FDA Approves COVID-19 Treatment Remdesivir For Young Kids

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Monday gave its first full approval for a COVID-19 treatment for children under 12.  The agency granted approval to the treatment remdesivir, also known as Veklury, made by Gilead Sciences, which has already been approved as a treatment for adults.

The treatment was earlier under emergency use authorization for children. Full approval from the FDA provides a more formal and higher level of endorsement than emergency authorization.

Still, the FDA stressed that remdesivir is not a replacement for vaccination, and there is still no authorized vaccine for children under 5, a source of stress and disappointment for some parents.

Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), the chair of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, earlier on Monday requested an FDA briefing on the agency’s progress on authorizing a vaccine for children under five.

Authorization for the Pfizer vaccine for young kids could come in June, though previous timelines have been pushed back before.

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While the virus is generally less dangerous in children, the FDA noted severe illness can still result.   “As COVID-19 can cause severe illness in children, some of whom do not currently have a vaccination option, there continues to be a need for safe and effective COVID-19 treatment options for this population,” said Patrizia Cavazzoni, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “Today’s approval of the first COVID-19 therapeutic for this population demonstrates the agency’s commitment to that need.”

The approval covers children 28 days and older who weigh at least 3 kilograms and are either hospitalized or at high-risk of severe illness.

Tags also known as Veklury Coronavirus COVID-19 FDA Food and Drug Administration Gilead Sciences James Clyburn made by Gilead Sciences Pandemic Remdesivir The agency granted approval to the treatment remdesivir Veklury

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AYUSH Visa To Be Introduced By India

India is increasingly becoming a healthcare destination for millions of people seeking affordable, quality and effective healthcare services for people from around the world. Keeping in mind the rising demand of traditional medicine, the special AYUSH visa category has been introduced for foreign nationals who want to come to India for AYUSH therapy and invest in the sector.

During the inauguration of the Global AYUSH Investment and Innovation Summit at Gandhinagar in Gujarat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that India is going to introduce a special AYUSH visa category for foreign nationals who want to come to the country to take advantage of traditional medicine.

The Prime Minister announced that the central government will implement a specific AYUSH hallmark that will be affixed to the best grade AYUSH items manufactured in India. He said that the manufacturing of AYUSH medications, vitamins, and cosmetics is already booming in India, and that the opportunities for investment and innovation in the sector of AYUSH are infinite.

“With this visa, it will make travel easier for accessing Ayush therapies (in India),” said PM Modi while speaking at the inaugural session of the Global Ayush Investment and Innovation Summit 2022 at Mahatma Mandir in Gandhinagar. He added that the Centre has a plethora of initiatives to encourage and promote the Ayush sector, including the establishment of a digital portal to connect medicinal plant farmers with Ayush product manufacturers.

World Health Organization (WHO) chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth, Union Ayush Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel were present at the session.

Adding that investment summits are key in taking any sector forward, Modi highlighted that the idea for an Ayush summit came to him during Covid-19 “when there was widespread panic across the world”. “We saw how ayurvedic medicines, Ayush kada and many such other products were aiding people to increase immunity. During the times of Covid-19, turmeric export from India increased manifold. Innovation and investment increase the capability of any sector manifold. It is time now to increase investment as much as possible in the Ayush sector,” said Modi.

Vision Improvement Is Long-Lasting With Treatment For Blinding Blood Vessel Condition

New research shows that a treatment for retinal vein occlusion yields long-lasting vision gains, with visual acuity remaining significantly above baseline at five years. However, many patients require ongoing treatment. Retinal vein occlusion is one of the most common blinding conditions in the United States; without treatment, central retinal vein occlusion (CRVO), the most severe type of retinal vein occlusion often leads to significant and permanent vision loss. A report on five-year outcomes of the Study of Comparative Treatments for Retinal Vein Occlusion 2 (SCORE2), was published April 21 in American Journal of Ophthalmology. SCORE2 was funded in part by the National Eye Institute (NEI), a part of the National Institutes of Health.

Retinal vein occlusion is caused by a blockage of the veins carrying blood away from the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. This blockage can lead to macular edema where fluid becomes trapped within and under the retina, leading to rapid and severe loss of visual acuity. Without treatment, this condition typically leads to permanent loss of vision. The most effective treatment, injections of anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) drugs, helps control blood vessel leakage and swelling in the retina.

“While anti-VEGF therapy is associated with significant improvement in both retinal swelling and visual acuity in patients with central or hemi-retinal vein occlusion, our findings show that most of the patients followed still required treatment to control the macular edema for at least five years,” said Ingrid U. Scott, M.D., M.P.H., Penn State College of Medicine, Hershey, chair of the study. “This demonstrates the importance of continued monitoring of these patients.”

In 2017, SCORE2 clinical trial investigators reported that two types of anti-VEGF treatment were equally effective at improving visual acuity in people with macular edema due to CRVO or hemi-retinal vein occlusion (HRVO). CRVO affects the entire retina, while HRVO generally affects about half of the retina. Half of the study participants had been given Avastin (bevacizumab) while the other half received Eylea (aflibercept). Both drugs were administered by injection once per month for six months. At the six-month mark, the vision of participants in both groups had, on average, improved over three lines on an eye chart.

As detailed in this new report, the study investigators followed SCORE2 participants for five years, collecting information about their visual acuity, treatments, and whether their macular edema had resolved. After the initial 12-month study period, participants were treated at their physician’s discretion. Most physicians reduced the frequency of anti-VEGF injections and some switched their patients to the other anti-VEGF drug. At five years, many participants had lost some visual acuity when compared to their acuity at the 12-month mark; however, they retained on average three lines of improvement, compared to their acuity at the beginning of the study.

“It was surprising to us that despite many participants still needing treatment after five years, their visual acuity outcome remained very good,” said Michael Ip, M.D., co-chair of the study from Doheny Eye Institute, University of California Los Angeles. “In comparison to this treatment for wet age-related macular degeneration, where initial vision improvements fade over time, these results are quite favorable.”

“This five-year study tells us a lot about what’s happening with retinal vein occlusion patients in the real world,” said Scott. “Prior to this study, retinal vein occlusion was widely considered an acute illness. This study shows that RVO is a chronic disease. It also underscores the importance of disease monitoring and individualized treatment to achieve the best possible vision.”

“The SCORE2 study provides invaluable data to guide clinicians and their patients toward informed decisions regarding treatment for retinal vein occlusion,” said NEI Director Michael F. Chiang, M.D.

The SCORE2 study was funded by NEI and Research to Prevent Blindness. Study drugs were provided by Regeneron, Inc and Allergan, Inc. Clinical trial number: NCT01969708.

Reference: Scott IU, VanVeldhuisen PC, Oden NL, Ip MS, Blodi BA, for the SCORE2 Investigator Group. “Month 60 Outcomes after Treatment Initiation with Anti-VEGF Therapy for Macular Edema due to Central or Hemi-Retinal Vein Occlusion.” American Journal of Ophthalmology. April 21, 2022 DOI: 10.1016/j.ajo.2022.04.001

NEI leads the federal government’s research on the visual system and eye diseases. NEI supports basic and clinical science programs to develop sight-saving treatments and address special needs of people with vision loss. For more information, visit https://www.nei.nih.gov.

India-USA Healthcare Partnership with Health Minister Of India Planned During AAPI’s 40th Convention

Coming from India, a nation that has given much to the world, today physicians of Indian origin have become a powerful influence in healthcare across the world. Nowhere is their authority more keenly felt than in the United States, where Indians make up the largest non-Caucasian segment of the American medical community. The overrepresentation of Indians in the field of medicine is striking – in practical terms, one out of seven patients is seen by doctor of in of Indian Heritage in the United States. They provide medical care to the most diverse population base of over 40 million in the US.

Not satisfied with their professional growth and the service they provide to their patients around the world, they are at the forefront, sharing their knowledge and expertise with others, especially those physicians and leaders in the medical field from India.

Since its inception four decades ago, the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) has grown and is strong today and is the largest ethnic medical organization in the United States, representing the interests of over 100,000 physicians of Indian Origin in the US and is the powerful voice here in the US and back home in India.

Their contributions to their motherland and the United States have been enormous. Physicians of Indian origin are well known around the world for their compassion, passion for patient care, medical skills, research, and leadership. They have excelled in their fields of medicine and thus have earned a name for themselves through hard work, commitment, and dedication to their profession and the people they are committed to serving.

Through various projects and programs, AAPI has been leading healthcare initiatives and contributing significantly to offering education, training, and healthcare collaboration with Not-for-profit and government agencies across the nation. The flagship Global Healthcare Summit organized in India every year has been lauded for the tangible contributions AAPI continues to provide impacting almost every field of healthcare in India.

There is no instant solution for India’s myriad problems. But by collaborating with the governments both nationally and at state levels, and working with the government and NGOs, physicians of Indian origin can make a huge difference.

“AAPI in its unique way has made immense contributions to helping our motherland during the crisis and played a significant role in saving lives,” says Anupama Gotimukula, President, of AAPI. “Today, this esteemed panel is convened to nurture, and further, this collaboration between two of the world’s most challenging healthcare systems in the world’s two greatest democracies.”

Realizing this great mission, AAPI is for the first time organizing an In-Person Plenary Session on India-USA Healthcare Partnership With the Health Minister Of India, Mansukh Mandaviya (invited but awaiting confirmation from his office) during the 40th Annual Convention of AAPI on Saturday, June 25, 2022, at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, San Antonio, TX, said Dr. Jayesh Shah, Chair, AAPI Convention & Past President, AAPI.

The Panel Discussion is being moderated by Dr. Sweta Bansal and Dr. Rajeev Suri, Co-Chairs of the AAPI Convention Committees. The invited panelists include Dr. Rahul Gupta, US Drug Czar; Honorable Taranjit Sandhu, Ambassador of India; Hon. Aseem R Mahajan, Consul General of India in Houston; Senator John Cornyn;  Rep. Raja Krishnamurthy, US congressman; Rep. Joaquin Castro, US Congressman; Rep. Ami Bera, US Congressman; Dr. Dwarkanath Reddy, GHS 2022 India Chair; Navdeep S. Jaikaria, Ph.D., Founder, Chairman & CEO, SGN Nanopharma Inc., GAPIO President, BAPIO President, and All AAPI Alumni Chapter Presidents.

The role being played by the AAPI Charitable Foundation has been very significant, says, Dr. Surendra Purohit, Chair, AAPI Charitable Foundation. He will provide an update on the “Role of AAPI’s free clinics in India in the last 40 years.”

Recalling the many noble initiatives of AAPI, benefitting India during the Covid Pandemic, Dr. Sujeet Punnam, said, “Diseases do not have borders and collaboration in healthcare globally is necessary for the survival of humanity. It is this reality that the recent pandemic has engraved on our collective conscience.” The panel on “The Covid Crisis – AAPI physicians’ response during the largest global pandemic in over a century” will be led by Drs. Sujit Punnam, Amit Chakraborthy, & Raj Bhayani. Sewa International, which has been collaborating with AAPI in reaching the needed supplies to the neediest in India will be represented by Arun Kankani, President of Sewa International.

Dr. Thakor Patel will provide an update on AAPI Sevak Project, which has been serving millions of people across the many states in India. A new initiative under the current leadership of AAPI has been “Adopt 75 Villages” in India commemorating the 75th anniversary of India’s Independence and providing much-needed Healthcare Screening for chronic diseases, A Rural Health Project involving 75 Villages in several states. Dr. Satheesh Kathula, who has adopted his Village and believes “Over time, an improved village could lead to an improved region, state and country” will present this new program, whose focus is “prevention is better than cure.”

During the most recent Global Healthcare Summit in Hyderabad in 2022, AAPI had organized camps for Screening for Cervical Cancer and Vaccinations to prevent cervical cancer for 100 young women in Hyderabad. Dr. Meetha Singh, who has been part of the program will brief the audience on this new initiative, benefitting women.

TB Eradication Program by a committed team led by Dr. Manoj Jain in collaboration with USAID and now actively functioning in several states in India will be a topic for discussion during the plenary session.

Dr. Gotimukula, President of AAPI urges “AAPI members to consider joining this movement by participating and leading the India-US Healthcare Partnership. AAPI will work with you in coordinating the efforts and through the support system we have in several states, will help you achieve this goal of giving back to our motherland.” For more details, please do visit: www. aapiusa.org

FDA Grants Emergency Use Authorization To COVID-19 Breathalyzer Test

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on Thursday that it had authorized the first test to detect COVID-19 through breath for emergency use.

The InspectIR COVID-19 Breathalyzer is able to identify five volatile organic compounds tied to the coronavirus in a person’s breath by using a technique known as gas chromatography gas mass-spectrometry, delivering results in less than three minutes, according to the FDA.

The agency said that in a study of 2,409 people, which included both people with and without symptoms, the test had a 99.3 percent specificity rate, which measures the percent of correctly identified negative test samples.

The FDA also noted that the InspectIR COVID-19 Breathalyzer had a 91.2 percent sensitivity rate, which measures the percent of correctly identified positive test samples.

Still, the health agency said that a molecular test should be used to confirm positive test results returned by the COVID-19 breath test.

“Today’s authorization is yet another example of the rapid innovation occurring with diagnostic tests for COVID-19,” Jeff Shuren, director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said in a statement.

Bloomberg (4/14, Muller) reports, “A COVID-19 breathalyzer test with the ability to provide diagnostic results in three minutes has won emergency-use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the agency announced Thursday.” The test made by InspectIR Systems “is authorized for those 18 and older and in settings where samples are both collected and analyzed, such as doctor’s offices, hospitals or mobile testing sites.” The FDA “said the test was validated in a study of 2,409 people, where it correctly identified 91.2% of positive samples and 99.3% of negative samples.”

COVID-19, Overdoses Made 2021 The Deadliest Year In U.S. History

2021 was the deadliest year in U.S. history, and new data and research are offering more insights into how it got that bad.

The main reason for the increase in deaths? COVID-19, said Robert Anderson, who oversees the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s work on death statistics.

The agency this month quietly updated its provisional death tally. It showed there were 3.465 million deaths last year, or about 80,000 more than 2020’s record-setting total.

Early last year, some experts were optimistic that 2021 would not be as bad as the first year of the pandemic — partly because effective COVID-19 vaccines had finally become available. “We were wrong, unfortunately,” said Noreen Goldman, a Princeton University researcher.

COVID-19 deaths rose in 2021 — to more than 415,000, up from 351,000 the year before — as new coronavirus variants emerged and an unexpectedly large numbers of Americans refused to get vaccinated or were hesitant to wear masks, experts said.

The coronavirus is not solely to blame. Preliminary CDC data also shows the crude death rate for cancer rose slightly, and rates continued to increase for diabetes, chronic liver disease, and stroke.

Drug overdose deaths also continued to rise. The CDC does not yet have a tally for 2021 overdose deaths, because it can take weeks of lab work and investigation to identify them. But provisional data through October suggests the nation is on track to see at least 105,000 overdose deaths in 2021 — up from 93,000 the year before.

New research released Tuesday showed a particularly large jump in overdose deaths among 14- to 18-year-olds.

Adolescent overdose death counts were fairly constant for most of the last decade, at around 500 a year, according to the paper published by the Journal of the American Medical Association. They almost doubled in 2020, to 954, and the researchers estimated that the total hit nearly 1,150 last year.

Joseph Friedman, a UCLA researcher who was the paper’s lead author, called the spike “unprecedented.”

Those teen overdose deaths were only around 1% of the U.S. total. But adolescents experienced a greater relative increase than the overall population, even though surveys suggest drug use among teens is down.

‘Experts attributed the spike to fentanyl, a highly lethal drug that has been cut into heroin for several years. More recently it’s also been pressed into counterfeit pills resembling prescription drugs that teens sometimes abuse.

The total number of U.S. deaths often increases year to year as the U.S. population grows. But 2020 and 2021 saw extraordinary jumps in death numbers and rates, due largely to the pandemic.

Those national death trends affect life expectancy — an estimate of the average number of years a baby born in a given year might expect to live.

With rare exceptions, U.S. life expectancy has reliably inched up year after year. But the CDC’s life expectancy estimate for 2020 was about 77 years — more than a year and a half lower than what it was in 2019.

The CDC has not yet reported its calculation for 2021. But Goldman and some other researchers have been making their own estimates, presented in papers that have not yet been published in peer-reviewed journals.

Those researchers think U.S. life expectancy dropped another five or six months in 2021 — putting it back to where it was 20 years ago.

A loss of more than two years of life expectancy over the last two years “is mammoth,” Goldman said.

One study looked at death data in the U.S. and 19 other high-income countries. The U.S. fared the worst.

“What happened in the U.S. is less about the variants than the levels of resistance to vaccination and the public’s rejection of practices, such as masking and mandates, to reduce viral transmission,” one of the study’s authors, Dr. Steven Woolf of Virginia Commonwealth University, said in a statement.

Some experts are skeptical that life expectancy will quickly bounce back. They worry about long-term complications of COVID-19 that may hasten the deaths of people with chronic health problems.

Preliminary — and incomplete — CDC data suggest there were at least 805,000 U.S. deaths in about the first three months of this year. That’s well below the same period last year, but higher than the comparable period in 2020.

“We may end up with a ‘new normal’ that’s a little higher than it was before,” Anderson said.

WHO To Set Up World’s First Global Center For Traditional Medicine In India

The global center will the first-of-its-kind institution in the world to combine scientific research with ancient traditional methods of medicine.

The World Health Organization(WHO) and Government of India signed an agreement to establish the WHO Global Centre for Traditional Medicine(GCTM) in Gujarat, India to promote traditional medicine backed by science and reasearch to improve the health of people all over the world.

With India set to establish WHO Global Centre for traditional medicine in Jamnagar, Gujarat, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region has called it a “game-changer.”

Traditional medicines, she said have been around for millennia and pointed out that nearly 80 per cent of people, in 170 of 194 WHO member countries use them.

“Despite their widespread use, traditional medicine lack robust evidence, data and a standard framework preventing their integration into the mainstream healthcare delivery system,” Dr Singh said in an exclusive interview with ANI.

“WHOs Global Centre for traditional medicine could be a game-changer by focusing on evidence and learning, data and analytics, sustainability and equity, innovation and technology to help harness the ancient wisdom and power of traditional medicine, and to advance the SDG 3 target of ensuring health and promoting wellbeing for all of all ages,” she added.

The center backed by an investment of USD 250 million from the Government of India, will be located at Jamnagar, Gujarat. The groundbreaking ceremony for the GCTM will take place on April 19, 2022, in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Director-General of WHO Tedros Ghebreyesus.

Dr Singh said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus and expressed India’s keenness in establishing and hosting the GCTM in India so as to harness the potential of traditional medicine from across the world through modern science and technology to improve the health of people and the planet.

The Government of India last month signed the ‘Host Country Agreement’ with WHO for establishing WHO Global Centre for Traditional Medicine in India at Jamnagar, Gujarat, with its interim office at the Institute of Training and Research in Ayurveda in Gujarat. “Indian Government has generously agreed to support the setting up of the GCTM and its activities for the first ten years,” Dr Singh said.

Noting that the COVID-19 pandemic is stretching and impacting the health systems across the world, Dr Singh pointed out many countries felt the need to mobilize all available resources to recover from the pandemic and accelerate progress towards SDG 3 goals.

“The emerging burden of NCDs and mental illnesses have also created a demand for integrating evidence-based traditional medicine into the healthcare delivery system to promote health and wellbeing,” she said.

Dr. Joseph M. Chalil, MD, MBA, FACHE is appointed as the Chief Medical Officer of Novo Integrated Sciences, Inc. (NASDAQ: NVOS) and the New President of Novomerica Health Group

Dr. Joseph M. Chalil, MD, MBA, FACHE, Best Selling Author and Publisher of The Universal News Network, (www.theunn.com) has been appointed as the Chief Medical Officer of Novo Integrated Sciences, Inc. (NASDAQ: NVOS) and the New President of Novomerica Health Group, Inc on April 5th, 2022. In addition, Dr, Chalil will maintain his leadership of Clinical Consultants International LLC (CCI).

While announcing the appointment, Robert Mattacchione, Novo’s CEO and Board Chairman of Novo Integrated Sciences, Inc. stated, “Adding CCI and the impressive CCI team of highly respected, proven leaders in the medical community, led by Dr. Chalil, is a significant milestone intended to accelerate Novo’s expansion to both the U.S. and other global markets. As the healthcare sector worldwide is facing increasingly complex demands with incredible opportunities to leverage technology and new service models, Dr. Chalil and the CCI team are the perfect partner to accelerate the growth of Novo’s decentralized healthcare delivery business model.

Dr. Chalil and his team share Novo’s forward-thinking vision and combined with CCI’s exceptional talent undoubtedly make CCI a strong addition to the Novo portfolio of companies.” Novo Integrated Sciences, Inc. is pioneering a holistic approach to patient-first health and wellness through a multidisciplinary healthcare ecosystem of services and product innovation.

Under the terms of Novo’s acquisition, CCI will be a wholly owned subsidiary of the Company. CCI has an impressive international team of physician leaders, diplomats, hospital administrators, and regulatory/FDA experts.

“Working with Rob and the Novo team over the last year, I’ve witnessed firsthand Novo’s commitment to be a leader in the ongoing transformation of healthcare delivery worldwide,” said Dr. Chalil. “I cannot think of a better partnership for CCI and the CCI team and it is my honor to join the Novo team with this acquisition. I am excited to work closely with Rob and the Novo team to implement our shared vision for the path forward to improving access to high-quality healthcare services and products worldwide.”

Founded in 2006, the highly respected CCI senior strategic advisor team includes Ambassador Pradeep K. Kapur, IFS (IIT Delhi), former Indian Ambassador to several countries including Chile, Dr. Zach P. Zachariah, MD, Medical Director of  Health Cardiology, and the longest-serving member of the Florida Board of Medicine, Saju George, CEO for Garden City Hospital and Prime Healthcare’s midwestern region, and other professionals with extensive healthcare and hospital management experience.

Dr.Chalil served as Chairman of Novo’s Medical Advisory Board since April ‘2021. Dr. Chalil is an author of several scientific and research papers in international publications. He is also the Chairman of the Complex Health Systems Advisory Board, H. Wayne Huizenga College of Business and Entrepreneurship at Nova Southeastern University in Florida, and a member of Dr. Kiran C. Patel College of Allopathic Medicine Executive Leadership Council.

A veteran of the U.S. Navy Medical Corps, he is board certified in healthcare management. He has been awarded a Fellowship by the American College of Healthcare Executives, an international professional society of more than 40,000 healthcare executives who lead hospitals, healthcare systems, and other healthcare organizations. Dr.Chalil has held roles of increasing responsibility at DBV Technologies, Boehringer Ingelheim, Abbott Laboratories, and Hoffmann-La Roche.

Additionally, Dr.Chalil is the former Chairman of the Indo-American Press Club. He is an expert in U.S. healthcare policy and a strong advocate for patient-centered care. A strong proponent of providing healthcare access to everyone, Dr. Chalil’s new book, Beyond the COVID-19 Pandemic: Envisioning a Better World by Transforming the Future of Healthcare, is on Amazon’s Best Sellers List.

AAPI Elects New Leaders For 2022-23 And Beyond

(Chicago, IL: April 10, 2022) “We have successfully concluded our elections for the year 2022-23 for AAPI leadership positions,” Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, current President of AAPI, and Dr. Sajani Shah, AAPI’s Chief Election Officer and Immediate Past Chair BOT, jointly announced here today. “We thank the election officers Dr. Seema Arora, Dr. Sharad Lakhanpal, Dr. Sunita Kanumury, Dr. Arun Pramanik, Dr. Ashok Jain, and all of you for participating in the Election.”

While thanking the tens of thousands of Indian American physicians, who are actively holding membership at the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), and participated in the election process, Dr. Gotiumukula said, “I want to thank AAPI members who enthusiastically participated in the AAPI’s electronic voting process that was held over a period of nearly a month and have elected a new and dynamic team to lead AAPI, the largest ethnic medical organization in the United States in the coming year and beyond.”

