.

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