Indian-American physicians’ conference heads to the Caribbean

Dr. Sanku Rao

The Global Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (GAPIO), a non-profit organization established in January 2011 to bring together the estimated 1.2 million physicians of Indian origin in the diaspora and India, under one professional platform, will hold its 9th mid-year 2019 GAPIO Conference in the Caribbean for the first time in history.

The co-founders of the organization — Drs. Prathap C Reddy, founder and chairman of Apollo Hospitals Group and a Padma Vibhushan awardee; Sanku Rao, a former president of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI); and Ramesh Mehta, president of the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO) announced that the conference would be held in Antigua, known as the “Land of 365 Beaches,” on May 4-5, in collaboration with the American University of Antigua (AUA) and Antigua Medical Association (AMA), on the campus of the AUA.

Reddy, who returned to India over three decades ago, after practicing in the U.S. for several years, to establish what it today arguably one of India’s leading private medical conglomerates, said, “The conference is a celebration of India’s invaluable contribution to global healthcare.

He said the parley would “bring together physicians of Indian origin on a unique platform, where they can share their experiences, network and learn from each other.

In addition to physicians from India, we also look forward to welcoming physicians of Indian origin from Antigua and neighboring countries like Guyana, Barbados, Grenada, Trinidad & Tobago, Suriname in addition to the UK, USA and Canada.”

Mehta, currently the president of GAPIO, said, “This conference will have sessions on recent developments and advances in cardiology, metabolic syndrome like obesity and diabetes, nephrology with a focus on transplants, and neurology.”

He said another highlight of the conference would “be sessions on artificial intelligence in healthcare, Vedic wisdom in terms of leadership in medicine as well as sessions on reaching the unreached and on global opportunities in healthcare.”

Rao told India Abroad that collaborating with the AUA was “a no-brainer” because AUA for years has been “a partner of AAPI on several of our projects in the U.S. and India.

“And, of course,” he added, “the AUA College of Medicine is an accredited international medical school in Antigua, and over the years has provided opportunities for internal medical students from not just the U.S. but India too and their graduates are eligible for licensure in the U.S., Canada and India.”

Rao said, “Many of the AUA graduates today are some of the leading physicians in the U.S., in a varieties of specialties, and particularly at a time when we are facing an acute shortage of doctors in many countries, and least of all in the U.S., AUA is fulfilling an important part of this need.”

He also said that while AAPI is focused on the U.S. and India, GAPIO since its inception “has afforded a platform for the vast network of Indian diaspora physicians numbering over a million, to help improve healthcare worldwide and of course, with special emphasis on our motherland, India.”

Rao said, “We have members from over 34 countries worldwide, who are leaders in specialties that cover various aspects of medicine and medical research and they all volunteer in what is clearly a labor of love in our mission to provide quality and affordable healthcare, mainly to the indigent in the countries from where our several thousand members hail from.”

“GAPIO had also been engaged heavily in helping to provide our expertise and treatment in blindness prevention, safe water and sanitation, nutrition, obesity, and all kinds of preventive measures and vaccination,” he said, and added, “Besides the expertise our members provide, we also fund and support skills training workshops and clinical knowledge development.”

Rao said, “We also run several charitable clinics in the countries our member live and practice in, and of course, in India, where the need is massive, particularly in the rural areas.”

He reiterated, “This substantial workforce of physicians that GAPIO provides is a valuable resource, which can help to mobilize significant developments in the healthcare globally.”

Dr. Anupal Sibal, vice president of GAPIO and Group Medical Director and Senior Pediatric Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist, who will lead some of the discussions in Antigua, said, “The Indian diaspora has a wealth of talent in medicine and GAPIO is the platform that brings everyone together.

“The fact that out of more than the million doctors of Indian origin in the world, more than 300, 000 are outside India and have helped establish the credentials of Indian doctors globally, is a clear recognition of their clinical acumen, research and academic contributions.”  

Dr. Nandakumar Jairam, secretary general of GAPIO and chairman and CEO of Columbia Asia Hospitals, another leading Indian medical corporate, said, also echoing Rao, said, “In addition to establishing Leadership Development Programs and CMEs (continuing medical education), GAPIO has supported several charitable originations in helping deliver healthcare at the doorstep of citizens in semi-urban and rural areas and expanding these charitable programs is a top priority of GAPIO.

“The earlier eight mid-year conference in seven countries GAPIO hosted has helped to establish global collaboration,” said Dr. Sudhir Parikh, joint secretary of GAPIO.

He said that going forward, plans are afoot to create an even more expansive presence of GAPIO “and social media will be used effectively to break geographical barriers,” and noted that “a resource center is being created.”

Par Prem Kumar, senior adviser for special projects to AUA president and co-founder Neal Simon, told India Abroad that “this conference is historic because this is the first time ever that GAPIO is holding their flagship conference on a Caribbean medical school campus, and we at AUA are honored to collaborate and host this group of top medical professionals and leaders in various specialties and sub-specialties from all across the world — all with their origins in India.

“The conference will also be attended by many local dignitaries and all of the local medical associations will be in attendance, and for Antigua, hosting all these doctors from all over the world is certainly a feather in this Caribbean island’s cap,” she said.

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