While announcing the results of the election after months-long campaigning for several offices to the national body and regional chapters, Dr. Sajani Shah, Chief Election Officer, 2022 said, Dr. Satheesh Kathula has been elected as the Vice President of AAPI, Dr. Meherbala Medavaram was elected as the Secretary and Dr. Sumul Raval was elected Treasurer of AAPI for the year 2022-23. Dr. Kavita Gupta, Dr. Sunil Kaza, and Dr. Malti Mehta have been elected to AAPI’s Board of Trustees for a two-year term.

Dr. V. Ranga will serve as the Chair, AAPI Board of Trustees for the year, 2022-23. Giving representation and strengthening the voice of young physicians of Indian origin, AAPI members elected Dr. Pooja Kinkhabwala as the President, AAPI Young Physicians Section (YPS) and elected Dr. Ammu Susheela as the President of AAPI- Medical Student/Residents & Fellows Section (MSRF).

“I feel very satisfied that the election committee has been able to do well in providing a very FAIR election to everyone, following all bylaws, while dealing with big challenges in implementation of this electronic process, taking extra security precautions, anti-hacking measures, fixing glitches, resolving disputes, anxieties, and concerns of the members,” Dr. Seema Arora, Immediate Past Election Officer, during whose term, the new electronic voting was introduced a year ago, said.

Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda, Immediate Past President of AAPI thanked the election committee members, and the entire Executive Committee led by Dr. Gotimukula for making this election smooth and transparent. Dr. Suresh Reddy, former President of AAPI congratulated the winners in the AAPI elections, and wished the new team under the leadership of Dr. Kolli the very best.

“As the incoming President of AAPI, I would like to congratulate my incoming new team for the fiscal year 2022-23,” said Dr. Ravi Kolli, who will assume charge as the President of AAPI during the 40th annual convention in San Antonio, TX in June this year. “I’m very honored, and consider myself fortunate to be bestowed with the responsibility of leading the four decades old strong organization with the cooperation and collaboration of an excellent group of dedicated, hardworking, and loyal officers and executive committee members who are with me to take AAPI to newer heights,” he added. Dr. Kolli did not have to contest the election this year, as he has been serving as the President-Elect during the past year.

Dr. Anjana Sammadar, who has been serving AAPI as the Vice President in the current year also did not face elections, as she automatically becomes the President-Elect of AAPI for the coming year. In addition to Dr. Samaddar, Dr. Ravi Kolli will have a dynamic and diverse team comprising of Dr. Satheesh Kathula as Vice President; Dr. Meherbala Medavaram as the Secretary; Dr. Sumul Raval as the Treasurer; Dr. V. Ranga – as the Chair, Board of Trustees; Dr. Pooja Kinkhabwala – President, Young Physicians Section; and, Dr. Ammu Susheela, President, Medical Student/Residents & Fellows Section. Dr. Gotimukula will continue to guide AAPI as the Immediate past President of AAPI.

“I am looking forward to working towards strengthening the goals and mission of AAPI and to help make AAPI a healthcare leader in US and globally and work in the best interests of our Physicians and our community here in the US and server our motherland, India,” added Dr. Kolli.

While congratulating the newly elected leaders to the Executive Committee, Dr. Anjana Samaddar, the President-Elect in 2022-23 said here in a statement: “I want to congratulate all the winners of the election. I want to especially thank all the candidates for their passion and dedication to serving AAPI and regardless of the outcome, we need you as a valuable team member of our beloved AAPI.  ”

Dr. Satheesh Kathula, who won the election to be the next Vice President of AAPI, said, “I am humbled and honored to be bestowed with this responsibility and will work to the greatest of my abilities to reach our goals, addressing the challenges, and advance the issues important to our members. We will work together to promote our values of professionalism, collegiality, and excellence in patient care and enhance AAPI’s reputation as a premier professional organization offering educational programs and advocacy.”

Dr. Meherbala Medavaram, Secretary-Elect of AAPI said, “I would like to thank all AAPI members from the bottom of my heart for this honor and assure that I will sincerely work for the betterment of our beloved organization, AAPI. Once again, I thank everyone for the opportunity to serve.” She expressed gratitude to the Election Committee, who “successfully organized this election, with great participation from AAPI members.”

Dr. Sumul Raval, the newly elected Treasurer of AAPI said, “I am honored to be elected as the Treasurer of national AAPI. I appreciate and thank all of you for your trust in me. I will try everything in me to unite AAPI. Your guidance, support, and vote made this possible. This win belongs to all our members for trusting our vision of growth & progress. I hope to receive your continued support and love.”

Dr. Kusum Punjabi, the outgoing BOT Chair thanked the Election Committee for their meticulous planning and organizing the elections with integrity and fairness. She said, “I congratulate the winners and the new leadership who are entrusted with the responsibility of leading it in the year 2022-23 and beyond. I wish them the very best and my whole-hearted support.”

While conceding the election to Dr. Medavaram to be the next Secretary of AAPI, Dr. Krishan Kumar said, “Thank you so much for supporting me all these years.  I am glad to see the healthy spirit of all candidates (winners or not) for the association.  I will continue to serve this great association, AAPI, until my last breath. AAPI is a big family and full of talented people.  I cherish every moment of being part of it.”

In his message, Dr. Amit Chakrabarty, who was the past Secretary and conceded the election to Dr. Kathula, said, “I am thankful to my Supporters who gave me their precious vote honoring my 25 years of service for AAPI. Next year we will work harder and show the world that dedication and hard work for the betterment of AAPI, will eventually prevail and we will succeed. I congratulate all the winners. I wish Satheesh the best of luck as he moves forward with his new responsibility.”

The growing influence of physicians of Indian heritage is evident, as increasingly physicians of Indian origin hold critical positions in the healthcare, academic, research and administrative positions across the nation. We the physicians of Indian origin are proud of our great achievements and contributions to our motherland, India, our adopted land, the US and in a very significant way to the transformation of the Indo-US relations.

Serving 1 in every 7 patients in the US, AAPI members care for millions of patients every day, while several of them have risen to hold high flying jobs, shaping the policies and programs and inventions that shape the landscape of healthcare in the US and around the  world.

Dr. Gotimukula, while reminding the members of AAPI said, “Since its inception in 1982, AAPI has been in the forefront, representing a conglomeration of more than 100,000 practicing physicians in the United States, seeking to be the united voice for the physicians of Indian origin. I hope and wish that the new Team under Dr. Ravi Kolli will continue the noble mission and strengthen our efforts to make AAPI reach greater heights.”  For more details, please visit: www.appiusa,org


The following are the Executive Committee and Board of Trustees & Regional Directors for the year 2022-23.

President Dr. Ravi Kolli
President-Elect Dr. Anjana Samadder
Vice President Dr. Satheesh Kathula
Secretary Dr. Meherbala Medavaram
Treasurer Dr. Sumul Raval
Immediate Past President Dr. Anupama Gotimukula
Chair, AAPI Board of Trustees Dr. V. Ranga
President, AAPI YPS Dr. Pooja Kinkhabwala
President, AAPI MSRF Dr. Ammu Susheela
Regional Director, Pacific Region Dr. Vandana Agarwal
Regional Director, Mountain Region Dr. Harnath Singh
Regional Director, NW Central Region Dr. Raghuveer Kura
Regional Director, SW Central Region Dr. Anil Tibrewal
Regional Director, NE Central-I Region Dr. Rama Medavaram
Regional Director, NE Central-II Region Dr. Suresh Sharoff
Regional Director, SE Central Region Dr. Pavankumar Panchavati
Regional Director, New England Region Dr. Saraswathi Muppana
Regional Director, Mid Atlantic-I Region Dr. Rakesh K, Mehta
Regional Director Mid Atlantic-II Region Dr. Hetal Gor
Regional Director, South Atlantic Region TBA
Regional Director, South Region Dr. Vijay Maurya
Board of Trustee Dr. V. Ranga (Chair)
Board of Trustee Dr. Jagdish Gupta
Board of Trustee Dr. Raghu Lolabhattu
Board of Trustee Dr. Sapna Aggarwal
Board of Trustee Dr. Lokesh Edara
Board of Trustee Dr. Srinagesh Paluvoi
Board of Trustee Dr. Kavita Gupta
Board of Trustee Dr. Sunil Kaza
Board of Trustee Dr. Malti Mehta
Immediate Past BOT Chair Dr. Kusum Punjabi
YPS Representative on Board Dr. Soumya Neravetla
MSRF Representative on Board Dr. Ayesha Singh

AAPI, IMA, And Tanvir Foundation Hold HPV Vaccination Camp In Hyderabad To Prevent Cervical Cancer

Hyderabad: April 11th, 2022: American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), in collaboration with the Indian Medical Association (IMA) Telangana and Tanvir Foundation in mutual collaboration administered free HPV vaccines to the poor and deserving girls and women at the local Tanvir Hospital in Srinagar Colony, Hyderabad in India on Sunday, April 3rd, 2022 with the objective of preventing cervical cancer, a leading cause of cancer deaths among women in India. This is the second stage of the two part vaccine campaign administered as part of AAPI’s efforts to create awareness and provide tangible support on this preventable illness for young women in India.

“We at AAPI, in keeping with our efforts and initiatives to educate, create awareness and provide support on disease prevention, AAPI is happy to be part of the Cervical Cancer Vaccine Awareness Program,”  Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President said. “The initial camp was organized on January 9th at Tanvir Hospital in Hyderabad as part of APPI’s 15th annual Global Healthcare Summit (GHS) 2022 held Avasa in Hyderabad, India,” and was inaugurated in person by Dr. Gotimukula and several other AAPPI leaders. Nearly 100 women were given the first dose. However, Dr. Gotimukula inaugurated the Free Vaccination Camp virtually from the United States on March 3rd.

The 2nd phase of the free vaccination camp was inaugurated with the lighting of the traditional lamp by IMA’s Telangana President Sampath Rao, IMA North President Raghunandan, Secretary Surendranath, Dr. Meeta Singh, and Dr. Naunihal Singh. AAPI Advisor Dr. Dwarakanatha Reddy inaugurated the vaccination camp. ““If vaccination programs are effectively implemented, approximately 90 percent of invasive cervical cancer cases worldwide could be prevented, in addition to the majority of precancerous lesions,” Dr. Dwarakanatha Reddy said.

“In coordination with the local organizers, AAPI donated the funds for the HPV Vaccination, a total of 200 doses for the vaccine for 100 children from the state of Telangana,” said Dr. Meher Medavaram, an organizer of the program, and the newly elected Secretary of AAPI. “AAPI’s this new initiative through education and awareness programs is aimed at helping save millions of lives in India,” she added.

Usually, cervical cancer develops slowly over time, and another powerful preventive measure is Pap test screening, a procedure during which cells are collected from the surface of the cervix and examined. The Pap test can both detect cancer at an early stage, when treatment outcomes tend to be better, and detect precancerous abnormalities, which can then be treated to prevent them from developing into cancers.

Dr. Ravi Kolli, President-Elect of AAPI, said, “Cervical Cancer is preventable through Vaccination and Early Pap smears and cervical examinations. Justifiably so, one of our preventive campaign goals this year has been to provide education and prevention of Cervical Cancer in India.”

Dr. Anjana Samaddar, current Vice President of AAPI said, “Cervical cancer could be the first cancer EVER in the world to be eliminated, if: 90 % of girls are vaccinated; 70% of women are screened; and, 90% of women with cervical disease receive treatment. This is an important step towards reaching goal,” she pointed out.

While elaborating the objectives of the Summit, Dr. Satheesh Kathula, the newly elected Vice President of AAPI, said, “In addition to Cervical cancer, GHS 2022 has provided education  on: Chronic diseases which can be prevented- notably diabetes, cardiovascular, hypertension, COPD, oncology, maternal and infant mortality, lifestyle changes,  geriatrics, management of neurological emergencies, ENLS, a certification course”.

According to The American Cancer Society, Cervical Cancer was once one of the most common causes of cancer death for American women. The cervical cancer death rate dropped significantly with the increased use of the Pap test for screening. Cervical cancer is among a number of cancers that can be caused by infections with pathogens – bacteria, viruses, and parasites.

“Through Continuing Medical Education and non-CME seminars by experts in their fields, AAPI provides comprehensive and current reviews and guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of various disease states to reduce morbidity and mortality and achieve cost effective quality care outcomes.”

Once a leading cause of cancer death for women in the United States. Today, screening and prevention have greatly reduced the impact of this form of cancer. Increasing screening and prevention are key components of the effort to eradicate cervical cancer. Since almost all cases of the disease are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, vaccines that protect against the virus could prevent the vast majority of cases. Moreover, regular Pap tests can catch – and lead to treatment of – the disease at the precancerous stage.

Describing some of the other ongoing initiatives by AAPI for prevention of illness in India, Dr. Sujeeth R. Punnam, Chair of AAPI’s Covid Relief Committee, pointed to the second in a series of Chemoluminescence Immunoanalyzer (CLIA) donated by AAPI, that has been commissioned last month in Stanley Medical College Hospital in Chennai, India.

“Chemoluminescence Immunoanalyzer (CLIA) and Beckman Coulter UniCel Dxl 800 access Immunoassay system has a throughput of 200 tests/hour and will make point of care testing like covid antibody tests, Ferritin, D Dimer, troponin, IL6, procalcitonin, CRP etc. easy. Each of these costs around $80,000. We are grateful to several AAPI members who have generously contributed to AAPI’s Covid Relief efforts, helping us raise over $5 Million.” A CME meeting was organized by the Biochemistry department to the staff as part of the event.

Expressing confidence, Dr. Gotimukula, the 4th ever Woman President in the four decades long history of AAPI, the largest ethnic medical organization in the United States, said, “Together we can all bring the awareness in the community to prevent Cervical Cancer in India which is 2nd leading cause of cancer deaths in women!” For more information, please visit www.aapiusa.org/ https://summit.aapiusa.org

COVID Cases Rise Nationwide

A burst of high-profile COVID-19 cases in Washington, D.C., is highlighting the lingering threat of the virus, media reports here stated. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Cabinet members including Attorney General Merrick Garland, and a string of lawmakers, have all tested positive in recent days.

The cases are reminders that the virus is still circulating even as much of America moves forward from the pandemic. In fact, experts are bracing for cases to increase in the coming weeks, given an even more highly transmissible subvariant of omicron, known as BA.2, that is circulating widely.

“I do think we’re going to see an uptick nationally,” said Crystal Watson, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “The question is really how high it will get.”  Washington, as well as New York and other parts of the northeast, are already seeing upticks in cases.

The high-profile DC cases, “may be a reflection” of a new spike, Watson said, though she noted it is “hard to tell” exactly how wide a conclusion to draw from them.  “I do think we’re generally seeing an uptick in cases in D.C.,” she said.

Still, there are important ways in which any coming increase in cases will likely not be as bad as previous surges. People who are vaccinated, especially those who are boosted, have strong protection against severe disease, meaning that while they may still get infected, the symptoms are likely to be mild.

In addition to the protection offered by vaccination, many people across the country were infected during the first omicron wave over the winter, which means much of the population still has additional immunity.

“We now have a lot of immunity both from vaccines and from infection,” said Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at Brown University. “It’s hard to imagine we will see quite the levels of severe illness that we saw in earlier phases.”

Some experts now say that hospitalizations are a more important metric than sheer case numbers. With a highly transmissible virus and vaccines that protect against severe disease, the goal has shifted more towards preventing hospitals from being overwhelmed, rather than trying to prevent mild cases from occurring.

Notably, even as cases have gone up in Washington, D.C., and New York City, hospitalizations continued to decrease, though they tend to lag behind cases.

Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser, said on Bloomberg TV this week that he hopes the higher levels of immunity in the population help blunt the worst effects of any coming increase in cases.

“I would not be surprised if we see an uptick in cases, whether that uptick becomes a surge where there are a lot more cases is difficult to predict,” Fauci said. “But the one thing that I hope, and I believe there’s reason that this will not happen, is that we won’t get a very large increase proportionately in hospitalizations because of the background immunity.”

Many of the high-profile D.C. cases have appeared to stem from the Gridiron Dinner, a gathering of many top officials. Gridiron organizers said Friday that 53 attendees had been infected.

Leana Wen, a public health professor at George Washington University, argued in a Washington Post op-ed this week that events like the dinner can still go on in this new phase of “living with COVID-19,” especially if they use safeguards like proof of vaccination and rapid testing beforehand.

“There are those who would argue it’s irresponsible to hold parties that could turn into super-spreader events,” Wen wrote. “That was true before vaccines were widely available, but it’s no longer realistic. We need to use a different paradigm — one that’s based on individuals being thoughtful about their own risks and the risks they pose to others.”

Even for President Biden, the White House acknowledged on Friday that he might get the virus, but stressed the protection from he has vaccines and boosters, saying the country is “in a very different place.”

“It is possible he will test positive for COVID at some point and we’re in a very different place than we were…which is to say we have vaccines, we have treatments,” White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield said on CNN. “The president is vaccinated and double boosted so, you know, protected from severe COVID.”

While there is a risk of a new uptick, the current situation is also greatly improved. Cases, at about 29,000 per day, according to a New York Times tracker, are at their lowest point since last summer.

Hospitalizations have plummeted to about 15,000, and are at their lowest point since the early days of the pandemic in 2020.  There are still about 500 people dying every day from the virus, concentrated among the unvaccinated.

While treatments and vaccines have put the country in a far better place, experts warn that Congress’s failure to provide more funding to fight the virus risks the progress.

The White House says testing capacity will decline in the coming months, and treatments will run out, if more funding is not provided. And if fourth vaccine doses are needed for all Americans, there is not currently enough money to purchase them.

The United States is also lagging other developed countries in its rates of booster doses.   “We have not done a good enough job on that front,” Nuzzo said, noting there should be a particular focus on reaching the remaining elderly who are not boosted.

About half of eligible adults and a third of eligible seniors are not boosted, according to CDC data.   Making sure people are boosted and protected is key, Nuzzo said, because “this virus isn’t going away.”

Highly Accurate 30-Second Coronavirus Test Developed

Newswise — With any highly infectious disease, time can be a killer. It is crucial to get a test result for a pathogen quickly, lest someone continue in their daily lives infecting others. And delays in testing have undoubtedly exacerbated the COVID-19 pandemic.

Unfortunately, the most accurate COVID-19 test often takes 24 hours or longer to return results from a lab.

At-home test kits offer results in minutes but are far less accurate or sensitive.

Researchers at the University of Florida, however, have helped developed a COVID-19 testing device that can detect coronavirus infection in as little as 30 seconds as sensitively and accurately as a PCR, or polymerase chain reaction test, the gold standard of testing. They are working with scientists at National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University in Taiwan.

The device, researchers said, could transform public health officials’ ability to quickly detect and respond to the coronavirus — or the next pandemic.

UF has entered into a licensing agreement with a New Jersey company, Houndstoothe Analytics, in hopes of ultimately manufacturing and selling the device, not just to medical professionals but also to consumers.

Like PCR tests, the device is 90% accurate, researchers said, with the same sensitivity, according to a recent peer-reviewed study published by the UF group.

“There is nothing available like it,” said Josephine Esquivel-Upshaw, D.M.D., a professor in the UF College of Dentistry’s Department of Restorative Dental Sciences and member of the research team that developed the device. “It’s true point of care. It’s access to care. We think it will revolutionize diagnostics.”

The device is not yet approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. First, researchers said, they have to ensure that test results are not thrown off by cross-contamination with other pathogens that might be found in the mouth and saliva. These include other coronaviruses, staph infections, the flu, pneumonia and 20 others. That work is ongoing.

The hand-held apparatus is powered by a 9-volt battery and uses an inexpensive test strip, similar to those used in blood glucose meters, with coronavirus antibodies attached to a gold-plated film at its tip. The strip is placed on the tongue to collect a tiny saliva sample.

The strip is then inserted into a reader connected to a circuit board with the brains of the device.

If someone is infected, the coronavirus in the saliva binds with the antibodies and begins a dance of sorts as they are prodded by two electrical pulses processed by a special transistor. A higher concentration of coronavirus changes the electrical conductance of the sample. That, in turn, alters the voltage of the electrical pulses.

The voltage signal is amplified a million times and converted to a numerical value — in a sense, the sample’s electrochemical fingerprint. That value will indicate a positive or negative result, and the lower the value, the higher the viral load. The device’s ability to quantify viral and antibody load makes it especially useful for clinical purposes, researchers said.

The product can be constructed for less than $50, Esquivel-Upshaw said. In contrast, PCR test equipment can cost thousands.

The research team also is studying its ability to detect specific proteins that could be used to diagnose other illnesses, including cancer, a heart attack and immune health. 

Fan Ren, Ph.D., a distinguished professor in the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering’s Department of Chemical Engineering, and his team had been developing semiconductor-based sensor devices long before COVID-19 for nonmedical purposes.

He noted that he is inspired in his work by the recent death of his wife, which was unrelated to COVID-19. He connects his grief to the mourning of the world at large.

“Almost a million people have died of COVID” in the United States, Ren said. “Those are so many tragedies. Old people. Young people. You name it. I said, ‘No, that’s it.’ That is too much.”

He said several institutions have worked on devices using a field effect transistor, or FET, like that found in the COVID-19 testing device his team is developing. But those devices are basically one-offs — a sample is applied directly to the FET, which means the transistor is not reusable and must be discarded.

That makes those devices expensive and impractical for mass testing, Ren said. Then he hit on the idea of separating transistor from sample, like blood glucose meters that use test strips to collect a drop of blood after a lancet pierces a finger. This innovation, Ren said, makes the UF device unique, affordable and easy to use.

Ren said the device could be used for venues with large crowds, such as concerts, sporting events, classrooms, in addition to medical settings. Researchers say the unit would also provide access to accurate, inexpensive testing in rural areas or in developing nations.

And the personal uses, researchers say, are limitless — parties, baby showers and other small gatherings. “Yes or no. You’re infected or not infected. You get the answer right away,” said Ren.

Value-Driven US Healthcare System Continues, But More Work Remains

Newswise —Value in Health, the official journal of ISPOR—The Professional Society for Health Economics and Outcomes Research, announced today the publication of a report showing that 4 years after the 2018 ISPOR Special Task Force on US Value Assessments published its recommendations meant to advance value assessment methods, researchers have provided more rigorous theoretical and mathematical foundations for some novel value elements while others continue to lag behind. The report, “The History and Future of the ‘ISPOR Value Flower’: Addressing Limitations of Conventional Cost-Effectiveness Analysis,” was published in the April 2022 issue of Value in Health.

In 2018, the ISPOR Special Task Force on US Value Assessments published recommendations intended to help broaden the view of value in healthcare and spur new research on incorporating additional elements of value in traditional cost-effectiveness analyses. The members of the Special Task Force leadership group were Peter J. Neumann, ScD, Center for the Evaluation of Value and Risk in Health at the Institute for Clinical Research and Health Policy Studies, Tufts Medical Center, Boston, MA, USA; Louis P. Garrison, PhD, University of Washington School of Pharmacy, Pharmaceutical Outcomes Research and Policy Program, Seattle, WA, USA; and Richard J. Willke, PhD, Chief Science Officer, ISPOR, Lawrenceville, NJ, USA.

Specifically, the Special Task Force identified and considered 12 potential elements of value, including 2 core elements (net costs and quality-adjusted life years), 2 common but inconsistently used elements (productivity and adherence-improvement) and 8 potentially novel ones (reduction in uncertainty, fear of contagion, value of insurance, severity of disease, value of hope, real option value, equity, and scientific spillovers). These 12 elements came to be known as the “ISPOR Value Flower.” In the past few years, the value flower, with its petals highlighting elements that may be overlooked or underappreciated in conventional drug value assessments, has been discussed and debated widely.

Now, years after the Special Task Force published its recommendations, the leadership group—Drs Neumann, Garrison, and Willke—have authored this important update describing recent developments and considering implications for future value assessments.

