In what is expected to be a transformation change in the annals of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI)—arguably the largest and most influential international medical association in the country—Dr. Suresh Reddy, a Generation X’er, took over the helm of the organization on July 6 at the conclusion of AAPI’s 37th annual convention held in Atlanta and attended by nearly 2,000 Indian American physicians and their families.
Reddy, who is Chief of Radiology at Hines Medical Center, also wears several other hats, including, Associate Professor of Radiology at Loyola Medical Center in Chicago, and member of the adjunct faculty in the Department of Neurosurgery at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, all located in the Chicago area.
In taking over the reins from Dr. Naresh Parikh after being administered the oath of office by Dr. Vinod ‘Vinny’ Shah, a former president of AAPI, Reddy, who punctuated his remarks with the simultaneous screening of a video to relate the story of his American journey and his service to AAPI, in addition to a power-point presentation of priorities to move the organization to the next level, said, “I promise to align all the energies to make AAPI an enormous force,” and added, “I am honored to be serving with such an enthusiastic and cohesive group of physicians.”
He pledged that in his commitment to take AAPI to new heights he would “bring all the AAPI chapters, regions, members of the Executive Committee and Board of Trustees to work cohesively and unitedly for the success of AAPI and the realization of its noble mission.”
Reddy also expressed his appreciation to the AAPI membership for electing him unanimously for three executive committee position in AAPI and reiterated that he would not let them down.
“At the outset I would like to immensely thank you for electing me with a landslide majority in all my last three elections,” he said, and added, “ I feel honored now to take charge as the president of AAPI, and as I have promised you, we will bring increased dignity, decency, professionalism and eliteness into the organization, and thus elevate the already existing stand.”
In listing his priorities, which he had disclosed earlier in an interview with India Abroad, Reddy said, right at the top of his goals would be to “make AAPI financially robust and increase our endowments enormously so we can focus on our mission of education, mentoring, research and service.”
He then brought on stage and introduced his executive committee team, and said they would be indispensable to achieving the objectives he had set forth to take AAPI to new heights that would necessarily include the young Indian American physicians who are the future of the organization.
The new AAPI executive committee comprises, Drs. Seema Arora, chair of the policymaking board of trustees, Sudhakar Jonnalagadda, president-elect; Anupama Gotimukula, vice president; Vijay Kolli, secretary; Raj Bhayani, treasurer; Stella Gandhi, president of Young Physician Section; and, Anubhav Jain, president of Medical Students and Residents Section.
Earlier, Reddy had told India Abroad that as an activist member of AAPI for nearly two decades he has seen “the enthusiasm, talent and commitment of the membership despite all of the challenges--that are not new to any major specialty organization as we are—and if we can laser focus and zero in on our key priorities, there’s no reason that we can be an organization to be reckoned with in the formulation of health care policies, particularly during these momentous times, when it is the most important and pressing issue for all Americans, including our own Indian American community.”
He acknowledged that in elevating AAPI to even greater heights, it was imperative to “of course pay attention to increasing membership and AAPI’s financial viability, which are the cornerstones to any organization that intends to exercise clout in the arena it engages in.”
As part of this modus operandi, Reddy said, he would seek to bring all the facets of AAPI “to work cohesively and unitedly for the success of AAPI and the realization of its primary and noble mission of being caring health care providers, being attendant to the needs and concerns of our membership, and doing our utmost to help alleviate medical care in India through AAPI’s clinics and various health care development and charitable projects already in motion and in the process enhance U.S.-India relations.”
He reiterated that while “leading AAPI is a daunting challenge,” his confidence was buoyed by the fact that “I have an excellent group of dedicated, hardworking, and loyal officers and executive committee members who have assured me of their full cooperation and support to take AAPI to the next level.”
Before handing over the gavel to Reddy, Parikh enumerated his several achievements, especially his “efforts and success in enabling AAPI to be financially sound, cleaning up of AAPI’s voters list, obtaining and using $9 Million from USAID(U.S. Agency for International Development) to eradicate TB(tuberculosis) from several cities of India, bringing local chapters of AAPI and national AAPI closer and bonding our members through the 10 City Jai Ho musical tour by Sukhvinder Singh.”
