An Indian American psychiatrist and mental health expert has been named to the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities (PCPID). The longtime Republican loyalist, Dr. Vijayalakshmi Appareddy, will serve on the committee until May 11,2019.
Dr. Vijayalakshmi Appareddy is a psychiatrist in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She received her medical degree from Osmania Medical College NTR UHS and has been in practice for more than 20 years. She also speaks multiple languages, including Hindi and Urdu.
The responsibility is a familiar one for Appareddy. She had served for two terms in the George W. Bush administration as a vice-chairperson of this committee, which was known at the time as the President’s Committee on Mental Retardation. “I had expressed my interest to the Trump transition team in 2016 to be the surgeon general of the United States, and I had also expressed my interest to [GOP] congressmen in Tennessee and Georgia,” she said. She said that last year the administration asked about her interest in the PCPID. She said she learned in March, after interviews with presidential personnel, that she was approved by the position. The White House announced her selection March 30.
During the Bush administration, she said, she was one of the committee members who suggested the name change to PCPID – an action that was accomplished after Bush signed an executive order.
“At the time, he also spent about 45 minutes chatting with each one of us in the Oval office, and that is when I popped the question, ‘When are you going to India Mr. President?’ He said soon – and within the year he visited India,” she said.
She said her appointment by Bush made her the first Indian-American woman who was a presidential appointee in an advisory position.
The committee, she said, has its genesis under President John F. Kennedy who wanted to increase mental-health awareness. “He had a sister who had a intellectual disability and mental illness,” she said. “Subsequently, every president since then has renewed this committee.” She said the 2001 New Freedom Initiative, which was responsible for the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, is an offshoot of this committee. The first executive director of the President’s Committee on Mental Retardation was an Indian-American, Dr. Sambhu N. Banik, a clinical psychologist and Republican Party stalwart.
She said her goal in the new post is “to help make policies to continually improve the lives of people with intellectual disabilities using new technology and all of the latest sophisticated innovative approaches that were not available just a few years ago and which now have been invaluable in helping these people and making them productive citizens and helping them to be independent and lead a life of dignity.” As a delegate to the American Medical Association, she said, she has presented resolutions resulting in the classification of the intellectually disabled as an underserved population. Consequently, she said, intellectual disability is also classified as a medical diagnosis .