“Our review of conceptual and empirical papers published in the past 4 years shows that researchers have provided more rigorous theoretical and mathematical foundations for certain novel value elements (eg, severity of disease, value of insurance, value of hope) through generalized risk-adjusted cost-effectiveness analysis, which incorporates risk aversion in people’s preferences and uncertainty in treatment outcomes,” said the authors. “Empirical estimates are also emerging to support key elements, such as value of insurance, real option value, value of hope, and value of knowing.” 

While health technology assessment bodies have applied, or are considering certain elements as described above, other elements have yet to gain traction. The authors note that in part, the lack of uptake may simply reflect the recency of the Special Task Force report and other research. But it may also reflect other factors: a relative dearth of empirical estimates to support novel elements, the difficulties of changing established practices, the absence of strong incentives for US payers to consider non-health effects and externalities, an unwillingness of health insurers to consider elements such as option value or scientific spillovers because they rely on yet undiscovered innovation, or skepticism in the field. 

“Five years after the Special Task Force began its work, the development of novel value measures continues to evolve,” the authors note. “While it is encouraging to see supporting empirical studies emerging, more are needed. Additional efforts are also needed to illustrate how the estimates can be used in the deliberative processes that are integral to health technology assessments. Finally, it would be worth revisiting the design of the ISPOR value flower itself. Considerable discussion of value frameworks has continued without a consensus on any one specific parsing and identification of all the potential elements. Including novel elements will not solve all issues related to value measurement in healthcare. But they can help us think more clearly and comprehensively about the tradeoffs that individuals and societies are willing to make in their choices.” 

Additional information on ISPOR’s work on value assessment can be found on the Society’s Value Assessment Frameworks webpage.

ISPOR, the professional society for health economics and outcomes research (HEOR), is an international, multistakeholder, nonprofit dedicated to advancing HEOR excellence to improve decision making for health globally. The Society is the leading source for scientific conferences, peer-reviewed and MEDLINE®-indexed publications, good practices guidance, education, collaboration, and tools/resources in the field.
Website  | LinkedIn  | Twitter (@ispororg)  |  YouTube  |  Facebook  |  Instagram  

Value in Health (ISSN 1098-3015) is an international, indexed journal that publishes original research and health policy articles that advance the field of health economics and outcomes research to help healthcare leaders make evidence-based decisions. The journal’s 2020 impact factor score is 5.725 and its 5-year impact factor score is 6.932. Value in Health is ranked 4th of 98 journals in health policy and services, 9th of 108 journals in healthcare sciences and services, and 24th of 376 journals in economics. Value in Health is a monthly publication that circulates to more than 10,000 readers around the world.
Website  | Twitter (@isporjournals)

COVID-19 Cases Rise, But Americans Are Eager To Move On

The nation’s capitol, Washington, D.C., has been hit with a string of high-profile cases in Congress and the administration, and cases in the city overall are on the rise. New York and other areas in the Northeast are also seeing increases, with Philadelphia announcing on Monday that it will reintroduce a requirement that people wear masks in indoor public places.  

But there are important ways that any coming spike in COVID-19 cases, fueled by a subvariant of omicron known as BA.2, is likely to be less damaging than previous surges, experts say. And that may lead the nation to treat a new rise in cases different.

First, it is not clear how steep any spike will be. While there are now upticks in the Northeast, there are not yet signs of the massive spike that hit over the winter. That omicron variant-fueled spike already infected many people, helping provide them some immunity against the current outbreak, in addition to the immunity provided by vaccines and booster shots.  

Second, people who are vaccinated and boosted still have strong protection against severe illness, even if it is possible they will get a milder infection. A new treatment, the Pfizer pill known as Paxlovid, cuts the risk of hospitalization or death by about 90 percent for people who do get infected.  

That combination of vaccines, booster shots and treatments means that even if cases rise, the hope is that hospitalizations and deaths will not rise by as sharp a degree.  

The White House is counting on booster shots and treatments to fight any new increase for the moment, rather than blunter tools like mask mandates or business closures. 

“We don’t have to let it dictate our lives anymore,” Ashish Jha, the new White House COVID-19 response coordinator, said on MSNBC on Monday. “If you’re vaccinated, boosted, you’re going to be highly protected. We have a lot of therapy now that’s widely available now for people who are at all higher risk, so even if you have a breakthrough infection, you can get treatments. That means that the virus should not control our lives anymore.” 

Fitting this new approach, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at the end of February issued new guidance saying that people do not need to wear masks unless hospitalizations increase markedly, not just cases.  

“As long as hospitals do not become overwhelmed again, restrictions should not need to return,” said Leana Wen, a public health professor at George Washington University. “Restrictions should not come back just to prevent infection.” 

President Biden’s chief medical adviser, Anthony Fauci, gave some support to Wen’s position in an interview with ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday.  

“We’re at that point where in many respects she’s correct, that we’re going to have to live with some degree of virus in the community,” Fauci said when asked about Wen’s views.  

As cases tick up, he added, “what we’re hoping happens, and I believe it will, is that you won’t see a concomitant comparable increase in severity, in the sense of people requiring hospitalizations and deaths.” 

There is still debate among experts about the new approach of focusing more on hospitalizations than cases.  

An example is the return of Philadelphia’s indoor mask mandate. The city cited rising cases in bringing the mandate back, even though the CDC metrics, which are based more on hospitalizations, say the city is at a “low” COVID-19 level that does not require masks for all.  

Asked about differing with the CDC, Philadelphia Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole said at a press conference: “We’ve all seen here in Philadelphia how much our history of redlining, history of disparities has impacted particularly our Black and brown communities in the city.” 

“And so it does make sense to be more careful in Philadelphia than perhaps in an affluent suburb,” she added.  

People who are immunocompromised are still at higher risk even with vaccines. Asked about more vulnerable people, Wen said that people could test as an extra layer of precaution before seeing an elderly relative, for example, but that it is “unreasonable” to expect all of society to keep its activities restricted for a third year with vaccines now available.  

Even if people are not hospitalized, there is also the risk of “long COVID,” lingering symptoms like fatigue and difficulty concentrating even months after one first gets ill. An American Medical Association fact sheet puts the risk of long COVID at 10 percent to 30 percent of patients, while noting that being vaccinated can help reduce the risk.   

First Post-Covid Convention With Fashion Show, Dandiya Night, Rajasthani Dance, Celebration of International Day of Yoga on Riverwalk, To Make AAPI’s 40th Convention In San Antonio Unique

“Bienvenidos a San Antonio, Tejas!” Dr. Jayesh Shah, Convention Chair and past President of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) welcomes the over 1,000 AAPI delegates in Texan style. “It is with great pleasure that I, along with the San Antonio -2022 Convention Team, welcome you to the 40th AAPI Annual Convention in San Antonio, one of the top 8th largest cities in the US, with a population of 1.3 million. I still have vivid memories of inviting you to San Antonio in 2014. This is going to be the 4th convention in Texas.”

Describing that the Convention is unique in many ways, Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President of AAPI said, “This is going to be the first AAPI convention post-Covid Pandemic (Optimistic view from my vantage point). All of you are aware of the challenges of doing a Convention during Covid Times. But our convention team is working very hard to make sure that event is enjoyable and safe at the same time. The registration is happening as per expected. Alumni and specialty groups are encouraged to come. Besides cutting-edge CME by outstanding speakers, there are various non-CME lectures. Enjoy Tex-Mex and Indian Cuisine.”

“The Convention this year is one day short. It begins on Thursday, June 23rd with the Texas Style boots and belts with TexMex Theme,” informed Venky Adivi, Chief Executive Officer. “Please get your Sombrero (Mexican Hat) ready for a special evening organized by Texas Indo- American Physician Society (SW Chapter),” said Dr. Vijay Koli, Advisor to the Convention.

Dr. Kiran Cheraku, Co-Chair of the Convention says, “On Friday, a popular Fashion Show, Bollywood Dandiya Night, and colorful Rajasthani dance is awaiting you.”  “On Saturday with the Celebration of International Day of Yoga on Riverwalk, imagine 100’s people doing Yoga all around the Riverwalk,” pointed out Dr. Rajam Ramamurthy, Advisor for the Convention.

According to Dr. Rajeev Suri, President, TIPS SW, and Convention Co-Chair, “Saturday Evening will begin with the Presidential Banquet, which will be followed by a live show by Bollywood’s one of the best “Shan” Night. Sunday, we bid you “Hasta la Vista” with a closing ceremony.”

Dr. Shankar Sanka, Co-Chair stated: “The 2022 exhibit hall C is the vibrant nerve center of the convention. The unique layout offers maximum exposure to the pharmaceutical and commercial booth.” Dr. Aruna Venkatesh, Treasurer of the Convention added: “The exhibition stage will have the performance to keep our audience in the exhibit hall to keep our booth supporters happy. The research pavilion will enable you to view the outstanding works of our students, residents, and fellows.”

Dr. Hetal Nayak stated, ‘The most unique part of the convention is our Yoga-based Wellness Package which is thoughtfully created with world-renowned speakers. This will be equally valuable for an advanced practitioner of yoga as well as a novice!!. This truly is a once-in-a-lifetime experience with the theme of “Heal the Healers,” Convention Committee noted.

“Our speakers are some of the best names in Wellness and Yoga- Dr. Akil Taher, Eddie Stern, Dr. Kaushik Reddy, Dr.Ajeya Joshi, Yog Guru Sharath Jois, Drs. P Vij & P. Dedhia, Sadhvi Saraswati, Dr, Smita Mehta, Dr. Sat Bir Khalsa. And do not miss the world-famous yoga workshop by Yog Guru Sharath Jois,” said Dr. KIRAN CHERUKU, Convention Co-Chair.

The confirmed Plenary Speakers are Dr. Jack Reseneck, AMA President, and Dr.Peter Hotez, Nobel Prize Nominee. Other confirmed guests are legendary Sunil Gavaskar and Dr. Rahul Gupta, Director, National Drug Control Policy, World-renowned spiritual leader Sadhvi Saraswati and Dr. Prem Reddy, CEO of Prime Health Services.

“I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to my Co-chairs, Kiran Cheraku, Shankar Shanka, Rajeev Suri, and Hetal Nayak, and unwavering administrative support from Venky Adivi, Convention CEO, Reddy Yelaru, and Ram Joolukuntla, Convention COO and Vijaya Kodali in AAPI office. My admiration and thanks to Anupama Gotimukula whose vision, engagement, and enthusiasm kept the team going. It was indeed a team effort by many more, to all, my heartfelt gratitude,” added Dr. Jayesh Shah.

“Physicians and healthcare professionals from across the country and internationally will convene and participate in the scholarly exchange of medical advances, to develop health policy agendas, and encourage legislative priorities in the coming year. We look forward to seeing you in San Antonio!” said Dr. Gotimukula. For more details, and sponsorship opportunities, please visit:  www.aapiconvention.org  and www.aapiusa.org

Did India Ask WHO To ‘Hide’ Its Covid-19 Death Estimates For 10 Years?

The official global total of Covid deaths around the world is far below the real tioll the pandemic has claimed. Everyone agrees the true toll is far greater than what has been officially reported.  A study released last year looked at how much of a disparity there may be in India, one of the epicenters of the pandemic.

The analysis, from the Center for Global Development, a think tank in Washington, D.C., looked at the number of “excess deaths” that occurred in India between January 2020 and June 2021 — in other words, how many more people died during that period than during a similar period of time in 2019 or other recent years.

The study found that between 3.4 and 4.7 million more people died in that pandemic period than would have been predicted. That’s up to 10 times higher than the Indian government’s official death toll of 414,482 at that point of time in the pandemic period in history.

The researchers looked at India in particular because, says study co-author Justin Sandefur, the country was hit so hard by COVID-19. “The second wave in particular led to heart-wrenching stories from friends and colleagues — and a sense that official numbers are not capturing the true scale of that toll.”

Not surprisingly, a technical advisory group (TAG) of the World Health Organization (WHO) has told Devex, an independent news and development platform that the Indian government asked the global health body to publish its estimates of the country’s pandemic death toll “10 years later.”

According to the TAG report, authored in collaboration with the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, India’s actual Covid-19 death toll is at least four times higher than its official count of over 5.2 lakh. Interestingly, the TAG team includes Dr Anand Krishnan, professor of community medicine at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, apart from two other Indian-origin doctors.

The WHO is expected to publish the report in early April as scheduled as “it would be irresponsible to say let’s wait until the pandemic is over, then we will reflect.” The upward revision, says the WHO’s TAG, is based on a count of both direct and indirect impacts of the pandemic. According to Devex, which quoted a WHO spokesperson, “the excess mortality estimates associated with Covid-19 provide a more comprehensive measure of the impact of the pandemic” since “the direct measure (deaths directly attributable to Covid) provides only a limited, and in many cases problematic measure.”

A spat in the making?
India, which has often bristled at previous independent studies, including by the medical journal Lancet, that have pegged its official Covid-19 death toll as a gross undercount, has hotly contested the WHO’s estimate, with the global health body’s report expected to double the worldwide death toll due to the pandemic from the current 6.14 million.

When counting “excess deaths,” the cause of death is not part of the data set. But during a health crisis like the pandemic, the assumption is that these additional deaths are part of the COVID-19 toll, said Ali Mokdad of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME). They reflect not only those who died of the virus but those who might have died, say, of heart disease or diabetes because they were afraid to seek treatment during lockdowns, and those who killed themselves due to pandemic stresses, he added.

India’s official Covid-19 death toll has also come under scrutiny from the Supreme Court while fixing the compensation amount to be paid to next of kin of the deceased as several states have paid the ex-gratia to more number of people than the official death count. That apart, some states have also carried out ‘reconciliation’ exercises between actual and official fatalities.

US Govt. Website Helps Locate COVID-19 Tests, Treatments, Vaccines, and Masks

Two years into the pandemic, the Biden Administration has launched a virtual hub to help Americans find COVID-19 prevention and treatment resources—including masks, tests, and vaccines—in their communities.

The website, COVID.gov, consolidates several existing initiatives into what President Joe Biden described during a press briefing on March 30 as a “one-stop shop.” The site includes links for ordering free at-home rapid tests; locating free, high-quality N95 masks; finding vaccines and treatments; and assessing current COVID-19 risk levels in specific counties, based on U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention metrics.

“The bottom line: no longer will Americans need to scour the internet to find vaccines, treatments, tests, or masks,” Biden said during the briefing. “It’s all there.”

One of the website’s central features is its promotion of Biden’s “test-to-treat” program, which is designed to improve access to antiviral drugs that can reduce the severity of disease for high-risk people. In theory—though not always in practice—the program enables someone who tests positive at a pharmacy or health center to receive treatment on the spot, for free. COVID.gov includes a site locator for facilities taking part in the test-to-treat program, including retail pharmacies, community health centers, and clinics affiliated with Veterans Affairs and the Indian Health Service.

COVID.gov is available in English, Spanish, and Simplified Chinese. The same resources are also available in additional languages through the Administration’s telephone hotline at 1-800-232-0233.

While announcing the website’s launch, Biden again implored Congress to authorize extra pandemic funding. A Congressional spending bill passed in March did not include additional money for COVID-19 relief, and the shortfall has forced the Biden Administration to cut back on treatment and vaccine purchases, Biden said. The government has also had to curtail a program that reimburses providers who test or treat people without insurance, meaning some uninsured people now have to pay out-of-pocket for COVID-19 tests. Barring extra funding, the same will soon be true of some fees associated with getting COVID-19 vaccines.

Biden warned during the press briefing that supplies of COVID-19 drugs, vaccines, and tests may run out in the coming months without more money. “We’re already seeing the consequences of Congressional inaction,” he said. “This isn’t partisan; it’s medicine.”

After his remarks, Biden received a fourth COVID-19 vaccine, just a day after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized second mRNA boosters for adults ages 50 and older and certain immunocompromised individuals. “It didn’t hurt a bit,” he said.

New Device Helps Sperm to ‘Go Against the Flow’ Benefitting Those With Infertility

Newswise — The female genital tract can be a hostile environment for conception. Out of about 100 million sperm, only a few hundred make it to the fallopian tubes. Guided by a directional movement called rheotaxis, sperm cells swim against the cervical mucus flow to reach the egg for fertilization. This journey, however, is even more critical when considering infertility. Sperm motility – the ability to swim the right way – is key.

By taking advantage of this natural rheotaxis behavior of sperm, researchers from Florida Atlantic University’s College of Engineering and Computer Science have developed a microfluidic chip for sperm sorting that is fast, inexpensive, easy to operate and efficiently isolates healthy sperm directly from semen. Importantly, it effortlessly collects sorted sperm cells from the collecting chamber while minimizing contamination by deformed or dead sperm cells.

Assisted reproductive technologies such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), intrauterine insemination and intracytoplasmic sperm injection all require healthy sperm cells for a successful outcome. Current centrifugation methods for sperm sorting require multiple steps, multiple types of equipment and take about two hours to isolate sperm cells. These methods damage sperm during processing and induce significant DNA fragmentation and oxidative stress.

Results of the study, published in the journal Analyst of the Royal Society of Chemistry, showed that sperm cells isolated from the collecting chamber in this microfluidic chip exhibited significantly higher motility (almost 100 percent), a higher number of morphologically normal cells and substantially lower DNA fragmentation, which is a crucial parameter for the fertilization process. In addition, the developed chip provides more than enough cells required for a successful intracytoplasmic sperm injection due to the amount and quality of sperm cells isolated using the chip.

“Operating our chip is very easy. Once the semen is loaded into the sample inlet chamber, the competent sperm cells start moving against the fluid flow toward the collecting chamber from where they can easily be collected,” said Waseem Asghar, Ph.D., senior author, an associate professor in FAU’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and a member of the FAU Institute for Human Health and Disease Intervention (I-Health) and FAU Institute for

Sensing and Embedded Network Systems Engineering (I-SENSE). “Furthermore, this chip offers a one-step, one-hour operational benefit, which an operator can use with minimal training.”

The study also validates that rheotaxis selects the healthy, motile, and higher velocity sperm cells for the fertilization process.

“The assembly of the microfluidic chip is low-cost, and the reagents used in the chip to separate sperm cells are only a few milliliters, therefore, the commercial cost of the chip would be less than $5,” said Asghar. “Moreover, this technology will considerably reduce the economic burden of fertility implementations and both the chip and the sperm cells isolated from it offer great clinical significance and applicability.”

The microfluidic chip consists of four cylindrical chambers that are connected through the microchannels. The four chambers are the fluid inlet chamber, collecting chamber, sample inlet chamber, and waste collection chamber. The channel between the collecting chamber and sample inlet contains microgrooves to guide the sperm cells in addition to the fluid flow for the rheotaxis movement of the sperm cells towards the collecting chamber.

The shear stress inside the device is generated by fluid flow using a syringe pump. A raw semen sample is then added to the sample inlet chamber from where functional sperm cells will swim towards the collecting chamber, effectively separating themselves from dead and immotile sperm.

“Conventional centrifugation often compromises the integrity of sperm cells. This research study demonstrates that the microfluidic chip developed by professor Asghar and his colleagues eliminates this issue,” said Stella Batalama, Ph.D., dean, College of Engineering and Computer Science. “This novel technology offers a platform where the sperm cells experience different shear stress in different parts of the chip, which facilitates the isolation of competent sperm cells without impacting their integrity.”

In the United States, an estimated 15 percent of couples have trouble conceiving. Globally, approximately 48.5 million couples experience infertility. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 12 percent of women of childbearing age have used an infertility service. All treatment costs for infertility can range from $5,000 to $73,000. The average patient goes through two IVF cycles, bringing the total cost of this procedure, including medications, between $40,000 and $60,000. An estimated 85 percent of IVF costs are often paid out-of- pocket.

Study co-authors are Sandhya Sharma and Md. Alam Kabir, Ph.D. candidates in the Asghar Laboratory, Micro and Nanotechnology in Medicine, FAU Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. The FAU College of Engineering and Computer Science is internationally recognized for cutting edge research and education in the areas of computer science and artificial intelligence (AI), computer engineering, electrical engineering, biomedical engineering, civil, environmental and geomatics engineering, mechanical engineering, and ocean engineering.

You Do Not Need Biopsies Anymore

Newswise — A Columbia Engineering team has developed a technology that could replace conventional biopsies and histology with real-time imaging within the living body. Described in a new paper published today in Nature Biomedical Engineering, MediSCAPE is a high-speed 3D microscope capable of capturing images of tissue structures that could guide surgeons to navigate tumors and their boundaries without needing to remove tissues and wait for pathology results.

For many medical procedures, particularly cancer surgery and screening, it is common for doctors to take a biopsy, cutting out small pieces of tissue to be able to take a closer look at them with a microscope. “The way that biopsy samples are processed hasn’t changed in 100 years, they are cut out, fixed, embedded, sliced, stained with dyes, positioned on a glass slide, and viewed by a pathologist using a simple microscope. This is why it can take days to hear news back about your diagnosis after a biopsy,” says Elizabeth Hillman, professor of biomedical engineering and radiology at Columbia University and senior author of the study.

Hillman’s group dreamed of a bold alternative, wondering whether they could capture images of the tissue while it is still within the body. “Such a technology could give a doctor real-time feedback about what type of tissue they are looking at without the long wait,” she explains. “This instant answer would let them make informed decisions about how best to cut out a tumor and ensure there is none left behind.”

Another major benefit of the approach is that cutting tissue out, just to figure out what it is, is a hard decision for doctors, especially for precious tissues such as the brain, spinal cord, nerves, the eye, and areas of the face. This means that doctors can miss important areas of disease. “Because we can image the living tissue, without cutting it out, we hope that MediSCAPE will make those decisions a thing of the past,” says Hillman.

Although some microscopes for surgical guidance are already available, they only give doctors an image of a small, single 2D plane, making it difficult to quickly survey larger areas of tissue and interpret results. These microscopes also generally require a fluorescent dye to be injected into the patient, which takes time and can limit their use for certain patients.

Over the past decade, Hillman, who is also Herbert and Florence Irving Professor at Columbia’s Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute, has been developing new kinds of microscopes for neuroscience research that can capture very fast 3D images of living samples like tiny worms, fish, and flies to see how neurons throughout their brains and bodies fire when they move. The team decided to test whether their technology, termed SCAPE (for Swept Confocally Aligned Planar Excitation microscopy) could see anything useful in tissues from other parts of the body.

“One of the first tissues we looked at was fresh mouse kidney, and we were stunned to see gorgeous structures that looked a lot like what you get with standard histology,” says Kripa Patel, a recent PhD graduate from the Hillman lab and lead author of the study. “Most importantly, we didn’t add any dyes to the mouse –everything we saw was natural fluorescence in the tissue that is usually too weak to see. Our microscope is so efficient that we could see these weak signals well, even though we were also imaging whole 3D volumes at speeds fast enough to rove around in real time, scanning different areas of the tissue as if we were holding a flashlight.”

As she “roved around,” Patel could even stitch together the acquired volumes and turn the data into large 3D representations of the tissue that a pathologist could examine as if it were a full box of histology slides.

“This was something I didn’t expect — that I could actually look at structures in 3D from different angles,” says collaborator Dr. Shana Coley, a renal pathologist at Columbia University Medical Center who collaborated closely on the study. “We found many examples where we would not have been able to identify a structure from a 2D section on a histology slide, but in 3D we could clearly see its shape. In renal pathology in particular, where we routinely work with very limited amounts of tissue, the more information we can derive from the sample, the better for delivering more effective patient care.”

The team demonstrated the power of MediSCAPE for a wide range of applications, from analysis of pancreatic cancer in a mouse, to Coley’s interest in non-destructive, rapid evaluation of human transplant organs such as kidneys. Coley helped the team get fresh samples from human kidneys to prove that MediSCAPE could see telltale signs of kidney disease that matched well to conventional histology images.

The team also realized that by imaging tissues while they are alive in the body, they could get even more information than from lifeless excised biopsies. They found that they could actually visualize blood flow through tissues, and see the cellular-level effects of ischemia and reperfusion (cutting off the blood supply to the kidney and then letting it flow back in).

