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M. P. Ravindra Nathan
THE INDIAN PHYSICIAN IN THE AMERICAN SOIL
By M. P. Ravindra Nathan, MD, FACC

AAPI CONVENTION IN HOUSTON

From just a handful of Indian immigrant doctors in the late ’50s, the passage of our kinsfolk from India to USA has steadily increased and as per recent estimates, the number of Indian American physicians stands close to 50,000. This includes our young second generation medical students/residents as well.

The recently concluded 23rd annual convention of the American Association of Physicians from India (AAPI), the largest such body outside India, from June 15-19 in Houston, Texas, was aptly titled “A Passage from India,” celebrating a legacy of caring and sharing by Indian American physicians for nearly half a century.



And indeed, it is a matter of great pride for all of us that Indian American physicians are doing well and their accomplishments and achievements becoming all too common in the print media.

“It is an honor to call you ‘my colleagues,’ ” Kyle Janek, a state senator from Texas noted in his address on the first day of the convention.

“We appreciate the strong contribution from Indian American doctors,” said Howard Dean, the chair of Democratic Party during his luncheon address.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee was full of praise for the Indian physicians: “We thank you for your commitment to our nation. You are saving lives and also rebuilding lives. I am proud to be a friend of Indian American community. Indian doctors made a difference in our lives and have helped to preserve patients’ access to medical care, the way they deserve it.”

“India and America have a close partnership and it is getting closer by the day,” said Ronan Sen, the Indian ambassador to the U.S., in a stimulating speech. The ambassador spoke about Indian American doctors' contribution to both America and their motherland and the closing of gap between India and US.

The caliber of key note speakers was exceptional this year – V. Subramaniam, cardiac surgeon, who is one of the pioneers in keyhole cardiac surgery and robotic surgery, Abraham Verghese (Who can forget “My Own Country” and “The Tennis Partner”?), Padma Bhushan K. Sreenath Reddy from All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIMS), New Delhi who discussed “Heart Disease in India – Strategies for tobacco control and other risk factors” and V.S. Ramachandran, the brilliant neuroscientist from San Diego, Calif., whose seminal work on the nature and treatment of phantom pains has brought him international fame. He is the author of the widely acclaimed book, “Phantoms in the Brain.”

There were a lot of vignettes I picked up from this doctors’ meet. For example, Verghese in his spotlight luncheon address, cautioned, “I am not a great fan of evidence-based medicine. The patient in bed is being replaced by the icon in the computer.” He was referring to the erosion of clinical methods in the modern day medical practice.

Later, when he addressed the medical residents, he asked seriously, “What is the downside of being on call every other day?” Then came his answer wrapped in a smile, “You will miss out on the good clinical stuff on your off days!” Try telling that to our young medical residents!

One of the most educational and insightful programs was the interactive seminar on “Spousal Abuse in South Asian Families - A Truth Unveiled,” led by Lakshmy Parameswaran, a counselor in private practice and a founder of Daya Inc., a Houston based non-profit organization serving South Asian victims of abuse and violence.

One of the featured speakers was Anita Perry, First Lady of Texas. Parameswaran and her co-speakers spoke eloquently about many real life stories of spousal abuse in Indian families, which sometimes drew a gasp and a tear from the audience. She emphasized how prevalent the problem is and how we don’t like to talk about it. Many wives are trapped in abusive marriages either because of visa problems, lack of jobs or education.

“People think it is not a major issue, but Nirmala Devi Katta proved otherwise,” Parameswaran said to an attentive audience. Katta shot and killed her abusive husband of 10 years and their three young children, and set their house on fire before killing herself. The news had sent shock waves around Houston. Parameswaran appealed to all Indian physicians that if they take on the issue of family violence, it will empower our women folk, which hopefully will improve the situation, save many lives and strengthen the entire family unit.

A wide range of topics were covered during the regular Continuing Medical Education (CME) sessions. These included anything from “War Zone Surgery,” one Indian surgeon’s experience from operation Iraqi freedom, to “Health Care without Borders” from Sangeetha Reddy, executive director of Apollo Group of Hospitals. Reddy has developed a “global delivery model for health care” as “medical tourism” is becoming popular among those from USA, Canada and European countries. India is now able to give prompt, excellent and cost-effective treatment for practically any medical problem.

For the first time, many of these medical seminars were open to the public. And the attendance and participation were good for all the meetings; clearly the attendees enjoyed the free flow of information. Successful conventions, such as these along with excellent professional, charitable and educational activities, bear testimony to the rapid progress of Indian American physicians.

Cardiologist Dr. M. P. Ravindra Nathan lives in Brooksville.



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