The four-day convention was permeated by Continuing Medical Education programs, the ever popular Women’s Forum, a CEO’s Forum, a Obesity Awareness Walk, a plethora of entertainment, spiritual discourses led by Shri Sadhguru, a fashion show, an AAPI Has Got Talent contest and Mehfil, organized by Drs, Amit Chakraborthy and Hemant Dhingra, and for the first time, thanks to an initiative by Parikh, the honoring of past AAPI presidents chairs of the board of trustees, replete with a synopsis of their respective contributions and appreciation of their continued guidance to AAPI.
Among the past presidents who were honored, included one of the founders of AAPI, Dr. Navin Shah, who led the fight on Capitol Hill for Indian American physicians and other international physicians to be afforded equality with U.S. medical graduates in the areas of licensing, reciprocity and hospital privileges that ultimately led to legislation being signed by then President George H. W. Bush, requiring that international medical graduates not be discriminated and have to be treated on a par with U.S. medical graduates.
Also Dr. Navin Nanda, who during his tenure as AAPI president is credited with uniting various factions when the organization was at crossroads in the late 1980s and early 1990s and was in danger of unraveling.
A pioneering echocardiographer, Nanda is the Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Cardiovascular Disease at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, and undisputedly a giant in the annals of AAPI and a role model not just to the younger crop of Indian American physicians, but also to those in the mainstream community, particularly to those in academia, beyond simply the practice of medicine.
Internationally renowned for his pioneering work on the Doppler Echocardiography methods, Nanda has been honored and felicitated around the world probably more than any other first-generation immigrant Indian American physician, and is considered one of the most prominent academic physicians of Indian origin in the country.
Nanda is regarded as the Father of Echocardiography and Modern Echocardiography by several institutions and cardiology organizations throughout the world for his pioneering and ground breaking innovations, inventions and discoveries in this field that have encompassed not only adult echocardiography but also echocardiography in children and fetuses, --basically the entire gamut of echocardiography.
Other honored were Drs. Kiran Patel, leading philanthropist and entrepreneur, Kalpalatha ‘Kay’ Guntupalli—the first woman president in AAPI’s history, Ajeet Singhvi, Ravi Jahagirdar, Ajay Lodha and Surinder Purohit.
U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D.-Ill.), a regular at AAPI conventions and in all of its other events, showered kudos on the contributions of the Indian American community and Indian American physicians, who he said, “are the role models for the rest of America.”
He urged AAPI leaders to take “an active role in local and national politics, in order to help shape the destiny of our nation.”
Reiterating remarks he had made at AAPI’s Legislative Day on Capitol Hill in April, Krishnamoorthi said, “From a public policy standpoint, you folks are incredibly influential people and people very much respect your opinions, because quite frankly, you are on the frontlines of the healthcare system and so, naturally we look to you for guidance and wisdom on the issues of the day.”
He said that “I want you to know that the fact that you touch the lives of 30 percent of Americans –30 percent of Americans see an Indian American physician every single day and you number almost one out of seven physicians in the entire country—the fact that you are here is so important because you have real life experiences with the health care system. That’s so crucial.”
Thus, Krishnamoorthi urged AAPI members “to continue to step up your engagement in the civic life of our country and that includes running for office.”
“As physicians you have a special insight into healthcare, which is probably one of the top two or three issues I hear about every single day, and I say to you, think about the choices that you have with regard to perhaps running for office in your local community,” he said, adding that, “We have to make sure that we have more health care voices at the table and we need more representatives at every single level of government. So please think about it.”
The entertainment component at the convention was led by Shankar Mahadevan, who performed to a packed audience on the final night, but earlier, many of the first generation members of the audience were treated to a nostalgic walk down memory lane with Anup Jalota singing their favorites from yesteryear.
An Obesity Awareness Walk led by Dr. Uma Koduri at Centennial Park in Atlanta drew several hundred AAPI members and their families decked in yellow T Shirts proclaiming the need to create awareness on a healthy lifestyle.
There were also a surfeit of awards presented during each day of the convention, with the Most Distinguished Physicians Awards given to Drs. Sanjeev Gupta, Ramesh Vandal, and Enas Enas.
The Distinguished Service Award presented to Dr. Sanat Gandhi, the Young Physician Award went to Drs. Rupesh Raina and Sandeep Bagla, and the Most Distinguished Medical Student/Fellow Award was presented to Dr. Radhika Chimera.