“Understanding whether tissues are staying healthy and getting good blood supply during surgical procedures is really important,” says Hillman. “We also realized that if we don’t have to remove (and kill) tissues to look at them, we can find many more uses for MediSCAPE, even to answer simple questions such as ‘what tissue is this?’ or to navigate around precious nerves. Both of these applications are really important for robotic and laparoscopic surgeries where surgeons are more limited in their ability to identify and interact with tissues directly.”

A critical final step for the team was to reduce the large format of the standard SCAPE microscopes in Hillman’s lab to something that would fit into an operating room and could be used by a surgeon in the human body. Post-doctoral fellow Wenxuan Liang worked with the team to develop a smaller version of the system with a better form factor, and a sterile imaging cap. PhD candidate Malte Casper helped to acquire the team’s first demonstration of MediSCAPE in a living human, collecting images of a range of tissues in and around the mouth.

These results included rapidly imaging while a volunteer literally licked the end of the imaging probe, producing detailed 3D views of the papillae of the tongue.

Eager to take this technology to the next level with a larger clinical trial, the team is currently working on commercialization and FDA approval. Hillman adds, “We are just so amazed to see what MediSCAPE reveals every time we use it on a new tissue, and especially that we barely ever even needed to add dyes or stains to see structures that pathologists can recognize.”

Hillman and her team hopes that MediSCAPE will make standard histology a thing of the past, putting the power of real-time histology and decision making into the surgeon’s hands.

India faces pressure over close ties with Moscow

INANY Invites Essays And Scholarship Applications

Indian Nurses Association of New York (INA-NY), the voice and representative organization of professional nurses of Indian origin and heritage in New York State is inviting participation in its annual essay competition, scholarship and nursing excellence awards.

The essay contest is open for all nurses of Indian origin or heritage in New York state.  The theme for this year is “Nurses make a difference”.  Grace Alexander, the chair of the Awards and Scholarship Committee said that the essay must not be longer than two pages, must be double spaced and without any identifiable information of the author.  A separate cover page with author’s name, credentials, contact phone number(s) and email address is to be submitted with the essay.  The submission is to be sent to [email protected].  The winner will be honored at the Nurses’ Day celebration of INANY on May 7th.

The Association also invites application for Undergraduate Scholarship from student members of INANY that reside in New York state.  Students must be enrolled in a basic nursing program with at least one more semester to complete.

Nominations are invited for Annual Student Scholarship for undergraduate and Associate degree nursing students of Indian origin.  The student must be a member of INA-NY. Application form for Graduate Nursing Student Scholarship can be obtained from inany.org.

Nominations for ‘INA-NY Nurse Excellence Award 2022’ are also accepted from INANY members.  The selected candidate will exemplify the very best attributes of Nursing profession, excelled in giving high quality patient care and demonstrated a commitment to professional nursing practice.

Dr. Anna George, the president of INANY cited that the Nurses’ Day celebration provides a forum for promoting and celebrating the nursing profession, nurses, higher education, health and wellness of individuals, families and the community.  She noted that the Association’s leadership and members have been vibrant in its mission through engagement in promoting continuing education, organizing community events and community services, as well as local and international charity initiatives.

Application forms for Scholarship and Nurse Excellence Award can either be obtained from [email protected] or from its website inany.org. For details, please contact: Paul D Panakal at: 347 330 0783.

Top US Scientist Says, India’s Covid Vaccine Rollout Has ‘Rescued The World’

The rollout of the Covid-19 vaccines by India in collaboration with leading global institutions has “rescued the world” from the deadly coronavirus and the contributions by the country must not be underestimated, a top American scientist has said.

India is called the pharmacy of the world during the Covid-19 pandemic with its vast experience and deep knowledge in medicine. The country is one of the world’s biggest drug-makers and an increasing number of countries have already approached it for procuring coronavirus vaccines.

Dr Peter Hotez, Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) in Houston during a recent webinar said that the two mRNA vaccines may not impact the world’s low- and middle-income countries, but India’s vaccines, made in collaboration with universities across the world such as BCM and the Oxford University, have “rescued the world” and its contributions must not be underestimated.

During the webinar, “Covid-19: Vaccination and Potential Return to Normalcy – If and When”, Dr Hotez, an internationally-recognised physician-scientist in neglected tropical diseases and vaccine development, said that the Covid-19 vaccine rollout is “India’s gift” to the world in combating the virus.

India’s drugs regulator gave emergency use authorisation to Covishield, produced by Pune-based Serum Institute of India after securing licence from British pharma company AstraZeneca, and Covaxin, indigenously developed jointly by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech and Indian Council of Medical Research scientists.

50% Of Women Face False Positive Mammograms After 10 Years Of Annual Screening

Newswise — A study led by UC Davis Health has found that half of all women will experience at least one false positive mammogram over a decade of annual breast cancer screening with digital breast tomosynthesis (3D mammography). The risk of false positive results after 10 years of screening is considerably lower in women screened every other year. A false positive is when a mammogram is flagged as abnormal, but there is no cancer in the breast. The study was published today in JAMA Network Open.

It also showed that repeated breast cancer screening with 3D mammography only modestly decreases the chance of having a false positive result compared with the standard digital 2D mammography. Other factors more strongly linked to a lower false positive risk included screening every other year and having non-dense breasts. Older women were also less likely to have a false positive result.

“The screening technology did not have the largest impact on reducing false positives,” said Michael Bissell, epidemiologist in the UC Davis Department of Public Health Sciences and co-first author of the study. “Findings from our study highlight the importance of patient-provider discussions around personalized health. It is important to consider a patient’s preferences and risk factors when deciding on screening interval and modality.”

False positive mammograms are common

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death for women in the U.S. Early detection using screening mammography is a key strategy to lower the risk of advanced breast cancer and death from this disease.

A false positive result is a positive screening mammography assessment that leads to more diagnostic work-up but no diagnosis of breast cancer. When abnormalities are found on a mammogram, the patient is recalled for additional imaging and follow-up tests. If found to be cancer-free at the end of diagnostic evaluation and for one year after her recall, the patient is considered to have received a false positive result.

“Despite the important benefit of screening mammography in reducing breast cancer mortality, it can lead to extra imaging and biopsy procedures, financial and opportunity costs, and patient anxiety,” said Diana Miglioretti, professor and division chief of biostatistics at the UC Davis Department of Public Health Sciences, UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center researcher and senior author of the study.

False positive results are common. While around 12% of 2D screening mammograms are recalled for more work-up, only 4.4% of those recalls, or 0.5% overall, conclude with a cancer diagnosis.

“To detect breast cancer early, we need to be careful and investigate any potentially abnormal findings. So, women should not be worried if recalled for additional imaging or biopsy. The vast majority of these results are found to be benign,” said Thao-Quyen Ho, radiologist at the University Medical Center in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, research fellow at UC Davis School of Medicine and co-first author on the study.

Analyzing mammograms for false positive results

The researchers analyzed data collected by the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium on 3 million screening mammograms for 903,495 women aged 40–79 years. The screenings were performed between 2005-2018 at 126 radiology facilities.

The study evaluated screening modality, screening interval, age and breast density. It estimated the cumulative risk that a woman would receive at least one false positive recall over 10 years of annual or biennial (every other year) screening. It also assessed the risks of a false positive that resulted in a recommendation to repeat imaging within six months (short interval follow-up) and separately, in a biopsy recommendation.

Mammography versus tomosynthesis for breast cancer screening

The study found that the probability of receiving at least one false positive recall over a 10-year period was slightly lower with 3D than 2D digital mammography. The decrease in false positives with 3D vs. 2D mammography was greatest for women with non-dense breasts and those who had annual screenings.

The researchers estimated that over 10 years of annual tomosynthesis screening, 50% of women will experience at least one false positive recall, 17% a false positive short-interval follow-up recommendation, and 11% a false positive biopsy recommendation. This is compared to 56% of women screened with 2D digital mammograms having a false positive recall, 18% a short-interval follow-up recommendation, and 12% a biopsy recommendation.

Regardless of the type of screening, false positive results were substantially lower for older than younger age groups and women with entirely fatty versus extremely dense breasts.

Annual versus biennial breast cancer screening

The study also estimated 10-year risks for annual vs. biennial screenings. It found that screening every other year showed a considerably lower probability of at least one false positive result than annual mammograms over ten years of screening. This finding was observed for both 3D and 2D mammography.

“We were surprised that the newer 3D technology in breast cancer screening does not substantially reduce the risk of having a false positive result after 10 years of screening; however, chances of false positives are much lower with repeated biennial vs. annual screening,” said Ho.

For short-interval follow-up recommendations, 17% of women undergoing annual 3D mammography are estimated to have at least one false positive over 10 years, compared to just 10% of those undergoing biennial screening. False positive benign biopsy recommendations are estimated to occur in 11% of women receiving annual 3D mammograms but in only 7% of those screened every two years.

After 10 years of annual screening, the risk of a false positive result was lower in 3D than 2D mammography for all outcomes. For biennial screening, the risk of a false positive recall was lower with 3D mammography. There was no difference in short interval follow-up or biopsy recommendations.

The other authors on this study are: Karla Kerlikowske and Jeffrey A. Tice at the University of California, San Francisco; Rebecca A. Hubbard at the University of Pennsylvania; Brian L. Sprague at the University of Vermont; Christoph I. Lee at the University of Washington and Hutchinson Institute for Cancer Outcomes Research; and Anna N. A. Tosteson at Dartmouth College and Norris Cotton Cancer Center.  Miglioretti is also an affiliate investigator with UC Davis Center for Healthcare Policy and Research and Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research.

9th Annual Winter Medical Conference (WMC) Of Indian American Young Medical Professionals Held

The 9th annual Winter Medical Conference (WMC) was held March 17 -20 at the Grand Hyatt in Tampa, FL and was an overwhelming success!  Filled with interactive sessions to promote career growth, leadership, networking, and more, WMC 9 embraced our theme, “Achieving Excellence” in every facet.   The sessions were designed to go beyond motivating the audience to arming attendees with tools to “Achieve Excellence”.

The feedback from the conference has been overwhelmingly positive with higher than projected attendance and record number of new attendees.  A few highlights include Dr. Latha Ganti’s research workshop which taught members how to maximize their publication productivity.  Dr. Bobby Mukkamala empowered physicians.

Dr. Kiran Patel (Dr. K) inspired attendees and Dr. K. Srinath Reddy educated attendees on the current state of heart disease amongst Indians.  Former Navy SEAL Kevin Stark taught the group breathing techniques to optimize performance.  A historic 5.5 hrs of CME was included.  For the first time, multiple simulators were brought on site for attendees to experience.  Registrants also received “Pearls of Wisdom” with tips from various speakers.

Attendees also enjoyed getting to know each other at social events including a sunset cruise, HOLI games, and various mixers.   We also celebrated MSRF’s Silver Jubilee and there was a record number of poster presentations.  This was also the first year oral presentations were done at WMC.

In addition, the Inaugural Kakani Foundation Award was bestowed on the very deserving Bhavana Patil.  We thank AAPI EC, BOT, the Kakani Foundation, and all our sponsors, without whom this event would not have been possible.

12 CME Credit Hours On Healthcare Issues & Advances In Med Technology During 40th Annual AAPI Convention

“During the 40th American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) Annual Convention and Scientific Sessions planned to be held from June 23-26, 2022 in the beautiful city of San Antonio, Texas, AAPI delegates will have a multidisciplinary CME conference that allows specialists and primary care physicians to interact in an academic forum. World-renowned speakers will discuss gaps between current and best practice of wide-ranging topics at the CME sessions,” Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President of AAPI announced here today. 

The annual convention this year is being organized by AAPI’s Texas Chapter, headed by Dr. Jayesh Shah, who said, “The 2022 AAPI Annual Convention & Scientific Assembly offers an exciting venue to interact with leading physicians, health professionals, experts in healthcare, academicians, and scientists of Indian origin. The CME Committee, chaired by Dr. Shweta Bansal with Dr. Deepak Kamat, Dr. Dharam Kaushik, and Dr. Jayasree Pillarisetti as members have done an excellent job in putting together an expert panel of speakers for the CME program.” 

“The CME sessions will provide comprehensive and current reviews and guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of various disease states to reduce morbidity and mortality and achieve cost-effective quality care outcomes, said Dr. Bansal. “At the end of the activity, it is expected that attendees will gain an understanding of the causation, diagnosis and the best clinical practices for the management of the diverse group of diseases discussed during this program.”

Dr. Rajeev Suri, Co-Chair of the Convention explained the planning and preparations being done by the committee.  “San Antonio has a rich tradition in AAPI Convention history of amalgamating academia with fun and wellness. Our CME committee has strived hard to plan an exceptional series of topics presented by leaders in the academic arena. We invite you to San Antonio to rejoice, to learn, to rejuvenate and rekindle your mind and your spirits.”

Dr. Amit Chakrabarty, Chair, AAPI CME Committee, said, “While providing physicians of Indian origin an opportunity to come together in an atmosphere of collegiality, it will enable them to retrace and appreciate their common roots, culture and the bond that unites them as members of this large professional community.”

“Physicians and healthcare professionals from across the country will convene and participate in the scholarly exchange of medical advances, to develop health policy agendas, and to encourage legislative priorities in the coming year,” Dr. Ravi Kolli, President-Elect said.  

“Many of the physicians who will attend this convention have excelled in different specialties and subspecialties and occupy high positions as faculty members of medical schools, heads of departments, and executives of hospital staff,” Dr. Kusum Punjabi, Chair of AAPI BOT.

“AAPI Convention offers an opportunity to meet directly with these physicians who are leaders in their fields and play an integral part in the decision-making process regarding new products and services,” Venky Adivi, Chief Executive Officer of the Convention added.

At the Plenary sessions, Dr. Jack Reseneck, President of American Medical Association will address the audience on “How to prevent Physician burnout – AMA STEPS Program,” while Dr. Peter Hotez, a pioneer in inexpensive Covid vaccine program will speak on “COVID 19 Vaccination Globally and Vaccine Hesitancy.”

“Healthcare Equity and Ethics” will be the major theme on the inaugural day of the Convention. Dr. Sivashanker will share his thoughts on “How to make health equity a routine practice and process”. Chiquita Collins, PhD will discuss on “Achieving equity by diversity in workforce.” Colleen Bridger, MPH, PhD will shed her insights on “Improving child health addressing inequities/disparities.” At the end of this session. Dr. Courand guide us with  “Developing resilience in current environment of inequities.”

Latest in The Chronic Diseases Management is yet another major topic that will be extensively covered during the discussion.  “New horizons for DM and cardiorenal medicine” will be covered by Dr. Eugenio Cersosimo. It’s a well-known fact that people of South Asian origin are more prone to cardiac disease. Accordingly, Dr. Alka Kanaya will share her expertise on “South Asian cardiometabolic health: New findings from the MASALA Study.” Dr. Eric Lawitz will address the delegates on “Fatty Liver Disease: A silent epidemic.” In addition, light will be shed on: “Chronic pain management during opioid epidemic.”

Contemporary/Digital Medicine will be covered during the CME on Friday. “Telemedicine: novel practices and policy changes” will be the topic led by Dr. Zeke Silva, while Dr. Satish Misra will enlighten the delegates about “Are we ready for Smart Apps assisted care.” “Artificial intelligence in Medicine” will be covered by Dr. Rajendra Singh, and Dr. Zeke Silva will educate the participants on “Reimbursement/Approval challenges with digital medicine.”

Breakthroughs in Medicine is other major area that the AAPI delegates will learn from the experts. Dr. Poonam Malik will enlighten the participants on “Gene editing and therapy: Success story for Hemoglobinopathies.” Dr. Sudha Sheshadri will focus her discussions on “A step forward in Alzheimer’s and Multiple Sclerosis care.” “Lipid management: present & future” will be discussed by Dr. Anand Prasad. “Immunologics in cancer and beyond” will be the topic covered by Dr. Shanmuganathan Chandrakasan.

Covid has brought the world to a standstill, impacting almost all areas of human life, and just as humanity is emerging out of this major health crisis, our CME session called “Aftermath of COVID Pandemic” is designed to help AAPI delegates prepare for uncertain future.  Dr. Thomas Patterson will discuss “Post-Acute Sequelae of COVID/Long COVID- what we need to know” while Dr. Theresa Barton will speak about “Long COVID in children.” The delegates will also be educated on crucial topics such as “Impact on future health care system and delivery” and “Preparing for future pandemic” by Dr. Ruth Berggren.

With the ever-changing trends in healthcare, AAPI delegates will be provided with education in the session called “Navigating Successful Medicine Practice in the US.” This session includes topic like “Physician Employment Contracts and Non-Competes: What you really need to know”. “Navigating ACOs: Regulations, Payment and Compliance” will be covered by Dr. Jay Bhatt. “Crucial conversations: supervising midlevel providers” will be addressed by Dr. Robert Leverence.

It’s a well-known fact that physicians of Indian origin excel in their respective areas of work and continue to play key roles in patient care, administration, academics, and medical research.  “The essence of AAPI is educational,” Dr. Anjana Samadder, Vice President of AAPI, while describing the purpose of CME said. 

According to Dr. Satheesh Kathula, Secretary of AAPI, “That translates into numerous Continuing Medical Education and non-CME seminars by experts in their fields.” Dr. Krishen Kumar, Treasurer of AAPI, “Giving them a platform to celebrate their accomplishments, to be attended by over 1,000 physicians of Indian origin, the Convention will also provide a forum to renew their professional commitment through continuing medical education.”

AAPI represents more than 100,000 Indian American Physicians, who represent the range of physician specialties seen in the physician community at large with 61% in Primary Care, 33% in Medical sub-specialties and 6% in surgical sub-specialties. Medical specialty representation includes pediatrics, psychiatry, anesthesiology/pain management, cardiology, family medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, oncology, gastroenterology, pathology, endocrinology, nephrology, rheumatology along with many other fields.

AAPI is an umbrella organization that has nearly 200 local chapters, specialty societies and alumni organizations. For nearly 40 years, Indian physicians have made significant contributions to health care in this country, not only practicing in inner cities, rural areas and peripheral communities but also at the top medical schools and other academic centers. Almost 10%-12% of medical students entering US schools are of Indian origin. Headquartered in Oak Brook, Illinois, AAPI represents the interests of all Indian American physicians, medical students, and residents of Indian heritage in the United States. It is the largest ethnic medical organization in the nation. For more details and registration for the convention, please visit:  www.aapiconvention.org and www.aapiusa.org

Dr. Ashish Jha Appointed By Biden To Lead US Efforts On Covid

President Joe Biden announced on March 17, 2022 that he is appointing Indian-American physician, Dr. Ashish Jha as the “perfect person” to lead the White House Covid national initiative. Jeff Zients, who currently leads the effort is stepping down.

“To lead this effort, I am excited to name Dr. Ashish Jha as the new White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator. Dr. Jha is one of the leading public health experts in America, and a well-known figure to many Americans from his wise and calming public presence. And as we enter a new moment in the pandemic – executing on my National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan and managing the ongoing risks from COVID – Dr. Jha is the perfect person for the job,” Biden said in a statement which also announced the departure of Zients.

“I appreciate both Jeff and Dr. Jha for working closely to ensure a smooth transition, and I look forward to continued progress in the months ahead,” the President said. According to Brown University, where Dr. Jha is the Dean of the School of Public Health, he will be taking a short-term leave for the temporary special assignment.

A globally recognized expert on pandemic preparedness and response as well as on health policy research and practice, Jha is the dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, and is one of the most popular experts that the media reaches out to for explaining the Covid pandemic and the efforts to control it.

Dr. Jha has taken up the new position at the request of President Biden, a press release from Brown University noted. Jha was born in Pursaulia, Bihar in 1970. He went to Canada when he was 9, and then to the U.S. in 1983. He has a bachelor’s degree in economics from Columbia University and an M.D. from Harvard Medical School.

In a series of tweets, Jha noted, “On a personal note – For a poor immigrant kid who left India not speaking a word of English And found in America a nation willing to embrace me as one of her own I am deeply honored for this chance to serve this country I love And grateful to a President for the opportunity.”

Always a cautious voice on numerous media outlets where he was interviewed over the last two years, Jha Tweeted after his White House appointment, “So, as they say… Some news – For all the progress we’ve made in this pandemic (and there is a lot) We still have important work to do to protect Americans’ lives and wellbeing So when @POTUS asked me to serve, I was honored to have the opportunity.”

Jha also warned, “We are not done We are very likely to see more surges of infections We may see more variants We can’t predict everything with certainty But we have to prepare to protect the American people whatever Mother Nature throws at us.”

In succeeding Zients, Jha will lead the response of the entire U.S. government to the COVID-19 pandemic, while also advancing the nation’s global health priorities and policies.

“For all the progress we’ve made in this pandemic (and there is a lot). We still have important work to do to protect Americans’ lives and well being. So when @POTUS asked me to serve, I was honoured to have the opportunity,” Jha said in a tweet.

He will be joining Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, National Drug Control Policy Director Rahul Gupta, and Center for Medicare Director Meena Seshamani at the higher echelons of US health care system.

Jha succeeds Jeff Zients, who is leaving the White House after 14 months during which two variants, Delta and Omicron, fueled a surge in Covid cases that the US struggled to contain. Zients leaves office with 65 per cent of Americans having received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine and nearly 77 per cent have been fully vaccinated with the seven-day average of infections plummeting from 806,851 in mid-January to 30,570 in mid-March.

Jha came to Brown from Harvard, where he was the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute and the dean for Global Strategy at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. He had also served as the co-chair of the Independent Panel on the Global Response to Ebola, which examined the failure of the international community’s response to the disease.

Even while he was heading the Brown University’s School of Public Health, he continued to practice medicine at a hospital for ex-military members. During the Covid pandemic, he made frequent appearances on TV, wrote op-eds for leading newspapers and was often quoted by reporters.

The medical news website, STAT, called him “network TV’s everyman expert on Covid” with the qualities of a “telegenic phenom” and a “great communicator”. Zients was a businessman and a bureaucrat, unlike Jha who is a doctor.

The changeover to a doctor marks an inflexion point in the pandemic where the logistics of mass vaccination and testing are in place and the future task is to monitor and prepare for new variations or other developments.

After Two Long Years, COVID-19 Is No Longer #1 Concern For Americans

For what is likely the first time in two years, COVID-19 is no longer the primary concern among Americans, as the economy, inflation, and jobs (90%) and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (87%) are a higher concern than the virus (68%). Here what they are thinking:

Today, Americans find many daily activities not too, or not at all, risky anymore, such as eating or drinking inside a restaurant/bar (48%), working in-person without a mask (43%), shopping indoors with a mask (41%), and exercising maskless in a gym or a sports team (38%).

Replacing COVID in the news: (87%) of Americans consider Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as the biggest news story in America right now, surpassing the COVID-19 news coverage of the past two years (v. COVID-19 being the biggest story: 13%).Replacing COVID in the news: (87%) of Americans consider Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as the biggest news story in America right now, surpassing the COVID-19 news coverage of the past two years (v. COVID-19 being the biggest story: 13%).

Taking a mental break from COVID because, well, there could be another pandemic before we die: (69%) of Americans think it is likely that they will live through another pandemic in their lifetime (Gen Z: 56%, Millennial: 73%, Gen X: 78%, Boomer: 62%) and (27%) believe that COVID-19 news will dominate the news cycle again and (58%) could see it occur if something major happens such as a new, deadly variant arises.

Takeaway: After a roller-coaster of emotion, Americans have reached similar levels of pre-Delta optimism that the worst of COVID-19 is behind us (64%), however, diminishing news coverage and COVID-19 fatigue may prove concerning as European COVID-19 cases have begun rising again–such as in the UK two weeks after dropping mitigation measures.

