Dr. Sampat Shivangi, a longtime stalwart of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), and the indefatigable chair of its legislative affairs committee for several years, has been named by President Donald Trump to serve on the national advisory committee of a key health agency that deals with mental health.
In a missive to Shivangi dated Oct. 8, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex M. Azar, wrote, “I am delighted to invite you to serve on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s(SAMHSA), Center for Mental Health Services, National Advisory Council.”
Azar said the appointment was “for the term beginning immediately and ending on July 30, 2023.”
Shivangi, in accepting the appointment, which has been his area of expertise for more than a decade in his home state of Mississippi, said, “I am honored that President Donald Trump and Health Secretary Alex M Azar, have appointed me to this coveted post to a four-year term.”
“Having served on the Mississippi State Board of Mental Health for more than a decade as Vice Chair and Chair, this is unique honor for me to serve on the National Advisory Council and I look forward to serve the nation to the best of ability and bring to the table my years of experience and expertise,” he said. Shivangi said.
Shivangi told India Abroad, “As you know I have served on the Mississippi State Board of Mental Health for over a decade, first appointed by then Governor Haley Barbour and I still and continue to serve as per the request of the current Governor Phil Bryant.”
He noted that while serving on the state board during the tenure of Barbour, he had been recommended to serve on the National Advisory Board at the HHS during the George W. Bush administration, and now I have the opportunity to serve in the Trump administration.
Shivangi, a physician, whose specialty at the time he was practicing was obstetrics and gynecology, said, “Even though I am not a psychiatrist I took deep interest in mental health issues, and at the time Alzheimer's was big news and I remember I had gone to visit with my mother in India who was stricken by this devastating disease and it was an extremely depressing personal experience, which left me totally anguished because she did not know who I was--I was a stranger to her.”
“That really made me give serious thought to mental health and I took deep interest to see how I could work to make a difference and work toward everything from policy changes to raising funds to help alleviate this emotionally draining disease both in the U.S. and India,” he said.
Shivangi said, in India, “The most important accomplishment was to help decentralize the infamous mental institutions where thousands of patients were languishing and being ignored and neglected and looked upon so condescendingly even though I was convinced that at least a few of them could still have been productive members of the community.”
“Those who were borderline as far as the disease is concerned, who could still have been productive members of their community neighborhoods and and contributing citizens rather than a burden within the four walls of these institutions, and if they didn’t have the means, spending their lives in squalor and utter neglect.”
Shivangi said that working through organization like AAPI and other medical institutions, he was able to make sure “they were screened and identified so that they could live on their own and then they were moved to community homes where four to five of them could stay in a neighborhood homes under professional supervision. They also found employment, healthcare and transportation and they became productive citizens of society. This was an amazing transformation, helped to a great extend by teams of highly motivated mental health workers.
He said that the template he had helped to transfer to some of the Indian institutions was thanks to what he had experienced in his own state and then nationally by serving on the Mississippi Board of Mental Health and then on the National Advisory Board of the HHS in the Bush administration, particularly in dealing with the indigent and those who couldn’t afford to avail themselves of all of the services available but were prohibitive in terms of costs.
Shivangi said that “this year I have taken the initiative on the issue of post-partum depression, particularly during pregnancy and after delivery when a mother goes into deep depression, resulting in high incidence of suicides among these mothers, which has not received enough attention and is causing devastating results to the mother, child and the family.”
He said that on October 29, “Mississippi is launching a huge awareness and prevention program and with this initiative, we hope to attack this post-partum incidence and also the number of suicides and I am looking forward to being an effective member of this pro-active program to make the difference, and now as a member of the National Advisory Council at SAMHSA, I could bring the best practices to bear both in my state and also during AAPI’s activities and clinics in India.”
Shivangi said that as part of his activities on the state board he had also been actively engaged in suicide prevention in schools and colleges that “have unfortunately been increasing exponentially in the past few years as been the opioid and substance abuse and hence we have re-energized our efforts to combat these issues, and now I can also hopefully make a difference at the national level.”
He said, “President Trump and Secretary Azar have made these priority issues and I hope to be fully supportive of this cause and carry my Mississippi experiences and best practices to the Center for Mental Health Services.”
Shivangi said, “I hope to make a difference in the national cause and bring a new perspective to these issues and I know AAPI and AMA (American Medical Associaton) will stand support me in my endeavors to make a difference.”
“There are thousands of Indian American physicians at AAPI who are psychiatrists who I am confident would whole-heartedly support these important priorities of the administration and help our national advisory committee to also use their expertise and experience to help counter these mental problem issues,” he said.
A lifelong Republican, Shivangi is also a community and political activist and is currently the national president of the Indian American Forum for Political Education, the first and oldest Indian American political organization, founded in the early 1980’s by Dr. Joy Cherian.
He has been a delegate or an alternate delegate representing Mississippi to numerous national GOP conventions--the New York City convention that nominated George W. Bush in 2004; the 2008 Minneapolis, Minn. Convention, where Sen. John McCain was the nominee; the 2012 convention in Tampa, Fla., where Mitt Romney got the nod and the parley in2016 in Cleveland, Ohio, where Trump was formally nominated.
On the sidelines of the Cleveland convention, Shivangi also hosted a reception under the umbrella of the IAFPE that was attended by several senior party members, diplomats and scores of Indian-American political activists to emphasize the importance of the U.S.-India strategic partnership and the Indian-American community’s integral role in various facets of American society.
In 2008, Shivangi was the recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor and in 2017, he was awarded the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award, foror his contributions toward enhancing India-U.S. relations.
Shivangi, who resides in Ridgeland, Mississippi, is one of the most plugged in and savvy Indian Americans in the South, who’s cultivated governors, U.S. Senators and Representatives over the years and been a fixture at GOP gatherings but to his credit has had no qualms in reaching across the aisle for the sake of the community and also for the specialty organizations he represents like AAPI and IAFPE.
Consequently, he has been able to draw dozens Republicans and Democrats to the sessions that AAPI hosts in D.C. on Capitol Hill to garner their support for legislative issues of import to both Indian American physicians and the community at large with regard to issues like immigration.
Shivangi, who hails from the town of Athani in Karnataka, also has had the distinction of having a street in Mississippi named after him--Dr.Sampat Shivangi Street--in recognition of his services to the cause of mental health in 2016 by the state of Mississippi in conjunction with the Department of Mental Health at the Boswell Regional Medical Center.
He is an alumnus of Kasturba Medical College in Manipal, India where he received his M.B. B.S. He also attended Karnataka Medical College in Hubli, from where he received his M.D and D.G.O post graduate degrees. After immigrating to the US, he did a fellowship in obstetrics/gynecology at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri.
While he’s been associated with AAPI’s Charitable Foundation, he has also engaged in considerable individual philanthropy, including establishing both a primary and middle school for nearly 1,000 students in his native Athani, as well as a cultural center in his father’s name called the Shidramappa Shivangi Cultural Center.
Shivangi’s wife, Dr. Udaya Shivangi, also a physician, who is also an active member of AAPI, has been a driving force behind AAPI’s women activities, and has for several years organized the AAPI’s Women’s Forum, which has become a signature event at the annual conventions.