Known around the world for their compassion, expertise, brilliance and intellect, Indian American physicians are reputed for the quality healthcare they provide to millions of their patients in the United States. In patient care, administration, leadership or academics, they have excelled in their respective fields, holding important positions across the United States and the world.
Indian-Americans constitute less than one percent of the country’s population, but they account for nine percent of the American doctors and physicians. One out of every seven doctors serving in the US is of Indian heritage, providing medical care to over 40 million of US population.
Dr. Seema Arora, Chairwoman of AAPI’s Board of Trustees pointed to the fact that “The deadly Corona Covid-19 virus has claimed more than 171.000 deaths around the world with the US leading the chart with nearly 43,000 deaths. The pandemic has placed the entire healthcare sector, and in particular the Indian American medical fraternity at the frontlines of the fight against the pandemic. “
There are about 80,000 practicing Indian American physicians who are at the forefront of fighting COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. In addition, there are around 40,000 medical students, residents, and fellows of Indian origin in this country who are supporting many of the hospitals affected by the pandemic.
“We have a proud moment, it is (also) a scary moment; it is a mixed feeling, but this virus is a deadly virus” Dr. Suresh Reddy, President of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), describing the situation under which the physicians of Indian Origin serving people infected with the virus. “They tend to work disproportionately in areas that are medically underserved like rural and inner city areas taking on a heavier workload with patients who are more ill. We are definitely in the frontline fighting this deadly battle,” against the coronavirus, Reddy said.
Dr. Priya Khanna, 43, an Indian American nephrologist died in a New Jersey Hospital. Her father Satyendra Khanna (78), a general surgeon, has tested positive and is said to be in a critical condition in the intensive care unit in the same hospital.
During a recent candle light vigil and inter-faith prayer organized by AAPI, with one minute of silence with folded hands and heads bowed, the AAPI members and spiritual leaders prayed for the speedy recovery of Drs. Ajay Lodha, Anjana Samaddar, Dr. Sunil Mehra and thousands of other healthcare professionals who are in the front line and are admitted to hospital and receiving treatment.
“Even in the midst of scare and fear, healthcare workers including physicians report to work with or without adequate protective equipment to save the lives of others knowing that they could be the next victim,” Dr. Narendra R. Kumar, Past President of AAPI & AKMG, from Michigan, pointed out. “Hundreds of healthcare workers are under quarantine or under active treatment at home and in hospitals. Many of them are on ventilators including few of our senior AAPI leaders struggling for their lives. One thing is clear, this is a deadly disease and doesn’t discriminate anyone, anywhere.”
“While it’s more common among elderly and with multiple comorbidities, COVID 19 infection is also common in health care workers as they get exposed during their line of duty. We have reports of several thousands of health care workers who have got COVID 19 infection and many of them are critically ill in intensive care unit. Several Indian American Healthcare professionals have been admitted in hospitals and we have already lost one young physician to this pandemic. We want to make sure that all health care workers have proper PPE while taking care of these patients,” said Dr. Jayesh Shah, President, South Texas Wound Associates, PA and President, American College of Hyperbaric Medicine.
Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda, President-Elect of AAPI, said, “The American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (APPI) the largest ethnic medical organization in the country has taken several proactive steps in educating their members and the general public about the disease, the preventive steps that needs to be taken at this time and most importantly, they are using all their contacts and resources at the hospital administrative and government level to facilitate treatment protocols to be in place at the various hospitals around the country.”
Describing Indian American physicians as “the real heroes” Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, Vice President of AAPI said, “Several immigrant physicians work in the New York and New Jersey regions, the epic center of the pandemic. They are struggling with Green Card Backlog and on temporary Visa plans. Due to their vulnerability, they are forced to work and often they have no choice. Not having adequate PPEs while caring for the Covid patients, many have become positive in the process, some have died, some are in ICU now and some are recuperating at home. These are the true saviors and unsung heroes saving the lives of so many Americans. We are proud of the services of Indian American physicians in this country.”
Ravi Kolli, Secretary of AAPI and a Psychiatrist by profession, said, “AAPI members as a group are over represented in all the hot spot areas as well as caring for underserved populations. They are bravely leading the enormous challenge of fighting COVID 19 pandemic at their own personal risk without a second thought which speaks volumes for their compassion, commitment and sense of duty.
“Our Indian American Physicians are down in the trenches in the frontline bravely taking care of the sick,” Dr. Amit Chakrabarty, Regional Director of AAPI pointed out. “Unfortunately, we have had multiple heart-bearing incidents about our physicians that have contracted the disease while performing their duties, several who are on ventilator and in critical condition and some who have succumbed to the disease. However, undaunted, they continue to perform their duties in this time of national crisis.”
“Indian American Physicians are bearing the brunt of this pandemic in the US,” said Dr. Joseph M. Chalil, a cardiologist and professor at several Universities in the United States. “Not a day goes by without hearing about many of them getting infected with Coronavirus, and several of them fighting for their life, because of their disproportionate share of the population in the Healthcare field. This pandemic is hitting close to home for me and my colleagues,” Dr. Chalil said.
Expressing his anguish that “There is no standardized treatment protocols available at this time but multiple trial therapies are being conducted at several institutions around the world,” Dr. Kumar is “Very optimistic that Convalescent plasma therapy, anti-viral drug Remdesivir and other medications will be made available with significant promising results in the coming days and weeks. We are also working on a national level to make new treatment protocols easily available to the needy patients by eliminating the unnecessary policy and procedural delays which is costing many valuable lives.”
There have been proud moments for the Indian American Doctors. Last week, Dr. Uma Madhusudana, who graduated from Mysore Medical College, and currently working in a New York Hospital treating Covid19 patients, saving several lives was honored. More than 200 cars with recovered patients, relatives and police passed through in front of her house to express their gratitude for her services. It was indeed a great experience.
Expressing hope, Dr. Amit Chakrabarty says, “AAPI members continue to donate money for AAPI to provide essential personal protective equipment to areas that are in short supply. Finally, AAPI has provided through various channels, spiritual and motivational guidance to our members and their families. We are in this together and we will emerge victorious. That is our belief and are working hard towards it.”