In The Harris Poll Tracker (Week 107) fielded March 11th to 13th, 2022 among 2,000 U.S. adults, look at how Americans’ concerns have shifted away from COVID-19 and from Week 106 how younger consumers are engaging with international brands regularly. In addition, we cover other Harris Poll data detailing how Americans are packing their bags for summer vacations, how men are more interested in the future of the metaverse, and an industry snapshot of the health and personal care sector.

Sleeping With Even A Small Amount Of Light May Harm Your Health, Study Says

Sleeping for only one night with a dim light, such as a TV set with the sound off, raised the blood sugar and heart rate of healthy young people participating in a sleep lab experiment, a new study found.

The dim light entered the eyelids and disrupted sleep despite the fact that participants slept with their eyes closed, said study author Dr. Phyllis Zee, director of the Center for Circadian and Sleep Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Heart rate typically drops at night, slowing down as the the brain is busy repairing and rejuvenating the body. An elevated heart rate at night has been shown in numerous studies to be a risk factor for future heart disease and early death.

High blood sugar levels are a sign of insulin resistance, where the body stops using glucose properly and the pancreas goes into overdrive, flooding the body with extra insulin to overcompensate until it eventually loses its ability to do so. Over time, insulin resistance can ultimately lead to Type 2 diabetes.

Sleeping with eyes closed

Prior research has shown an association between artificial light at night and weight gain and obesity, disruptions in metabolic function, insulin secretion and the development of diabetes, and cardiovascular risk factors.

“Why would sleeping with your lights on affect your metabolism? Could that explain why there is a higher prevalence of diabetes or obesity (in society)?” Zee asked.

Zee and her team took 20 healthy people in their 20s and had them spend two nights in a sleep lab. The first night was spent in a darkened room where “you wouldn’t be able to see much, if anything, when your eyes were open,” Zee said.

All of the study participants were connected to devices monitoring a number of objective measures of sleep quality. So data could be gathered with minimal interference, they slept with an IV with long tubes that snake across the room and through a hole to the researcher’s side of the lab. The blood was drawn without ever touching the slumbering participants.

“We recorded the brainwaves and could tell what sleep stage the person was in,” Zee said. “We recorded their breathing, their heart rate, their EKG, and we also drew blood from them to measure melatonin levels while they were sleeping.” Melatonin is a hormone that regulates the body’s circadian rhythm, or sleep and wake body clock.

A randomized portion of the group repeated that same light level for a second night in the lab, while another group slept with a dim overhead light with a glow roughly equivalent to “a very, very dark, cloudy day or street lights coming in through a window,” Zee said.

“Now these people were asleep with their eyelids closed,” she explained. “In the literature the estimation is that about 5% to 10% of the light in the environment would actually get through the closed lid to the eye, so this is really not a lot of light.”

Yet even that tiny amount of light created a deficit of slow wave and rapid eye movement sleep, the stages of slumber in which most cellular renewal occurs, Zee said.

In addition, heart rate was higher, insulin resistance rose, and the sympathetic (fight or flight) and parasympathetic (rest and relax) nervous systems were unbalanced, which has been linked to higher blood pressure in healthy people.

The light was not bright enough, however, to lower levels of melatonin in the body, Zee added. The study was published Monday in the journal of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

What to do?

What advice would Zee give people based on her study and existing research in the field? Close your blinds and curtains, turn off all the lights, and consider using a sleep mask.

“I think the strength of the evidence is that you should clearly pay attention to the light in your bedroom,” she said. “Make sure that you start dimming your lights at least an hour or two before you go to bed to prepare your environment for sleep.”

Check your bedroom for sources of light that are not necessary, she added. If a night light is needed, keep it dim and at floor level, “so that it’s more reflected rather than right next to your eye or bed level,” she suggested.

Also be aware of the type of light you have in your bedroom, she added, and ban any lights in the blue spectrum, such as those emitted by electronic devices like televisions, smartphones, tablets and laptops.

“Blue light is the most stimulating type of light,” Zee said. “If you have to have a light on for safety reasons change the color. You want to choose lights that have more reddish or brownish tones.”  LED lights can be purchased in any color, including red and brownish tones.

Kal Penn, Winner of AALDEF Justice In Action Award, Tapped To Star In ‘The Santa Clause’

The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) presented this year’s Justice in Action Awards to Hollywood actor Kal Penn and to Thomas S. Kim, Chief Legal Officer and Company Secretary at Thomson Reuters on March 9th.

Penn was honored for his advocacy for representation in media and his service on behalf of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, a press release from AALDEF said.

In a video, award-winning filmmaker Mira Nair, who cast Penn as the lead in her 2006 film “The Namesake,” said, “As an activist and an artist, Kal has never shied away from his roots. He is unapologetic about who he is, and yet is an incredible bridge builder, creating a strong sense of allyship and solidarity with other communities.”

The awards ceremony, held at the Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers in New York City,  was the highlight of AALDEF’s 2022 Lunar New Year Gala, celebrating the Year of the Tiger.

Penn is venturing into Bollywood in a big way. He is the Executive Producer of “Hot Mess Holiday” to be released soon, and is quoted in media reports saying he is interested in doing more in Bollywood.

Penn, known for his role in the ‘Harold and Kumar’ film franchise, is set to star as a lead opposite Tim Allen and Elizabeth Mitchell in Disney Plus’s upcoming limited series, ‘The Santa Clause’, from creator Jack Burditt.

According to Deadline, Allen will be reprising his role as Scott Calvin from the Walt Disney Pictures holiday franchise. The sequel series will show Scott on the brink of his 65th birthday and realizing that he cannot be Santa forever. He has suddenly started to lose his Santa magic, and more importantly, he’s got a family, who could benefit from a life in the normal world, especially his two kids who grew up in the North Pole.

Accompanied by a lot of elves, children and family to please, Scott sets out to find a suitable replacement Santa while preparing his family for a new adventure in a life south of the pole.

Penn will portray an ambitious game inventor and product developer and a devoted single father named Simon Choksi. He’s capable of talking the tech-mogul talk but is unable to walk the walk, and his dreams of being the next Bezos falls drastically short. However, after a visit to the North Pole, all that changes.

Mitchell would be reprising her role as Mrs Clause from the films, as was previously announced.

As per Deadline, this project will be directed and executive produced by Jason Winer along with Jon Radler for Winer’s Small Dog Picture Company. Burditt will executive produce and serve as showrunner.

Allen will also executive produce with Kevin Hench, Richard Baker and Rick Messina. The Disney Branded Television series is a production of 20th Television, a part of Disney Television Studios.

India Ranks High In Cumulative Excess Covid-Deaths: Lancet Report

A Global Report Looking At Excess Deaths During The Pandemic Period Put India In A Harsh Light

India recorded the highest estimated number of cumulative excess Covid-19 deaths beating the USA, Russia, Mexico, Brazil, Indonesia and Pakistan, reported a Lancet report on March 10, 2022. The paper that looked at deaths due to Covid-19 between January 1, 2020, and December 31, 2021 also estimated that nearly 18.2 million people died globally as opposed to the official figure of 5.94 million.

With a goal to estimate excess mortality during the pandemic period, the Lancet published a paper wherein researchers searched various government websites, the World Mortality Database compendia, the Human Mortality Database, etc. and identified 74 countries and an additional 266 subnational locations where either weekly or monthly all-cause mortality data were reported for the required period. Further the paper used empirical assessments of excess mortality for 12 states of India.

The study found that the number of excess Covid-related deaths was largest in regions of South Asia, North Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe. However, in all this, India estimated the highest cumulative excess deaths at 4.07 million deaths, way ahead of the US, where the estimate stood at 1.13 million deaths. In Russia, estimates stood at 1.07 million deaths, Mexico suffered around 7,98,000 deaths. An estimated 7,92,000 deaths took place in Brazil while the estimated figure for Indonesia was 7,36,000 deaths and for Pakistan it was  6,64,000 deaths.

It may be noted that of these countries, Russia had the highest excess mortality rate at 374.6 deaths per 1,00,000 followed by Mexico (325.1 deaths per 1,00,000), Brazil (186.9 deaths per 1,00,000) and the USA (179.3 deaths per 1,00,000). The global all-age rate of excess mortality due to the Covid-19 pandemic was 120·3 deaths per 1,00,000 of the population. It exceeded 300 deaths per 1,00,000 of the population in 21 countries.

Estimated deaths much higher than reported in India

As per the report, excess mortality rates due to Covid-19 in some Indian states were similar to those of some high-income countries in the northern hemisphere. The report also computed the ratio of excess mortality rate to reported Covid-19 mortality rate to measure the undercounting of the true mortality impact of the pandemic. Accordingly, it found that the national-level ratios in south Asia ranged from 8·33 in India to 36·06 in Bhutan. The most extreme ratios in the region were found in the states and provinces of India and Pakistan, ranging from 0·96 in Goa, India to 49·64 in Balochistan, Pakistan.

Using data from the civil registration system data for 12 states, and the mean reported deaths during the relevant periods in 2018 and 2019, the report obtained excess mortality estimates for select periods during the first and second waves. It also calculated a country-level residual using the residual from the 12 states.

Specifically, the report found that at the national level, India had an estimated 152·5 excess deaths (95 percent UI 138·6–163·3) per 1,00,000 of the population. This number is much higher than the data that was reported during the two Covid-waves. Covid-19 mortality rate was 18·3 deaths per 1,00,000 over the same period.

Further, heterogeneity in excess mortality among the 30 states of India was extremely high. From January 1, 2020, to December 31, 2021, as many as 8 Indian states had excess mortality rates higher than 200 per 1,00,000 population, a level only exceeded by 50 other countries in the world. These states were: Uttarakhand, Manipur, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, and Karnataka.

Meanwhile, Arunachal Pradesh, Telangana, Sikkim, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, West Bengal, and Goa had excess mortality rates that were lower than the global average of 120.6 deaths per 1,00,000 population (although 95% UIs overlap). Similarly, sub-national heterogeneity was evident in the excess death counts. Seven states had excess deaths higher than 2,00,000 as of December 31, 2021, namely: West Bengal (2,20,000 deaths), Madhya Pradesh (2,23,000 deaths), Tamil Nadu (2,60,000 deaths), Karnataka (2,84,000 deaths) Bihar (3,23,000 deaths), Uttar Pradesh (5,17,000 deaths) and Maharashtra (6,16,000 deaths).

“Although the excess mortality rates due to the Covid-19 pandemic among Indian states are not the highest in the world, because of India’s large population, the country accounted for 22.3 percent of global excess deaths as of December 31, 2021. Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Maharashtra had excess deaths higher than South Africa (3,02,000 deaths), with South Africa ranking tenth among all countries,” said the Lancet report.

States with ambiguous mortality data

Earlier, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) and The Wire published data about Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh that showed huge data discrepancies in death-related data during the Covid-19 pandemic. As per the 2019 Sample Registration System (SRS) bulletin, the actual crude death rate (CDR) for the state as a whole was to be 6.5 percent. Based on the rural-urban make-up of the surveyed population, the study expected the CDR in the surveyed areas to be around 6.7. However by 2019, the recorded CDR of 6.4 percent in this population was close to state-level expectations. There was not much room for further improvement in reporting to push the numbers up.

But in 2020 the CDR rose to 15-20 percent higher than expected either from 2019 data or from the state-wide CDR estimates from the annual SRS. In fact, the death rate during January-August 2021 was, over double the expectation. Even assuming the SRS significantly underestimated pre-pandemic yearly deaths but improved record-keeping to perfection during the pandemic, the deaths during the pandemic period were greatly above expectations.

The surveyed area had 55-60 percent more deaths during the 20 months from January 2020 to August 2021 than expected during that time. Across UP, this surge would amount to around 14 lakh excess deaths.

As per SRS and civil registration data, the state expects around 15 lakh deaths in a normal year. Further 14 lakh people also account for 0.6 percent of the state’s estimated 2021 population of around 23 cr people. Thus, the study claimed that the pandemic excess death toll amounted to almost a full year’s deaths.

Similarly, the report talked about Gujarat as a state with lower excess mortality rate than the global average. Yet, in May 2021, CJP reported data that estimated great under-reporting during the pandemic. On April 27, of the same year local newspaper Sandesh set aside five pages for obituaries in the Rajkot edition alone, while the state’s Covid-19 dashboard recorded only 14 deaths in the previous 24 hours. On the same day, the newspaper stated that 87 bodies were cremated following Covid protocol over the last two days while the government only recorded two Covid deaths.

This showed that despite Lancet report’s efforts to get official data, even the comparatively better surviving states in India were under great duress. Newspaper obituaries made for better indicators of death count in the area rather than official data, said CJP.

The Lancet report concluded that the full magnitude of COVID-19 was much greater in 2020 and 2021 than was indicated by reported deaths. It still called for further research and increased availability of ‘cause of death’ data for distinguishing the proportion of excess mortality directly caused by Covid-19. However, the study, coupled with previous reports of CJP show that there was great discrepancy especially in areas with a considerable Hindutva influence.

To verify this to certainty, the study stresses for ways to strengthen death reporting systems and mitigate political barriers to accurately track and monitor the continuation of the Covid-19 and future pandemics.

Boditech Med, Global Point-Of-Care Testing Leader Expands Operations To North America

Boditech Med, a global leader in point-of-care testing with more than 90 biomarker products, has announced its plans to expand its operations in North America. Boditech’s expansion begins with plans to open a new manufacturing site in the Miami, Florida, area. The company is also considering opportunities in other states, along with a partnership in Canada.

“In the U.S., it takes as long as three days for a patient to get diagnostic test results. During that time, informed decision making comes to a standstill, even while costs mount,” said Boditech Med co-founder and CEO Eui-Yul Choi, Ph.D. “At Boditech, we develop and manufacture point-of-care tests that deliver actionable results in 12 to 15 minutes. Our goal in the U.S. is to flip the diagnostic industry on its head so that patients get timely, quality care while the healthcare system minimizes waste.”

Founded in South Korea in 1998, Boditech Med markets and sells more than 90 biomarker products in 120 countries. Through its North American expansion, the publicly-traded company aims to improve the health and safety of patients and the effectiveness and workflows of clinicians in the U.S. and beyond.

Boditech offers highly reliable in-vitro diagnostic solutions that empower clinicians and patients to improve health through quick and reliable tests, available anywhere and anytime. Along with venous blood and plasma testing, Boditech’s product line includes technologies that enable accurate, thorough capillary blood tests, based on a small amount of blood from a finger prick.

Boditech is currently seeking approvals from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for several diagnostic solutions in cardiac, cancer, hormone, infectious disease, and other therapeutic areas. Timelines and precise locations remain in the works. Boditech intends to hire hundreds of Americans to support its efforts.

Boditech intends to bring lower-cost, rapid testing that covers many critical areas of medicine, from cardiac health to cancer, to the country. Boditech also produces COVID-19 antibody and over-the-counter rapid antigen tests.

Boditech Med is a global leader in point-of-care testing with a decades-long track record of improving health and quality of life through innovative in-vitro diagnostic solutions. Since its launch in 1998, Boditech has developed 85 biomarkers, which support capillary blood, venous blood, and plasma testing, to meet customers’ evolving needs. Listed as a public company on the KOSDAQ, Boditech’s products aid patients and clinicians in 120 countries. Learn more about Boditech Med and how its in-vitro diagnostic are improving health worldwide: https://www.boditech.co.kr/en

Inflation, War Push Stress To Alarming Levels At Two-Year COVID-19 Anniversary

Newswise — Two years after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, inflation, money issues and the war in Ukraine have pushed U.S. stress to alarming levels, according to polls conducted for the American Psychological Association.

A late-breaking poll, fielded March 1–3 by The Harris Poll on behalf of APA, revealed striking findings, with more adults rating inflation and issues related to the invasion of Ukraine as stressors than any other issue asked about in the 15-year history of the Stress in AmericaTM poll. This comes on top of money stress at the highest recorded level since 2015, according to a broader Stress in America poll fielded last month.

Top sources of stress were the rise in prices of everyday items due to inflation (e.g., gas prices, energy bills, grocery costs, etc.) (cited by 87%), followed by supply chain issues (81%), global uncertainty (81%), Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (80%) and potential retaliation from Russia (e.g., in the form of cyberattacks or nuclear threats) (80%).

These stressors are coming at a time when the nation is still struggling to deal with the prolonged pandemic and its effects on our daily lives, with close to two-thirds of adults (63%) saying their life has been forever changed by the COVID-19 pandemic. While a majority (51%) reported this change as neither positive nor negative — simply different — the long-lasting implications of the pandemic are clear. The survey also revealed continued hardships for vulnerable populations, concerns for children’s development among parents and entrenched, unhealthy coping habits.

“The number of people who say they’re significantly stressed about these most recent events is stunning relative to what we’ve seen since we began the survey in 2007,” said Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD, APA’s chief executive officer. “Americans have been doing their best to persevere over these past two tumultuous years, but these data suggest that we’re now reaching unprecedented levels of stress that will challenge our ability to cope.”

A year ago, APA’s first pandemic anniversary survey found COVID-19-related stress was associated with unhealthy weight changes and increased drinking. The most recent survey confirmed that these unhealthy behaviors have persisted, suggesting that coping mechanisms have become entrenched — and that mental and physical health may be on a continuing decline for many as a result. Close to half of adults (47%) said they have been less active than they wanted to be since the pandemic started, and close to three in five (58%) reported experiencing undesired weight changes.

Among those who gained more weight than they wanted, the average amount of weight gained was 26 pounds, with a median of 15 pounds. On the other hand, the average amount of weight lost among those who lost more than they wanted to was 27 pounds, with a median of 15 pounds. More than one in five Americans (23%) said they have been drinking more alcohol during the COVID-19 pandemic, with those who have been drinking more consuming an average of 10 drinks per week (and a median of six drinks per week) compared with an average of two drinks (and a median of one drink) per week among those who did not report drinking more.

Adults also reported separation and conflict as causes for straining and/or ending of relationships. Half of adults (51%, particularly essential workers at 61%) said they have loved ones they have not been able to see in person in the past two years as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Strikingly, more than half of all U.S. adults (58%) reported experiencing a relationship strain or end as a result of conflicts related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including canceling events or gatherings due to COVID-19 concerns (29%); difference of opinion over some aspect of vaccines (25%); different views of the pandemic overall (25%); and difference of opinion over mask-wearing (24%).

Strained social relationships and reduced social support during the pandemic make coping with stress more difficult. In fact, more than half of respondents (56%) said that they could have used more emotional support than they received since the pandemic started. “We know from decades of research that healthy and supportive relationships are key to promoting resilience and building people’s mental wellness,” said Evans. “Particularly during periods of prolonged stress, it’s important that we facilitate opportunities for social connection and support.”

The majority of parents reported concerns regarding child(ren)’s development, including social life or development (73%), academic development (71%) and emotional health or development (71%). More than two-thirds of parents reported concern about the pandemic’s impact on their child’s cognitive development (68%) and their physical health/development (68%).

“Living through historic threats like these often has a lasting, traumatic impact on generations,” said Evans. “As a society, it’s important that we ensure access to evidence-based treatments and that we provide help to everyone who needs it. This means not only connecting those in distress with effective and efficient clinical care, but also mitigating risk for those more likely to experience challenges and engaging in prevention for those who are relatively healthy.”

More information on the findings and how to handle stress and trauma related to Ukraine is available at www.stressinamerica.org. APA psychologists are available for media interviews to discuss these findings and provide science-based recommendations on how to address this mental health crisis.


The 2022 Pandemic Anniversary Survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of the American Psychological Association between Feb. 7–14, 2022, among 3,012 adults age 18+ who reside in the U.S. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish. Data were weighted to reflect proportions in the population based on the 2021 Current Population Survey (CPS) by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Weighting variables included age by gender, race/ethnicity, education, region, household income, and time spent online. Latino adults were also weighted for acculturation, taking into account respondents’ household language as well as their ability to read and speak in English and Spanish. Country of origin (U.S./non-U.S.) was also included for Latino and Asian subgroups.

Weighting variables for Gen Z adults (ages 18 to 25) included education, age by gender, race/ethnicity, region, household income, and size of household, based on the 2021 CPS. Propensity score weighting was used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online. Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris’ surveys. The sampling precision of Harris online polls is measured by using a Bayesian credible interval. For this study, the sample data is accurate to within + 2.9 percentage points using a 95% confidence level.

This credible interval will be wider among subsets of the surveyed population of interest. All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to other multiple sources of error, which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including but not limited to coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments.

The March late-breaking survey was conducted online within the United States between March 1–3, 2022, among 2,051 adults (age 18 and over) by The Harris Poll on behalf of the American Psychological Association via its Harris On Demand omnibus product. Data were weighted where necessary by age, gender, race/ethnicity, region, education, marital status, household size, household income, and propensity to be online, to bring them in line with their actual proportions in the population. The sampling precision of Harris online polls is measured by using a Bayesian credible interval. For this study, the sample data is accurate to within + 2.8 percentage points using a 95% confidence level.

Possible New Treatment For COVID-19 Found

Newswise — Investigators at Cedars-Sinai have identified a potential new therapy for COVID-19: a biologic substance created by reengineered human skin cells.   Scientists found the substance stopped SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, from reproducing itself and also protected infected cells when tested in human lung cells. Although still in the early stages, the findings open the possibility of having a new therapy for COVID-19 patients. The details of the potential therapy are published in the journal Biomaterials and Biosystems.

“We were surprised to find this potential therapy shuts down a novel pathway for viral replication and also protects infected cells,” said Ahmed G. Ibrahim, PhD, MPH, assistant professor in the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai and first author of the study.

Few treatments currently exist for COVID-19 and the ones that do primarily focus solely on preventing the virus from replicating. This new potential treatment inhibits replication but also protects or repairs tissue, which is important because COVID-19 can cause symptoms that affect patients long after the viral infection has been cleared.

The potential therapy investigated in this study was created by scientists using skin cells called dermal fibroblasts. The investigators engineered the cells to produce therapeutic extracellular vesicles (EVs), which are nanoparticles that serve as a communication system between cells and tissue. Engineering these fibroblasts allowed them to secrete EVs—which the investigators dubbed “ASTEX”—with the ability to repair tissue.

In previous experiments, the investigators demonstrated that ASTEX can repair heart tissue, lung tissue and muscle damage in laboratory mice. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, the investigators turned to studying whether ASTEX could be used as treatment against SARS-CoV-2.

The study was done through a collaboration with investigators at UCLA who tested ASTEX by applying it to human lung epithelial cells, cells that line the pulmonary tract and are the targets of SARS-CoV-2 infection.

They discovered that ASTEX prevented cells from launching an inflammatory process that could lead to cell death. Cells treated with ASTEX also made fewer of a type of protein called ACE that SARS-CoV-2 may use to infect cells.

The team then compared the potential treatment with remdesivir, a drug currently used to treat COVID-19, and found that remdesivir did not inhibit production of ACE. Instead, remdesivir stops the virus from latching on to a protein called ACE2. ASTEX, therefore, may present another way to prevent the virus from entering cells.

“Viruses don’t have their own machinery to get into cells, so they use proteins,” Ibrahim said. “We believe targeting ACE proteins is just one way SARS-CoV-2 infiltrates cells, hijacks their genetic information and replicates itself in the body.”

ASTEX appears to have stopped this hijacking process.

“This potential anti-COVID-19 biological therapy is novel in that it has two facets: It protects infected cells, which remdesivir does not do, and also inhibits viral replication,” said senior author Eduardo Marbán, MD, PhD, executive director of the Smidt Heart Institute and the Mark S. Siegel Family Foundation Distinguished Professor at Cedars-Sinai.

Investigators are planning future studies.

Rural Hospitals In U.S. Face Wipeout With 800 At Risk Of Shutdown

Pummeled by the pandemic, at least 40% of rural U.S. hospitals are in danger of shutting down and leaving millions of people in smaller and less affluent communities without a nearby emergency and critical care facility.

That’s the conclusion of the Center for Healthcare Quality and Payment Reform, whose recent study sees 500 hospitals at immediate risk for closing within two years and more than 300 others at high risk within five years. The grim assessment by the policy center found the problems spread across the country, and that the threats will persist even if the pandemic ends because rising costs are outrunning revenue.

All told, there are about 38 million Americans in the at-risk areas; they’d have to drive at least 20 minutes farther if their local hospitals close, with half adding at least 30 minutes, said Harold Miller, the center’s chief executive and author of the report. Many of the facilities are in sparsely populated but important farming, mining or ranching communities.

Hospital Emergency

Negative margins are putting smaller hospitals at high risk of failure

“The myth is that these are hospitals that should no longer exist in communities that should no longer exist,” Miller said in an interview. Keeping those facilities open would cost $3.4 billion, or less than 1% of total annual spending on hospitals, said Miller, an adjunct public policy and management professor and former associate dean at Carnegie Mellon University.

Fifteen states have more than half of their rural hospitals at risk of closing because of persistent losses, including Texas and a large swath of the South and Midwest such as Kansas and Mississippi, the study shows. But rural hospitals in New York, Connecticut and Washington State are also in trouble.

More than 130 rural hospitals have closed in the last decade, according to the University of North Carolina’s Sheps Center, and they’re often the only option for health care in their communities.

Higher costs for labor and supplies and lower revenue have trounced hospitals as they shut down elective procedures to care for critically ill Covid-19 patients. Even with billions in federal money, operating margins at U.S. hospitals were negative 3.3% in January, health-care consultancy Kaufman Hall said, and that’s including the strongest operators. Meanwhile, they’re facing pending cuts in Medicare payments along with repayments of funds advanced earlier in the pandemic.

Sick and Struggling: States with highest percentage of hospitals at high risk of closing

What’s really hurting the smaller providers, Miller said, is a longstanding inability to negotiate the same rates as their larger counterparts for the roughly half of their patients who have private insurance. Bigger facilities rely on higher payments from private insurers to offset lower reimbursements from Medicare and Medicaid. On top of that, the sparser populations mean costs per patient are higher so the hospitals can’t always count on a flow of patients to finance essential services like emergency care.

“The problem is, they don’t get paid if you don’t go,” Miller said. This means that state and local governments — and their taxpayers — pick up more of the tab, he said. His research shows margins declining with hospital size.

A representative for health-insurance trade group AHIP didn’t provide an immediate comment.

Emergency Rooms

Some rural hospitals do get federal reimbursements that cover their costs, and a new program that takes effect next year will increase payments to qualifying facilities that eliminate in-patient beds, which often sit empty. But Miller said most of the hospitals aren’t losing money on in-patient services, but rather on their emergency rooms and clinics.

Increasing payments can help, but the system also needs more coordinated planning to ensure all communities have care, said Kenneth Kaufman, Kaufman Hall’s chair. “We have a reimbursement problem of course, but we also have a structural problem,” he said in an interview. “There’s just not enough patients to sustain a lot of these hospitals.”

A handful of states like California are experimenting with different methods of financing struggling hospitals, Kaufman said. “There’s nothing likely to get done at the federal level.”

The hospital study examined finances over a three-year period using publicly available data and didn’t rely on commercial funding, according to Miller.  Miller suggests that insurers fund rural hospitals through monthly payments in addition to reimbursement for services in a manner similar to other public services. “We don’t pay the fire department based on the fire,” he said.

India To Get WHO Global Center For Traditional Medicine

The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday approved the establishment of the WHO Global Centre for Traditional Medicine (WHO GCTM) in Jamnagar, Gujarat. This would be the first and only global outposted Centre (office) for traditional medicine across the globe.

The cabinet signed the Host Country agreement between the Central government and the World Health Organization (WHO) to approve the establishment of GCTM.

The WHO GCTM will be established in Jamnagar under the Ministry of AYUSH. A Joint Task Force (JTF) is constituted for coordination, execution and monitoring of activities for the establishment of this Centre.

JTF comprises representatives from the government of India, Permanent Mission of India, Geneva and the World Health Organization.

Under the ambit of this, an interim office is being established in Jamnagar to execute the identified technical activities and planning of fully functional WHO GCTM.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghbereyesus, WHO Director General, had announced the establishment of WHO GCTM in India on the occasion of 5th Ayurveda Day on November 13, 2020.

“WHO GCTM would emerge as a centre of global wellness, bolster evidence-based research, training and awareness for Traditional Medicine,” said Modi.

The WHO GCTM would provide leadership on all global health matters related to traditional medicine as well as extend support to member countries in shaping various policies related to traditional medicine research, practices and public health.

The Ministry of AYUSH has collaborated with WHO on many fronts including developing benchmarks documents on training and practice of Ayurveda and Unani System, introducing a second module in the Traditional Medicine Chapter of the International classification of Diseases-11, developing apps like M-yoga, supporting the work of International Pharmacopeia of Herbal Medicine (IPHM) and other research studies etc. (IANS)

Mississippi Chapter of AAPI Organizes Spring Blood Drive

“The Mississippi Chapter of American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI,) held its Spring Blood Donation Drive at Renaissance Colony Park in Ridgeland, MS on March 5th.  “The event was quite a success and donors included AAPI members and their supporters as well as medical students and members of the local community,” said Dr. Udaya Shivangi, President of AAPI Missisippi. “ AAPI Mississippi’s partnership with Mississippi Blood Services is one of the many ways we serve our local community and help,” she added.

Dr. Shivangi thanked her leadership , including Vice President, Dr. Indira Veerisetty; Secretary, Dr. Vani Vijayakumar; Treasurer, Dr. Leena Gupta and dozens of other volunteers who made the event very successful.

While expressing appreciation and gratitude to dozens of AAPI Chapters, including the Mississippi Chapter for regularly holding blood F donation drives across the nation, Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President of AAPI said, “As we celebrate the 75thIndependence Day of India, the nation  has made us to be what we are today,  AAPI, the largest ethnic organization in the United States, representing nearly 100,000 physicians and Fellows of Indian origin in the United States, is proud to lead this unique and noble initiative ‘AAPI Blood Donation in 75 cities.”

A major initiative of Dr. Gotimukula-led Executive Team, the Blood Donation campaign  is in response to the national crisis for blood products  especially as the Covid Pandemic ravages the world.

“I want to thank the dozens of AAPI Chapters and in cities and towns across the United States, who have confirmed and have started planning to organize the event in several states,” said Meher Medavram, Chair of AAPI’s Blood Donation Initiative said. The launch event will be held in Chicago on August 7th, Dr. Medavaram announced.

Dr. Kusum Punjabi, the Chair of Board of Trustees of AAPI, serving patients in the Emergency Department, said “As the pandemic has exhausted all the resources, especially the lifesaving and much needed Blood across the nation and the world, AAPI is in the forefront, once again, spreading the message for the need to donate blood and save lives.”

Dr. Ravi Kolli, President-Elect of AAPI, a Board Certified Psychiatrist with additional qualifications in Addiction, Geriatric and Forensic Psychiatry, and serving as the Psychiatric Medical Director of Southwestern Pennsylvania Human Services, urged “potential blood donors to donate blood to help ensure lifesaving blood products are available for patients. Your donation is needed now to prevent delays in patient care. Help overcome the severe blood shortage!”

Dr. Anjana  Samadder, Vice President of AAPI, said, who herself has experienced the ordeal with Covid -19, and has come out stronger,  resilient and tenacious, quoting Red Cross said,

“Every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood. It is essential for surgeries, cancer treatment, chronic illnesses, and traumatic injuries. Whether a patient receives whole blood, red cells, platelets or plasma, this lifesaving care starts with one person making a generous donation.”

“With the ongoing pandemic, the United States and the world need the help of blood and platelet donors and blood drive hosts to meet the needs of patient care,” said Dr. Satheesh Kathula, Secretary of AAPI, a board certified hematologist and oncologist from Dayton, Ohio, practicing Medicine for nearly two decades. Dr. Kathula also said, “It is very difficult to find a matched stem cell donor for Southeast Asians should they need a bone marrow or stem cell transplant and this drive will help increase the number of potential donors.”

Dr. Krishan Kumar, a pediatric emergency medicine physician in East Meadow, New York and is affiliated with multiple hospitals in the area, quoting studies done on the need and usefulness of Blood said, “Blood donation helps save lives. In fact, every two seconds of every day, someone needs blood. Since blood cannot be manufactured outside the body and has a limited shelf life, the supply must constantly be replenished by generous blood donors.”

The growing influence of physicians of Indian heritage is evident, as increasingly physicians of Indian origin hold critical positions in the healthcare, academic, research and administrative positions across the nation. We the physicians of Indian origin are proud of our great achievements and contributions to our motherland, India, our adopted land, the US and in a very significant way to the transformation of the Indo-US relations.

Serving 1 in every 7 patients in the US, AAPI members care for millions of patients every day, while several of them have risen to hold high flying jobs, shaping the policies and programs and inventions that shape the landscape of healthcare in the US and around the  world.

“As we all know our blood banks are deprived of products and another wave of COVID is rapidly increasing,” Pointed out Dr. Gotimukula, who has vowed to make AAPI a premium  healthcare leader, primarily focusing to improve and reform the current healthcare system and help towards making a better healthcare model for the patients.

“It’s a humble and a noble initiative by AAPI to help save lives. Please let us know if you are interested to take the lead in your town and help in AAPI’s blood donation drive. Thank you and truly appreciate your support in helping our blood banks.”  For more details to organize Blood Donation Drive in your city/town/region, please contact: Vijaya Kodali, AAPI Office Manager at: [email protected]. For more details on AAPI

12th Annual Conference of Global Association of Physicians of Indian Origin Held

Leading experts and delegates from 53 countries took part in the recent 12th Annual Conference of physicians of Indian origin, GAPIO (Global Association of Physicians of Indian Origin).

The GAPIO Conference took place virtually Feb. 26-27, and fielded well-known speakers from United States, Canada, Australia, United Arab Emirates and India who covered different aspects during the sessions on Cardiac Sciences, Endocrinology, Gastroenterology, Neurology, Nephrology, Omicron (COVID-19)- Global Perspective, Interventional Radiology, Transplant, Orthopedics & Rheumatology, Integrative Medicine, Oncology, Paediatrics, Leadership Mantras, Capacity Building in Healthcare in India, Patient safety and Quality/Accreditation and Role of Allied Healthcare Professionals in Healthcare.

India’s Minister for Health & Family Welfare and Chemicals and Fertilizers, Mansukh Mandaviya, was the Chief Guest during the awards function which was held on Feb. 26. The awards were presented to young clinicians and presided over by Minister Mandaviya.

Dr. Prathap C. Reddy, founder and president of GAPIO, and chairman of Apollo Hospitals Group was the Guest of Honor. A non-profit organization, GAPIO is a leading association for the Indian medical diaspora and the annual conference has become an important event in the medical calendar for physicians and other medical personnel around the globe.

Dr. Reddy noted how COVID-19 had again shown the potential of Indian-origin physicians during a global health crisis. He also informed the gathering that during the pandemic, GAPIO held 23 sessions dealing with the pandemic during which “valuable lessons” were learned from leaders around the world facing the challenge of the coronavirus.

“The need for innovation and cross-systemic learning is more important than ever before.  Apart from the COVID-19 pandemic, India and the world at large are facing an epidemic of non-communicable diseases – NCDs like diabetes, heart disease and cancer. We seek involvement of everyone to overcome this biggest challenge to mankind posed by COVID-19 and NCDs,” Dr. Reddy said.

“The Indian diaspora has a wealth of talent. Experts based in more than 50 countries can contribute to enhancing the healthcare delivery in India as no matter where they work, they want to give back to their motherland. We hope to evolve a consensus on the contemporary health challenges through this conference,” said Dr. Anupam Sibal, president of GAPIO and Group Medical Director at Apollo Hospitals, Senior Consultant Pediatric Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist.

Highlighting the Congress’ relevance for Indian healthcare, Dr. Nandakumar Jairam, vice president of GAPIO said, “Research and innovation can improve the delivery of quality healthcare in India to the last mile. As the country braces to overcome its myriad health challenges, this conference will help identify methodologies most suitable to skill and scale the healthcare workforce in the country.”

Dr. Sudhir Parikh, secretary general of GAPIO and Chairman and Publisher of Parikh World Wide Media and ITV Gold 24×7 TV Channel in USA, said “Global health challenges need global solutions, and we believe through GAPIO we will evolve constructive and tangible ways of ensuring that healthcare becomes more accessible to all citizens.”

GAPIO was founded in 2011 by Padma Vibhushan recipient Dr. Prathap C Reddy, along with Dr. Sanku Rao, past-president of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, and Ramesh Mehta, president of  the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, BAPIO, UK. The goal of the organization is to bring together 1.4 million physicians of Indian origin in the world on one professional platform.

GAPIO Excellence Awards Presented At 12 Global Conference

During the two-day 12th Global Conference held on a digital platform Feb. 26 and 27, 2022, the Global Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (GAPIO) presented the annual GAPIO awards for 2021 to doctors who have made noteworthy contributions to improving healthcare.

The award winners in the Distinguished Category are:

  • GAPIO Lifetime Achievement Award – Jatin P Shah, Former Chairman, Head and Neck Service, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York
  • Prathap C Reddy Philanthropy Award – Dr. Srinivas Gosla Reddy, Plastic Surgeon, GSR Institute of Craniofacial Plastic Surgery, Hyderabad and Director, Hyderabad Cleft Society.
  • Dr I A Modi Award – Dr. Mahesh Kumar Goenka, Director & Head, Institute of Gastrosciences, Apollo Hospitals, Kolkata, President, Indian Society of Gastroenterology, 2022 -2023
  • GAPIO Surgical Excellence Award – Dr. A A Shetty, Emeritus Professor, Orthopaedics, Trauma and Regenerative Medicine Cell therapy, Christ Church University, UK
  • GAPIO Excellence in Diagnostics – Dr. Arvind Lal, Chairman, Dr Lal PathLabs Ltd, New Delhi, Managing Trustee, ALVL Foundation
  • GAPIO Excellence in Radiology/ Radiation Therapy Awards – Harsh Mahajan,  Founder & Chief Radiologist, Mahajan Imaging, Chairman, Department of Nuclear Medicine & PET-CT, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi.

Each winner receives Rs. 100,000, a citation and a trophy.

GAPIO Special Appreciation Award – Dr. J. S. Tuteja, Pediatrician and Adolescent Health specialist, Indore, for his path breaking work in delivering Pediatric and Adolescent care.

The award winners in Young Category are:

  • Dr I A Modi Award – Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Assistant Professor, Nephrology, AIIMS, Patna.
  • GAPIO Surgical Excellence Award – Dr. Vishal Kumar, Associate Professor, Orthopedics, PGI, Chandigarh
  • GAPIO Excellence in Diagnostics – Dr. Swapnil Rane, Associate Professor, Tata Memorial Centre Advanced Centre for Treatment, Research and Education in Cancer, Mumbai.
  • GAPIO Excellence in Radiology/ Radiation Therapy Awards – Dr. Binit Sureka, Associate Professor, Interventional Radiology, AIIMS, Jodhpur.

Each winner receives Rs. 50,000, a citation and a trophy.

Mansukh Mandaviya, India’s Minister for Health & Family Welfare and Chemical and Fertilizers of India Government of India, was the Chief Guest and Dr. Prathap C Reddy, founder President of GAPIO and Chairman Apollo Hospitals Group was the Guest of Honor.

Dr. Anupam Sibal, President of GAPIO and Group Medical Director, Apollo Hospitals Group and Senior Consultant Pediatric Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist said, “The awardees through their immense contribution in clinical care, academics, research in different medical and surgical specialities exemplify the highest standards that Indian physicians have become synonyms with.”

Remarking on the young physicians category, Dr. Nandakumar Jairam, Vice President GAPIO said, “The awardees in the Young category represent the aspirations of the Young Indian Physician who is willing to take on challenges to improve delivery of care, while excelling in academics and research.”

 Dr. Sudhir Parikh, Secretary General of GAPIO and Chairman and Publisher of Parikh World Wide Media and ITV Gold 24×7 TV Channel in USA said, “With a presence in 53 countries, GAPIO serves to establish collaborations, bringing 1.4 million physicians of Indian origin on one platform. In the coming year our activities will be enhanced to build a stronger well connected physician community.

Dr. Prathap C Reddy, Founder President of GAPIO and Chairman Apollo Hospitals Group said, “The exemplary work by the awardees is an inspiration for others to emulate. The spirit of  the physicians of Indian origin to excel in India and overseas is what we hope to recognize. There are countless examples of path breaking work across the globe that would make every Indian proud”.

U.S. Surgeon General Investigates Covid-19 Misinformation Dr. Vivek Murthy Says It’s ‘About Protecting The Nation’s Health’

An investigation into health misinformation on COVID-19 has been launched by U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy. “Misinformation has had a profound impact on COVID-19 and our response,” Murthy told CNN. “Studies have demonstrated that the vast majority of the American public either believes common myths about COVID-19 or thinks those myths might be true. And many of those include myths around the COVID-19 vaccine, so we’ve seen firsthand how misinformation is harming people’s health when it comes to COVID.”

Murthy has requested input and data from tech companies, health care providers and community organizations to learn more about the scope and impact of misinformation on COVID-19.

This is the first time the Biden administration has asked tech companies to divulge certain data publicly, including major sources of misinformation, its extent, and who may have been more targeted, CNN reported.

“We’ll be looking forward to whatever information they have to share. We’re certainly approaching this with an open mind,” Murthy said. “Many of the new technology platforms have also been talking about solutions that they are trying to implement, but what we want to understand is what data do they have on whether these solutions are actually working or not.”

Equally important is input from health care workers, teachers and families on coping with misinformation, he said.

Health misinformation is making the jobs of health care workers much harder at a time where our health care work force is strained,” Murthy told CNN. “I hear from health care workers that they are battling COVID in the hospitals during the day, and they’re going home and battling health misinformation at night.”

Dr. Gerald Harmon, president of the American Medical Association (AMA), released a statement applauding the Surgeon General’s effort to root out COVID-19 misinformation online.

“The AMA has called out the junk science and misinformation about this virus that have proliferated on social media and sewn distrust in medicine, cost us lives, and driven families apart,” Harmon said.

“Collecting and understanding this data is critical to reversing its deadly impact and future spread,” Harmon added.

The surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, wants to know “exactly how many users saw or may have been exposed to instances of Covid-19 misinformation.” In his notice, he also asked for aggregate data on demographic groups that may have been disproportionately affected by the misinformation, the New York Times reported.

With a deadline of May 2, Murthy also demanded the Big Tech companies provide information about the major sources of COVID-19 “misinformation,” including those selling “unproven” products, services and treatments.

“Technology companies now have the opportunity to be open and transparent with the American people about the misinformation on their platforms,” Murthy said in an emailed statement to the Times.

“This is about protecting the nation’s health.”

The Times noted that denying a request for information “does not carry a penalty, but the notice represents the first formal request from the Biden administration of the tech companies to submit Covid-19 misinformation data, according to the surgeon general’s office.”

The White House has stepped into the controversy over top-rated podcaster Joe Rogan’s interviews with prominent medical scientists Dr. Robert Malone and Dr. Peter McCullough, essentially calling for censorship. Press secretary Jan Psaki has declared that flagging “misinformation” contrary to the government’s narrative is not enough, and social media platforms must do more.

In an interview with MSNBC in January, Murthy said the social media “platforms still have not stepped up to do the right thing, and do enough, I should say, to reduce the spread of misinformation.”

Six months ago, Murthy issued a first formal advisory accusing Big Tech of failing to do its public duty, calling misinformation “an urgent threat to public health.”

In February, as WND reported, the Department of Homeland Security issued a bulletin naming “proliferation of false or misleading narratives” regarding COVID-19 and the 2020 election as among the top terror threats. The National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin warned of a heightened threat of terror due in part to “an online environment filled with false or misleading narratives and conspiracy theories, and other forms of mis- dis- and mal-information (MDM) introduced and/or amplified by foreign and domestic threat actors.”

When ‘misinformation’ becomes consensus

The Times on Thursday reported Murthy’s request for information is part of Biden’s Covid National Preparedness Plan, which the White House detailed on Wednesday after the State of the Union address.

Murthy also is seeking information from health care providers and the public on how COVID-19 “misinformation” has influenced patients and communities.

“We’re asking anyone with relevant insights — from original research and datasets, to personal stories that speak to the role of misinformation in public health — to share them with us,” he said.

The charge of spreading “misinformation,” however, has come as top health officials and scientists walk back their stances on masks, lockdowns, vaccines and other efforts to combat COVID-19, confirming the claims of esteemed scientists they have dismissed as “fringe” and conspiracy theorists.”

AAPI’s Covid Relief Efforts In India Continue

The deadly Corona virus has claimed millions of lives and it has placed the entire healthcare sector both in India and the United States under tremendous stress. While the Indian American medical fraternity has been at the front lines of the fight against the pandemic, the American Association of Physicians of Indian origin (AAPI), the largest ethnic medical organization in the USA representing the interest of more than 100,000 physicians in the USA, has been in the forefront to help India, their motherland deal with the crisis of India.

Under the able leadership of Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President of AAPI, and Dr. Sujeeth R. Punnam, Chair, COVID Relief Committee, AAPI has carried out several initiatives to help India cope with the unprecedented impact of the deadly virus. Other members of this important committee include: Dr. Ravi Kolli, President-Elect, AAPI;  Dr. Satheesh Kathula, Secretary, AAPI; Dr. Tarak Vasavada, MD, Member, AAPI BOT: and, Dr.  Himansh Pandya.

“The generosity of the members of AAPI has been unprecedented,” says Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President of AAPI. “I want to thank the AAPI fraternity, for not only contributing $5.5 Million towards Covid Relief Funds for India, but has spent hundreds of hours in coordinating and disbursing the vital medical supplies to the most needed hospitals across India.”

“Thanks to the overwhelming support of its members that AAPI has raised almost $5 million in the past few months,” said Dr. Ravi Kolli, President-Elect of AAPI said.  “We have been working very hard in sending oxygen concentrators and ventilators to India, to deal with the calamity in India and are in the process of helping to set up oxygen generator plants in different hospitals in India,” added, Dr. Ravi Kolli.

Dr. Sujeeth Punnam, AAPI’s Regionals Director and Chair of the Covid Relief Committee, said, “Thus far, AAPI has provided 3,200 Concentrators, 100 Ventilators and 100 High Flow Nasal Canula Machines To 45 Hospitals In India as part of the Covid Pandemic Relief Efforts.”

Even as the pandemic is waning in many parts of the world, AAPI has been collaborating with several agencies and the government of India to help reach the much needed care and supplies to the remotest places in India.  Dr. Satheesh Kathula, Secretary of AAPI said, “AAPI has been coordinating several efforts, including the provision of oxygen plants and necessary lab equipment. Thanks to the overwhelming support of its members that AAPI has raised over $5.5 million.” “The outbreak of Covid 19 has caused significant health-related social, political and economic consequences worldwide. AAPI executive committee, board of trustees and members have been working very hard in sending medical equipment to India,” Dr. Kathula pointed out.

“We continue to coordinate efforts to make available the much needed vaccines in the Slum areas in major cities where compliance is very low and apart from life-saving equipment for severe Covid patients management in ICUs,” said Dr. Tarak Vasavada, who has been in the forefront leading AAPI’s efforts to help India during the Covid.

“As AAPI cannot direct its resources to specific areas and relies on the government of India to distribute its supplies, AAPI has been working outside of the umbrella of AAPI for direct transfer of the essential material, focusing mainly on the peripheral hospitals who do not get aid readily” , added. Dr. Himanshu Pandya.

In continuation of its efforts, during the recently concluded Global Healthcare Summit in Hyderabad, on January 7th this year, AAPI donated immunoanalyzer at AIIMS, Bibinagar, Telangana, which does hundreds of tests every day. This is part of Covid relief efforts AAPI has taken over during the second wave of pandemic.

Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, president of AAPI along with Dr. Satheesh Kathula, AAPI secretary, and Dr. Sujeeth Punnam, Chair, Covid relief committee participated in the inauguration of biochemistry lab/Immunoanalyzer at AIIMS, Bibinagar, Hyderabad. Later on they planted trees in AIIMS Vatika, Bibinagar and named one of them “AAPI”.

AAPI has been collaborating with Sai Sanjeevani Hospitals, while the cost of the oxygen plants were shared equally by AAPI and Rotary International. Chemiluminescence Immunoanalyzers (CLIA), Beckman Coulter UniCel Dxl 800 access Immunoassay system. This equipment has a throughput of 200 tests/hour and will make point of care testing like covid antibody tests, Ferritin, D Dimer, troponin, IL6, procalcitonin, CRP etc. easy. Each of these costs around $80,000.

Some of the other major institutes that benefitted from AAPI’s contributions included:  Stanley Medical College Hospital, Chennai, Tamilnadu, where the inauguration was done virtually by the AAPI team and in person by Health Minister of Tamilnadu; Sadbhavana Trust Hospital, a non-profit organization in South Gujarat and treats completely rural population; and Shrimad Rajchandra Hospital, a non profit organization serving rural Gujarat area of Dharampur is building a 250 bed hospital and AAPI is contributing $100,000 towards central monitoring equipment for the ICU.

“AAPI has sent more than 2300 oxygen concentrators, 100 ventilators, 200 high flow oxygen devices since 2021 to various parts of India. We are working to help AIIMS across the country which have been opened recently that haven’t secured the full funding yet from the government. After our initial donation to AIIMS, Bibinagar, Telangana AAPI is planning to donate immunoanlysers to all AIIMS across the country. As you may remember, AAPI had donated ventilators and high flow oxygen equipment to AIIMS in the past,” Dr. Satheesh Kathula, Clinical Professor of Medicine and AAPI Secretary said.

“As you may know, with a wonderful support by members and non-members, AAPI has raised $5,500,000 in the year 2021 for covid relief activity. Since that time the Covid Relief Committee has been working relentlessly to help the motherland. The committee has a strict criteria to send the equipment only to non profit or charity hospitals after careful reviewing. AAPI has donated oxygen plants, immunoassay analyzers to numerous hospitals. The work is still on going,” added Dr. Punnam.

“The past year, while posing major challenges have also provided opportunities for AAPI to continue to work together in helping realize the mission of AAPI,” said Dr. Gotimukula. “We are proud that several Indian American physicians are recognized globally for their contributions to combat the deadly pandemic. AAPI will continue our efforts and give our best to our Motherland in the fight against the deadly pandemic.” For more information on AAPI, please visit: www.aapiusa.org

Omicron Wave Declines, Giving Hope For A World Longing To Be Free Of Pandemic

The U.S. has experienced a brutal winter wave of COVID-19, driven by the highly transmissible Omicron variant. Daily deaths are higher today than they were during the peak of last fall’s Delta wave, and have plateaued at about 2,500 per day. Many hospitals are still under huge strain and are postponing elective surgeries to free up beds for patients with COVID-19. Daily cases have been higher than during the Delta surge, despite multiple eager predictions in the past that we had reached herd immunity and that the pandemic was over.

Nevertheless, there are promising signs that we are turning a corner. New daily cases are falling rapidly—they are down by over 75% from the peak of the Omicron wave. Hospitalizations are also falling. While we are not out in the clear yet, especially in poorly vaccinated regions of the U.S., the sharp downturn in cases is cause for optimism.

The fall in cases is also an opportunity for fundamental preparation, given the high chance of a future wave. To prevent being overwhelmed again, we should be proactive now in putting a preparedness system in place.

Instead, in the face of these receding cases, some pundits are calling for an end to pandemic control measures, such as indoor masking and testing of people with no symptoms. And several states have rolled back mask mandates, even though indoor masks mandates remain popular in public polling (the Biden Administration is being more cautious about easing masking). We fully understand the frustration and impatience behind these calls. Pandemic fatigue is real. Yet this yearning for ‘normal’ ignores the reality that our society before COVID-19 was anything but normal. If it had been, we may not have suffered as devastating a pandemic as we have. Instead it was those very conditions that allowed for terrible inequities and outsized impacts on America’s poor, which still continue today.

We are concerned that the Biden Administration is not taking preparedness seriously enough. It was a welcome step to see the Administration making 400 million N95 masks available for free at pharmacies and community health centers, and we are delighted that Americans can now go online and order four free rapid tests per household. But four rapid tests and a mask will not be enough to end the pandemic. These measures are not commensurate with the size of the problem, and they must be coupled with actual public health strategies for effective roll-out and sustained uptake.

Perhaps the biggest problem is that there is still a huge amount of viral transmission, with around 175,000 new daily cases. Less than two thirds of Americans are fully vaccinated—defined as two doses of Pfizer or Moderna or one dose of Johnson & Johnson—which does not provide as much protection as it did before Omicron. Only a quarter of Americans have received a booster dose, which provides the highest level of protection against infection, hospitalization, and death. There are ongoing inequities in vaccination, including racial inequities, with Black and Hispanic populations being vaccinated at a lower rate compared to white populations. Only 24% of children aged 5-11 and 57% of those aged 12-17 are fully vaccinated. Hospitalizations among the under 5 hit record levels during the Omicron surge, yet vaccines are not yet licensed for this age group.

There is also what the New York Times calls a “pandemic of the forgotten.” Around 7 million Americans have weakened immune systems from transplants, cancer treatment, rheumatoid arthritis medications, or other medical conditions, and they could get very ill if they get COVID-19. Yet this push toward returning to normal seems to matter-of-factly ignore them. And, there is the growing number of people who are suffering from long-term morbidity after surviving infection—the condition now known as Long Covid—which we are only just beginning to understand.

One recurring problem when it comes to pandemics is that we suffer from short term memory. We cross our fingers and hope that this wave is the last. Many of us were surprised when Vice President Kamala Harris said that the Biden Administration “didn’t see Delta coming….didn’t see Omicron coming.” That’s absurd. Viral mutations were entirely expected. There is a serious risk of further variants arising, especially with inequitable and low vaccination coverage in much of the world due to supply hoarding. Distributing a few rapid tests and masks and hoping that this wave disappears and will be the end of the U.S. pandemic is not a sound approach.

Even with the current variants in circulation, we could see further waves, such as was seen in the South in past summers, especially in poorly vaccinated states, and as people move indoors to escape the heat and humidity. We could similarly see future winter waves as we have witnessed in the northeast. With cases of Omicron receding, now is the time to put in place a proper infrastructure, resilient enough to handle further surges. Instead of declaring “mission accomplished,” we must declare a considerable effort toward true preparedness.

In addition to driving up vaccination coverage, what would true preparedness look like?

Instead of a one-off distribution of N95 masks, the government should replenish the stockpile enough to deploy them again in the face of future outbreaks. These should be ubiquitously available, and in different shapes and sizes, placed outside any high-risk venues including public transport or crowded indoor sites of congregation (grocery stores, malls, retail, movie theaters, gyms, offices) during surges.

Serial rapid tests are needed, and they need to reach those unable to order them online. A single test is a snapshot in time—so after a known exposure, having enough tests for daily testing prior to leaving the home is what would actually be needed for 5 to 7 days. Rapid tests identify contagious people before they get symptoms, allowing people to avoid spreading the infection, thus breaking the cycles of transmission. One of us presented similar arguments for both Ebola and Zika in the past. Such rapid tests for SARS-CoV-2 can help keep schools and workplaces open, and they can protect vulnerable people in nursing homes, jails, prisons, and other high-risk congregate settings. High quality masks and rapid tests are particularly critical for protecting front line workers.

With the arrival of new antiviral drugs, such as Paxlovid, and data showing early antiviral use with Remdesivir is more effective, universal access to free tests has become even more urgent. These medicines can reduce your chances of being hospitalized or dying if they are taken soon enough after symptoms begin, but this requires access to testing for early enough diagnosis. Greater access to testing needs to be combined with fair and equitable access to these medications—especially for communities that traditionally have low access to care.

A joined-up preparedness plan would also include paid sick leave. During the 2009 swine flu pandemic, an estimated 3 in 10 people with symptoms in the U.S. went to work, infecting up to 7 million others. The U.S. is the only high-income nation without mandatory federal sick pay, and this will continue to be a huge barrier to controlling COVID-19.

Another way to curb transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is to improve ventilation and air filtration in all buildings, including schools. Congress has allocated up to $170 billion for school infrastructure improvements, including improving air quality. Unfortunately, too much of this money has been left on the table. In some cases, as Joseph Allen and Celine Gounder note, some schools are “already under attack by parents who are opposed to other pandemic-related public health measures, like masking.” Other school districts lack the know-how to make the upgrades—they need better guidance and standards. Some schools say they struggle to pay for upgraded ventilation systems even with federal aid.

Instead of being caught flat-footed by the next wave or variant, we need more comprehensive data and surveillance systems, including wastewater sampling, as well genomic surveillance to identify and track new variants. With better data, we can know when to titrate public health protections up and down. As Megan Ranney, professor of emergency medicine and academic dean of public health at Brown University says, we need “investments in better data systems, now, to signal when a surge is on its way and to provide clear metrics of when to increase protections (like masks)—and clear lines about when these protections can be relaxed.”

With so many people worldwide still unvaccinated, and many Americans without boosters, we should prepare ourselves for future pandemic ebbs and flows. To end the pandemic, the U.S. should do much more to boost global vaccine access including donating several-fold more doses, sharing vaccine technology more urgently, and funding massive global production. Domestically, an important guiding principle is that our policies should be driven by data and not dates—for example, we believe it is better to base the end of mask mandates on metrics such as vaccination coverage, hospitalization rates, and ICU capacity rather than picking an arbitrary end date. Unlike the start of the pandemic, we now have a remarkable array of science-based tools that can turn COVID-19 into something akin to a cold or flu, but to get there we’ll need higher vaccination rates, better data and surveillance systems, data-driven policies on masks and rapid tests, improved ventilation in shared public spaces, and a more resilient preparedness system.

Dr. Vivek Murthy And His Family Diagnosed With COVID

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy announced last week that he and the rest of his immediate family have tested positive for COVID-19. In a tweet shared Friday, the nation’s top doctor said he, his wife and his 5-year-old son all tested positive for the virus. His 4-year-old daughter, who first tested positive for the virus last weekend, is doing “ok” — saying she’s still congested and is hoarse from coughing.

Murthy says he and his wife Alice have mild symptoms, experiencing muscle aches, chills, and sore throat. His son has a runny nose and low-grade fever, but says is otherwise fine.

“Whether you’ve had COVID or not, whatever your beliefs may be, I wish for you the love of family & friends,” Murthy said in his tweet. “I know it feels like we’re in endless conflict. But we are brothers and sisters first with common hopes and common concerns. May we all find healing in the days ahead.”

“She’s doing OK. She’s congested, she’s having intermittent fevers still, and she’s telling us her throat is hurting her a lot,” he told NPR on Wednesday. “But thankfully, she’s breathing OK and she’s still smiling often, which makes us happy as her parents.”

Murthy’s daughter is four years old and not yet eligible for a vaccine. When he first revealed the news on Twitter on Tuesday, he wrote that while he wished a vaccine was available for kids under five, more data was still needed from clinical trials for that to happen.

Murthy spoke with All Things Considered about vaccines, parenting during the pandemic, and whether this experience had made him rethink how he talked to parents of young children in his role as surgeon general.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Interview highlights

On what went through his mind when he saw the positive test

I’ve been certainly thinking about COVID and talking to people about COVID for the better part of two years, even before I was surgeon general. But when it hits home, it always feels a bit different.

I just had this sinking feeling, thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, she’s four years old, she’s not vaccinated because there is no vaccine available for her age group.’ And as a parent, my questions were: Is she going to be OK? Could I have done something else to have prevented her from getting sick?

We have her wearing a mask in school, we take as many precautions as we can, but you know, my wife and I did feel some guilt, wondering if we maybe did something wrong that may have created more exposure for her. So that’s what was going through our heads.

On whether he feels frustration at how hard it is, even as the surgeon general, to keep very young kids who still cannot be vaccinated safe

In that moment, especially, but even in the many months prior to that, I had wished that we had a vaccine for kids under five. Thankfully, we’ve got a vaccine for children five and up, and for all adults. These under kids under five, like my daughter, are the ones who still don’t have that protection. I wish we had that. But I also know that we need to make sure we have good data and that data is thoroughly assessed by the FDA.

I do think they’re moving as quickly as they possibly can. They, in fact, took this step which is unusual of proactively asking [Pfizer-BioNTech] to look at the data for two shots, even though there’s a trial ongoing for three shots, because they wanted to know if there’s even a chance that the two shots had a good result for kids. They wanted to make that vaccine available as soon as possible. But the data wasn’t good enough to meet their threshold, which is why they now need to wait for three doses.

So they’re being proactive, like you’ve got to do during a pandemic. But the most important thing is we’ve got to make sure that vaccine is safe and effective, and they won’t compromise on that standard.

On whether this has made him rethink how he is talking to other parents of young children in his role as surgeon general

This emphasizes to me just how important the job of parenting is and how hard it’s been during this pandemic. It’s not like parenting was a walk in the park prior to the pandemic, but parents have just really had an incredibly difficult time during these last two years. And even though, you know, I’m the one whose daughter got sick on Sunday, there are millions of parents who have gone through this exact experience and had to navigate these issues, make decisions with limited information.

My hope is coming out of this that we can also do more as a society to support parents. You know, I can work from home, for example, my wife has a flexible work situation, but many parents don’t. And more broadly, I just hope we can recognize that while parenting may not generate a paycheck, it is incredibly important work and it’s hard for me to think of a job that’s more important than raising the next generation.

Dr. Peter Jay Hotez, Scientist, Researcher, Author, & Science Explainer To Deliver Keynote Address During AAPI’s 40th Convention In San Antonio, TX

“We are excited and honored to have Dr. Peter J. Hotez, an internationally-recognized physician-scientist in tropical diseases and vaccine development will deliver the keynote address during the 40th American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) Annual Convention and Scientific Sessions planned to be held from June 23-26, 2022 in the beautiful city of San Antonio, Texas,” Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President of AAPI announced here today.

Millions of doses of a new, cheap coronavirus vaccine will soon be available in India, thanks to the efforts and generosity of Dr. Hotez, Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine and Professor of Pediatrics and Molecular Virology & Microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine, where he is also the Co-director of the Texas Children’s Center for Vaccine Development (CVD) and Texas Children’s Hospital Endowed Chair of Tropical Pedi, and his team of researchers, who have made the new CORBEVAX inoculation, which was developed in Texas with decades-old technology and little support from the U.S. government, received emergency use authorization last month from India’s drug regulation agency.

Unlike other vaccines in the market, Dr. Hotez and his team “don’t own any intellectual property.” While describing it the “World’s Coronavirus Vaccine” Dr. Hotez and colleagues say CORBEVAX is cheap and stable and could be relatively easy to scale — will be key to addressing global equity gaps. “That’s all we know how to do is make durable, low-cost vaccines for global health,” Hotez said.

“The presence of Dr. Hotez, a University Professor at Baylor University, Fellow in Disease and Poverty at the James A Baker III Institute for Public Policy,  Senior Fellow at the Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs at Texas A&M University, Faculty Fellow with the Hagler Institute for Advanced Studies at Texas A&M University, and Health Policy Scholar in the Baylor Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy, and a True Friend of India at the AAPI Convention is a way for us, Physicians of Indian Origin to honor a legendary and celebrated champion of vaccines, who has developed vaccines for tropical diseases that afflict the world’s poorest people as he has devoted his skills, knowledge and experiences to help the world defeat COVID-19,” said Dr. Jayesh Shah, past President of AAPI and Chair of AAPI Convention 2022.

“AAPI is planning a historic convention in San Antonio to celebrate 40 years of AAPI that coincides with 75 years of India’s Independence. Excellent sessions and programs are planned!,” said Venky Adivi, Chief Executive Officer of the Convention.

“Our physician members have worked very hard during the Covid 19 pandemic, and the 2022 convention is a perfect time to heal the healers with a special focus on wellness,” said Dr. Vijay Kolli, Advisor for the Convention. Accordingly, “some of the major themes at the convention include: Yoga and Meditation practices, Welcome kit with books & self-care supplies, A Personal Reflexology Session, Take home wellness routine, Ailment based yoga therapy sessions, Workshop on Spiritual well-being, Book talk with Yoga Gurus, including on the science of Yoga & Lifestyle medicine, as well as a unique opportunity to visit first of its kind in San Antonio, Aum Ashram as part of the Wellness session,” said Dr. Rajam Ramamurthy, Advisor for the Convention.

Dr. Aruna Venkatesh, Convention Treasurer pointed out: “In addition to colorful entertainment, exquisite authentic Indian cuisine, esteemed yoga gurus and experts, who are planned to share their wisdom and leading the Wellness Sessions include: Paramaguru R. Sharath Jois, Sadhvi Bhagawati, Saraswati Eddie Stern,  Dr. Sat Bir Khalsa, Dr. Dilip Sarkar, Dr. Pankaj Vij, and  Dr. Param Dedhia.”

Dr. Hotez has authored more than 600 original papers and is the author of five single-author books, and has served previously as President of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. In 2011, he was awarded the Abraham Horwitz Award for Excellence in Leadership in Inter-American Health by the Pan American Health Organization of the WHO.  In 2017, he was named by FORTUNE Magazine as one of the 34 most influential people in health care, while in 2018 he received the Sustained Leadership Award from Research! America.   In 2019 he received the Ronald McDonald House Charities Award for Medical Excellence.

An ardent champion of vaccines going up against a growing national “antivax” threat, in 2019, he received the Award for Leadership in Advocacy for Vaccines from the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.  In 2021 he was recognized by scientific leadership awards from the AAMC and the AMA. Dr. Hotez appears frequently on television (including BBC, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC), radio, and in newspaper interviews, including the New York Times, USA Today, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal.

The American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin Convention offers an exciting venue to interact with leading physicians, health professionals, academicians, and scientists of Indian origin. The physicians and healthcare professionals from across the country will convene and participate in the scholarly exchange of medical advances, to develop health policy agendas, and to encourage legislative priorities in the coming year.

Planned to have a limited number of attendance due to the ongoing Covid pandemic and taking into account the safety of the participants, including Physicians, Academicians, Researchers, and Medical students, “The annual convention offers extensive academic presentations, recognition of achievements and achievers, and professional networking at the alumni and evening social events,” Dr. Gotimukula added.   For more information, please visit: www.aapiconvention.org  and www.aapiusa.org

Covid Has Claimed 900,000 American Lives

The U.S. has crossed yet another tragic landmark in the battle against COVID-19. On Friday, the country surpassed 900,000 deaths from the disease, two years after the first COVID-19 cluster was reported in Wuhan, China. Public health experts say coming close to the 1 million death mark from the coronavirus is “inevitable.”

“It’s absolutely staggering,” said Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University, which has tracked the number of COVID-19 deaths during the pandemic. “It’s unreal, frankly. And what makes it an even … greater heartbreak — as if the loss of 900,000 souls weren’t enough of a heartbreak — is the fact that it’s probably an undercount of the number of people that we’ve lost.”

University of Texas at Austin professor and epidemiologist Lauren Ancel Meyers said the “horrible milestone” didn’t have to happen.

\”It was not inevitable. There are things that we could have done and should have done … to protect those who were most vulnerable,” she said. “It’s a very sad day.”

President Joe Biden marked the “tragic milestone,” recognizing the “emotional, physical and psychological weight of this pandemic” and urged Americans to do their part.

I urge all Americans: get vaccinated, get your kids vaccinated, and get your booster shot if you are eligible,” Biden said in a statement. “It’s free, easy, and effective — and it can save your life, and the lives of those you love.”

Daily deaths remain high even as overall case numbers dip

The rolling seven-day average for daily COVID-19 deaths has been above 2,000 since Jan. 23, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s nearly three times higher than in November, when the agency was reporting a seven-day average of 700 daily deaths.

Vaccines are preventing most severe disease and death

As COVID-19 vaccines have become widely available for Americans, the number of those who have received at least one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine continues to increase.

However, the percentage of fully vaccinated Americans is still relatively low at approximately 64%. Amid the most recent surge of the now dominant omicron variant, unvaccinated people were 97 times more likely to die compared with those who were boosted, according to data cited this week by CDC Director Rochelle Walensky.

Public health experts note that broader vaccination and boosting would have reduced the number of deaths. “We would have at least 300,000 fewer deaths. Probably more … than that,” if the early pace of vaccination had been sustained, said Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. “But at least 300,000 Americans who have perished would still be with us. It’s tragic.” According to the latest CDC data, 42% of eligible Americans have received a booster.

Experts Open The Door To Lifting Last Mask Mandates

As the spike in coronavirus cases caused by the omicron variant wanes, some experts say it is time to start lifting more restrictions, setting up a heated debate, particularly over mask mandates in schools.

People are exhausted with the pandemic after roughly two years, and health advocates warn that pandemic rules cannot last forever.

“We cannot remain in a perpetual state of emergency,” said Leana Wen, a public health professor at George Washington University. “People burn out.”

Many aspects of life have already returned to something like normal. Bars and restaurants are open and packed across the country, and countless travel restrictions have been lifted.

But some locations, including New York and Washington, D.C., still have mask mandates for the general public, and in schools, mask requirements are more common.

Vaccinations remain as the key source of protection. People who are vaccinated and boosted have strong protection against severe disease, even if there is still a chance they get mild illness.

Wen noted that school-age children 5 and up can now all be vaccinated.

And Pfizer last week began the application for its COVID-19 vaccine for children as young as six months.

Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, said that restrictions in general should be lifted as cases come down, but not just yet, given that cases are still high.

“I’ve been saying for weeks that as cases recede we can soon relax public health restrictions,” Jha tweeted. “I think of this like the weather. When it is bucketing rain umbrella, rain coat, boots, are all essential. When the storm turns into a drizzle, those become less critical.”

The possibility of a future variant that has greater ability to evade the vaccines’ protection, or that causes more severe disease, leads some experts to call for loosening restrictions during the coming lull to give people a respite in case they need to return later.

“If we don’t take the off-ramps, nobody will listen when we need to have an on-ramp,” tweeted Jeremy Faust, a professor at Harvard Medical School.

Cases in the U.S. have fallen significantly from the peak during the omicron wave in mid-January, from approximately 800,000 new cases per day to about 350,000 per day, which is still quite high. More experts are putting a focus on hospitalizations, which have now peaked nationally, though again are still at the high level of around 123,000 a day, according to a New York Times tracker.

Asked about people returning to more normal activities, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky on Wednesday cautioned that hospitalizations “are still quite high and [we are] certainly having hospital capacity challenges in many parts of the country still.”

“We really do have to look to our hospitalization rates and our death rates to look to when it is time to lift some of these mitigation efforts,” she said. “We will continue to reevaluate, and we know people are anxious.”

The matter of lifting restrictions has received a new burst of political attention as Republicans push to scale back measures such as mask mandates.

Virginia’s new Republican governor, Glenn Youngkin, has drawn controversy and an American Civil Liberties Union-backed lawsuit from parents over an order making masks optional in schools in the state.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) more broadly said Wednesday that “it is time for the state of emergency to wind down.”

On the Democratic side, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock this week lifted the city’s mask mandate and proof of vaccination requirement for businesses.

“This virus is something we’re going to have to manage and learn to live with,” Hancock said.

A Monmouth University poll this week found that a large majority of Americans, 70 percent, agreed that “it’s time we accept that Covid is here to stay and we just need to get on with our lives.”

Republicans continue to fight hard against President Biden’s vaccine mandates, which many public health experts have praised as a crucial way to get more people vaccinated and help return to normal.

Advocates have also been pushing the Biden administration and Congress for more funding for global vaccination efforts, which can help prevent new variants from emerging.

Some experts are pushing back against the calls for returning to normal, pointing to more vulnerable people.

“The great, white middle — stretching right and left across the political spectrum and the op-ed pages of the Times — is ready to move on,” Gregg Gonsalves, a professor at the Yale School of Public Health, wrote in The Nation. “The thing is: Those left behind don’t have the choices or the resources that those with privilege do, whether they are poor, living with disabilities or chronic medical conditions — or just too old to matter.”

Wen, a former health commissioner for the city of Baltimore, said the CDC should at least set new benchmarks for under what circumstances masks would no longer be needed.

“It’s precisely because of the threat of future variants that we need to let up on restrictions now,” she said. “I’m not trying to sound the all-clear at all … I’m saying we need to take advantage of the lull that we have coming up.”

Strained US Hospitals Seek Foreign Nurses Amid Visa Windfall

With American hospitals facing a dire shortage of nurses amid a slogging pandemic, many are looking abroad for health care workers. And it could be just in time.

There’s an unusually high number of green cards available this year for foreign professionals, including nurses, who want to move to the United States — twice as many as just a few years ago. That’s because U.S. consulates shut down during the coronavirus pandemic weren’t issuing visas to relatives of American citizens, and, by law, these unused slots now get transferred to eligible workers.

Amy L. Erlbacher-Anderson, an immigration attorney in Omaha, Nebraska, said she has seen more demand for foreign nurses in two years than the rest of her 18-year career. And this year, she said, it’s more likely they’ll get approved to come, so long as U.S. consular offices can process all the applications.

“We have double the number of visas we’ve had available for decades,” she said. “That is kind of temporarily creating a very open situation.”

U.S. hospitals are struggling with a shortage of nurses that worsened as pandemic burnout led many to retire or leave their jobs. Meanwhile, coronavirus cases continue to rise and fall, placing tremendous pressure on the health care system. In California alone, there’s an estimated gap of 40,000 nurses, or 14% of the workforce, according to a recent report by the University of California, San Francisco.

Hospitals are filling the gap by hiring traveling nurses, but that can be expensive. And hospital administrators say not enough nurses are graduating from U.S. schools each year to meet the demand.

Some hospitals have long brought nurses from the Philippines, Jamaica and other English-speaking countries, and more are now following suit. And both longtime recruiters and newcomers are trying to take advantage of the green card windfall before the fiscal year ends in September.

The U.S. typically offers at least 140,000 green cards each year to people moving to the country permanently for certain professional jobs, including nursing. Most are issued to people who are already living in the United States on temporary visas, though some go to workers overseas. This year, 280,000 of these green cards are available, and recruiters hope some of the extras can be snapped up by nurses seeking to work in pandemic-weary hospitals in the United States.

The Biden administration, which has made moves to reverse Trump-era policies restricting legal immigration, has taken some steps to try to help foreign health care workers so they can assist with the pandemic. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said it would speed the renewal of work permits for health care workers, which could help keep some foreign citizens already in the United States on the job. The State Department told consulates last year to prioritize applications for workers at facilities that are responding to the pandemic, an agency official said.

Faith Akinmade, a 22-year-old nurse from Nigeria, is among those hoping for a quick solution. After completing college in the U.S., Akinmade has been working as an ICU nurse for University of Louisville Hospital in Kentucky. But her work permit is set to expire in March. She said she needs it renewed, or her green card approved, to stay on the job.

“At this point and time, I just feel like I have faith that at the end of March something is going to show up to continue to work,” Akinmade said. She said the issue affects many of her international colleagues as well as domestic ones, who may be pressed to take on shifts for colleagues if their immigration paperwork doesn’t come through.

Dr. Roxie Wells, president of Cape Fear Valley Hoke Hospital in Raeford, North Carolina, said she started trying to bring over foreign nurses before the pandemic, but it wasn’t until last year that these recruits started getting consular interviews in larger numbers. So far, about 150 were approved to come work, but Wells said they’re still waiting on another 75.

“Obviously it has become more necessary during the pandemic,” she said. “The 150, if we didn’t have them, we would be in a precarious situation.”

The surge in the omicron variant in the United States has made the strained staffing situation even more apparent in hospitals as health care workers, like so many others, have been sickened by the highly contagious virus and sidelined from work at a time when more patients are coming in.

Sinead Carbery, president of International Nurse Staffing Solutions for AMN Healthcare, said the demand for international nurses has risen between 300% and 400% since the pandemic began. The number of nurses that can be brought into the United States even with the additional green cards won’t be enough to meet demand, and many more recruiters are now seeking to hire nurses overseas because there are immigrant visas available, she said.

“This is a window of opportunity,” she said. “Because everything is flowing so well, there’s a lot of competition for that talent.”

National Nurses United, a union representing 175,000 registered nurses, said more scrutiny should be given to international recruitment to ensure foreign nurses aren’t brought in and subjected to unsafe working conditions. The union contends hospitals drove away U.S. nurses by keeping staffing levels so low — and this was well before concerns arose about worker safety and protections during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Michelle Mahon, the union’s assistant director of nursing practice, said many foreign nurses sign yearslong contracts with employers, which can make it hard for them to speak up about labor or patient safety concerns. She said hospitals that saw nurses quit during the pandemic are turning to an overseas workforce to replace them.

“This kind of dynamic is particularly attractive right now to employers who have not made any of the changes necessary to ensure patient and nursing safety during this COVID-19 pandemic,” Mahon said. “Instead of them addressing the actual problem, they want to go and pivot to this other really fake solution.”

Hospital administrators, however, contend there simply aren’t enough U.S.-trained nurses to go around. Patty Jeffrey, president of the American Association of International Healthcare Recruitment, said the United States should expand nursing education programs to train more nurses domestically, as well as let more nurses come in from overseas. But she acknowledged bringing in a much larger number of nurses would require legislation.

“The calls are every day ringing off the hook: We need 100, we need 200, we need all these nurses,” Jeffrey said.

Jorge Almeida Neri, a 26-year-old nurse from Portugal, arrived in the United States late last year, though he began the process before the pandemic. He said a required international nursing exam was delayed due to the virus and it took four months to get a consular interview, though other international nurses he’s met waited much longer. He interviewed for his current job at a Virginia hospital, which he got through a staffing agency, about a year ago.

“After getting everything certified, the immigration process started, and I was like, ‘Oh, this is going to be quick.’ I was wrong,” he said.

Almeida Neri said many Portuguese nurses seek work overseas since wages are low, though many go elsewhere in Europe, which doesn’t take as long as the United States.

Despite the demand, there’s no guarantee hospitals will in fact snap up more visas. Greg Siskind, an immigration attorney, said U.S. consular offices aren’t required to issue visas solely because they’re available, and are hampered by limits on remote work and video interviews. He said most employment-based green cards tend to go to professionals already in the United States, not overseas, though more could be done to speed these up, too.

“Under their current policies, if they don’t make any changes, it is going to be hard,” he said of the likelihood the U.S. government will issue all the available visas, “but there’s a lot of things they could do.”

Alzheimer’s-Like Changes Found In COVID Patients’ Brains; Flu Shot, Mrna Booster Safe Together

The following is a summary of some recent studies on COVID-19. They include research that warrants further study to corroborate the findings and that has yet to be certified by peer review.

Alzheimer’s-like changes seen in COVID-19 patients’ brains

People who die of severe COVID-19 have brain abnormalities that resemble changes seen in Alzheimer’s disease – accumulation of a protein called tau inside brain cells, and abnormal amounts of the protein beta-amyloid that accumulates into amyloid plaques – small studies have found.

At Columbia University, Dr. Andrew Marks and colleagues studied the brains of 10 COVID-19 patients and found defects in proteins called ryanodine receptors that control the passage of calcium into cells. In Alzheimer’s disease, defective ryanodine receptors are linked to accumulation of tau into so-called neurofibrillary tangles. These tangles were present in high levels in the COVID-19 patients’ brains, the Columbia team reported on Thursday in Alzheimer’s & Dementia. Other research teams have looked for – and found – abnormal amyloid levels in brains of COVID-19 patients, according to reports posted online ahead of peer review on bioRxiv and on The Lancet’s preprint server.

In all the studies, patients had experienced the most severe forms of COVID-19. If similar changes are occurring in the brains of patients with milder illness, that might help explain the “brain fog” associated with long COVID, Marks said. Patients with severe COVID-19 might be at higher risk for dementia later in life, but it is too soon to know, he added. His advice: Get a booster vaccine and avoid the virus. “If you get COVID-19, you probably won’t die, but we still don’t know a lot about the long-term effects.”

Seniors can get flu shot, mRNA COVID-19 booster together

Seniors can safely get the high-dose flu vaccine and an mRNA COVID-19 booster dose at the same time, a new study confirms.

The study’s 306 participants, all older than 65, were randomly assigned either to receive Sanofi’s Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent influenza vaccine and a third shot of Moderna’s mRNA vaccine at the same time, or either of the vaccines alone. Blood samples obtained before and 21 days after vaccination showed that giving the two vaccines together did not affect the resulting immune response, with similar antibody levels generated in participants in each of the three groups, according to a report published on Tuesday in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.

A spokesperson for Sanofi said combined administration of the COVID-19 and influenza vaccines “did not raise any safety concerns and the study team is continuing to follow study participants through 6 months after vaccination.”

Fluid in some rapid COVID tests could be deadly for kids

In some COVID-19 rapid test kits, the small bottle of “reagent” fluid contains sodium azide, a powerful poison that is particularly dangerous for small children, experts warn.

In adults, small amounts can quickly cause dangerously low blood pressure, dizziness, fainting, or even heart attacks or strokes, said Dr. Kelly Johnson-Arbor, Co-Medical Director of the National Capital Poison Center in Washington, D.C. Higher doses can be fatal, she and her colleagues wrote in The American Journal of Emergency Medicine. Sodium azide levels in COVID-19 rapid test kits are not always high enough to cause low blood pressure in adults, and the iHealth kits being sent out by the U.S. government do not contain any sodium azide at all, Johnson-Arbor said. “However… since children are typically much smaller than adults, they are at a higher risk of experiencing poisonous effects after swallowing any amount,” she said.

Poison control hotlines have been getting reports of accidental exposures to the reagent fluid. “Some people have swallowed the solution, some have spilled it onto their skin, and others have put it in their eyes,” mistaking the bottle for eye drops, Johnson-Arbor said. “If you or a loved one swallows the reagent fluid or gets the fluid in their eyes or on the skin, contact Poison Control right away.” (In the U.S., at www.poison.org or 1-800-222-1222; in the UK at https://www.npis.org/).

Cricket Legend Sunil Gavaskar To Address AAPI’s 40th AAPI Convention In San Antonio, TX

San Antonio, TX: February 7th, 2022: “Legendary Cricket Star Sunil Gavaskar, well known around the world as an inspirational speaker, philanthropist, and the chairman of H2H Foundation will be a keynote speaker during the 40th Annual Convention of AAPI to be held in San Antonio, TX from June 23rd to 26th, 2022,” Dr. Anupama Gotimukula announced here.

Confirming his presence at the Convention, “The Little Master” Sunil Gavaskar told AAPI members who are part of the “greatest profession in the world,” and said, “It’s a unique honor to be part of the important AAPI convention in Texas. I am looking forward to meeting you all in Texas.” Mr. Gavaskar referred to his association with the “Heart to Heart Foundation” and how the Foundation is touching many hearts around the world.

According to Dr. Jayesh Shah, Chair of the Convention 2022, “While the theme for the historic convention is ‘Physician, heal thyself,’ especially when there are growing signs of burnout among physicians, by offering positive remedial resources as part of a first-ever Wellness Program being offered to participants, the special and unique once in a lifetime interactive session with the Cricket legend will allow the AAPI delegates to listen firsthand to the stories of his glorious cricket days, and the stories that tug at the hearts of the audience.”

“During A Meet & Greet Luncheon event with Sunil Gavaskar, recipient of Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan awards for his contributions to Indian cricket will inspire the hearts and souls of AAPI delegates by telling us how India remains the world capital for Congenital Heart Disease (CHD), with 300,000 children born each year,” Dr. Ravi Kolli, President-Elect of AAPI said.

Without medical/surgical care, over 25% of children die before their 1st birthday, contributing to over 10% of the Infant Mortality Rate and resulting in 250+ children dying every day; many more die in infancy or the preschool ages. Only a small fraction of children with CHD can afford the cardiac surgery, which can cost over $100,000 in the United States.

With frugal innovations in CHD care H2H Foundation has reduced the average cost of an open-heart surgery to only $2000$  per patient, which would otherwise be $75,000 to $125,000 in the United States and $5,000 to $9,000 in India. Gavaskar has personally sponsored 34 surgeries to match his 34 test centuries. The legendary cricket master is touring the United States to raise awareness and funds to support the cause.

Heart to Heart (H2H) Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to saving the lives of children born with CHD, by providing FREE pediatric cardiac surgeries in collaboration with the group of Sai Sanjeevini Hospitals in India. Since February 2014, these hospitals have also been providing primary, secondary, and tertiary healthcare exclusively to children with CHD and over 10,000 surgeries have been performed free of cost. 10,000 is also the number of innings played by Gavaskar. Additionally, for every test century, he has scored he has personally funded the same number of surgeries.

Dr. Kusum Punjaabi, Chair of AAPI BOT said, “At AAPI, the largest ethnic medical association in the nation, we are proud, we have been able to serve every 7th patient in the country. We serve in large cities, smaller towns and rural areas, sharing our skills, knowledge, compassion and expertise and caring for millions of people.”

“A huge thank you to all of the doctors, physicians, and other healthcare professionals for your dedication and commitment to service during this uncertain time,” Dr. Anjana Samadder, Vice President of AAPI said. “This is a unique opportunity for All of us, the front-line physicians who are putting our lives at risk to save the lives of others,” Dr. Satheesh Kathula, Secretary of AAPI said. “Thank you for fighting selflessly against this virus and helping keep everyone healthy and safe,” Dr. Krishan Kumar, Treasurer of AAPI added

Organized by the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), the largest ethnic medical organization in the country, representing the interests of over 100,000 physicians of Indian origin, the historic 40th Annual Convention will offer a valuable platform for physicians and healthcare thought leaders from across the country and globally to convene and participate in the scholarly exchange of ideas on medical advances, and will help develop health policy agendas and recommend legislative priorities in the coming years.

The convention will be held at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio, TX located on the RiverWalk. This world-class facility will afford an intimate setting that will facilitate our ability to convey cutting-edge research and CME, promote business relationships, and display ethnic items. Vendor satisfaction and comfort are our top priorities, added Dr. Shah.

A dedicated Convention Committee Team led by Dr. Jayesh Shah including Mr. Venky Adivi, Chief Executive Officer of the Convention; Dr. Aruna Venkatesh, Convention Treasurer; Dr. Vijay Koli, Past President of AAPI & Convention Advisor; Dr. Rajam Ramamurthy, Convention Advisor; Dr. Rajeev Suri, President of TIPS & Co-Chair of the Convention, Dr. Shankar Sanka, Co-Chair of the Convention; Dr. Hetal Nayak, Co-Chair of the Convention; Kiran Cheruku, Co-Chair of the Convention; and Chief Operating Officers, Mr.  Reddy Yeluru and Me. Ram Joolukuntla, are working hard for the past several months to make the Convention truly historic.

Some of the major themes at the convention include: Yoga and Meditation practices, Welcome kit with books & self-care supplies, A Personal Reflexology Session, Take home wellness routine, Ailment based yoga therapy sessions, Workshop on Spiritual well-being, Book talk with Yoga Gurus, including on the science of Yoga & Lifestyle medicine, as well as an unique opportunity to visit first of its kind in San Antonio, Aum Ashram as part of the Wellness session.

Esteemed yoga gurus and experts, who are planned to share their wisdom and leading the Wellness Sessions include: Paramguru Sharatha Jois, Sadhvi Bhagawati, Saraswati Eddie Stern, Dr. Sat Bir Khalsa, Dr. Dilip Sarkar, Dr. Pankaj Vij, and Dr. Param Dedhia.

Besides Lifestyle medicine and wellness, There is an outstanding lineup of CME speakers to provide AAPI members education in all areas of medicine.

While encouraging AAPI members to register for the Convention, Dr. Gotimukula urged them to “Come, engage in a freewheeling conversation with the cricket legend where he will share interesting anecdotes and inspiring experiences. Interact with Sunil Gavaskar and tap into his wealth of wisdom on leadership, career, and life and take away insights on how to learn, lead, and live. Each delegate can get to take away cricket bats and other memorabilia signed by Gavaskar as souvenirs of a memorable event if you sponsor a child for congenital heart surgery!  For more information, please visit: www.aapiconvention.org  and www.aapiusa.org

FDA Fully Approves Moderna Vaccine

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Monday, January 31st granted full approval to Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, giving an additional vote of confidence in its safety and effectiveness.

The full approval for people ages 18 and older was based on follow-up data showing “high efficacy and favorable safety approximately six months after the second dose.”

The vaccine had already been available since December 2020 under an emergency use authorization, but full approval provides an extra emphasis.

Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock said she hoped the move gives some people additional confidence in the vaccine.

“The public can be assured that Spikevax meets the FDA’s high standards for safety, effectiveness and manufacturing quality required of any vaccine approved for use in the United States,” she said in a statement. “While hundreds of millions of doses of Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine have been administered to individuals under emergency use authorization, we understand that for some individuals, FDA approval of this vaccine may instill additional confidence in making the decision to get vaccinated.”

Pfizer’s vaccine already received full approval in August.

“Our COVID-19 vaccine has been administered to hundreds of millions of people around the world, protecting people from COVID-19 infection, hospitalization and death,” Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said in a statement. “The totality of real-world data and the full [approval] for Spikevax in the United States reaffirms the importance of vaccination against this virus. This is a momentous milestone in Moderna’s history as it is our first product to achieve licensure in the U.S.”

A booster shot of the Moderna vaccine is also recommended five months after the second shot.

About 74 percent of adults are now fully vaccinated, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. The numbers are much lower for boosters, which are crucial for achieving higher protection against the omicron variant, with 44 percent of fully vaccinated adults having received a booster, according to the public health agency.

In the other big COVID-19 vaccine news, Maryland-based Novavax finally applied for emergency use authorization for its vaccine in adults.

The request was based in part on results from two large clinical trials of approximately 30,000 participants in the U.S. and Mexico. The company said two doses of the vaccine given three weeks apart demonstrated an overall efficacy of approximately 90 percent, though the trials took place before the omicron variant became dominant.

Novavax was one of the six companies the U.S. invested in as part of Operation Warp Speed. The company originally wanted to ask the FDA for authorization by May 2021, but had to delay the request multiple times due to numerous development and manufacturing setbacks.

The protein-based vaccine could provide an alternative to the mRNA shots available from Pfizer and Moderna, as there is a small risk the mRNA vaccines cause heart inflammation in certain adults.

The authorization process from FDA could take several months, though the vaccine is available under emergency use from the European Commission, and the World Health Organization.

The Novavax vaccine is given in two doses spaced 21 days apart; the company recently announced plans to test a booster shot.

House Democrats Push For ‘Swift’ Action To Lower Drug Prices

A group of 40 House Democrats is pressuring party leadership to act quickly on measures to lower prescription drug prices, highlighting the importance of the issue to the party, especially in an election year.

Lowering drug prices is a long-held policy goal for Democrats and a crucial aspect of their campaign messaging.

But the proposal is stalled in Congress along with a slew of other measures included in President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda, given concerns from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) about other parts of the package.

The group of Democrats, led by Rep. Susan Wild (Pa.), is pushing to jumpstart action.

“We write today urging you to take legislative action as swiftly as possible to lower drug prices,” the Democrats, many of whom represent competitive seats, wrote to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). “For years, people have sent us to Washington on the promise that we end Big Pharma’s monopoly control over prices and provide patients with much needed relief. We must make good on that promise — and we have the ability to do so.”

Democrats already have an agreement on drug pricing legislation that they reached in November after negotiations with a handful of moderate members.

That agreement would allow Medicare to negotiate lower prices for certain older drugs that are no longer on their period of “exclusivity,” where they are protected from competition. The measure would also limit drug price increases to the rate of inflation and cap patients’ costs for insulin at $35 per month.

But the proposal is facing a murky path forward, given the obstacles for the larger Build Back Better package of which it is a part. Manchin supports action to lower drug prices, but he has concerns about other parts of the package related to spending and the possibility of causing more inflation.

Drugmakers raise list prices for prescription medicines by 6.6% this year

The Wall Street Journal (1/30, Walker, Subscription Publication) reports drug makers raised list prices for diabetes, cancer, and other prescription medicines by an average of 6.6% during the first weeks of 2022. An analysis by Rx Savings Solutions found that through January 20, nearly 150 drug makers raised prices for 866 products in the United States.

The letter from the 40 Democrats, which was first reported by Politico, does not specify a path forward for the drug pricing legislation, but it is possible that a deal could be reached with Manchin on a slimmed-down overall package.

“President Biden supports this plan,” they write. “We support this plan. Every Democratic member of the U.S. Senate supports this plan. And most importantly, the American people support this plan. It is time to enact it into law.”

CDC Urged To Provide Clear Path To Endemic Status

Experts say that Covid will likely lose its “pandemic” status sometime in 2022, due largely to rising global vaccination rates and developments of antiviral Covid pills that could become more widespread next year.

Instead, the virus will likely become “endemic,” eventually fading in severity and folding into the backdrop of regular, everyday life. Various strains of influenza have followed a similar pattern over the past century or more, from the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 to the swine flu pandemic in 2009.

Covid will probably remain dangerous once the pandemic ends — much like the flu, which killed as many as 62,000 people in the U.S. between October 2019 and April 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) has urged the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to provide clear guidance that will allow states to transition out of the COVID-19 pandemic and into endemic status.

“We need the CDC to help us to have the right standards to end this pandemic and move to more endemic status,” Hutchinson said during a meeting with President Biden, Vice President Harris and other governors as part of a meeting of the National Governors Association.

“And so that’s an important element that we as governors, in a bipartisan way, hope that the CDC can be helpful to define that more clearly,” added Hutchinson, who chairs the association. “We want to go from today to more normal.”

The governors had met earlier with Jeff Zients, the head of the White House COVID-19 response team. “We got a way to go on that, in my view, but we’re moving,” Biden said of the pandemic. “I think it’s all about making sure we have the same standards we’re applying across the board.”

Biden said the administration would “try like the devil to keep schools open,” something Hutchinson had thanked the president for supporting so clearly.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at a Monday briefing that the current state of the pandemic and accompanying restrictions are not “the new normal,” noting that the country is still seeing high levels of infections and hospitalizations.

Hutchinson’s call for a clear set of guidelines to help Americans ease back into normal life comes as recent polls have shown much of the public is fatigued and frustrated by the pandemic two years after the first cases were detected in the United States.

The Arkansas governor has been a consistent partner for the White House on pandemic messaging, as he has urged vaccinations in a conservative state and praised Biden for his efforts to depoliticize the pandemic.

As COVID-19 Numbers Improve, Experts Are Optimistic

For at least the third time in the past two years, Connecticut finds itself moving past a devastating COVID-19 surge and hoping its coronavirus nightmare may finally be reaching an end.

But just like the previous two times, experts say there’s cause for encouragement — and also reasons to hold off on the victory parade.

First, the good news: The state’s test positivity rate has dipped dramatically in recent weeks, and its rate of new cases is the lowest it has been in more than a month. The number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in Connecticut has declined steadily as well, easing the burden on health care institutions.

Experts say there’s no obvious reason those promising trends won’t continue in the near future. Pedro Mendes, a computational biologist at UConn Health, said Friday that his models project Connecticut will be down to 530 COVID-19 hospitalizations by Feb. 19 — less than half the current total.

“We’re past the peak, so that’s really good news,” Dr. Scott Roberts, associate medical director for infection prevention at Yale New Haven Hospital, said. “I think there’s reason to be optimistic looking ahead.”

Now the question is, what comes next? Will recent trends continue? Will summer in Connecticut be free of COVID-19? Are further surges on the way? What role might a new variant play?

Experts note that Connecticut continues to see high levels of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations and caution against easing precautions too soon. They also warn that a new strain could disrupt all progress at any time, just as delta and omicron have done previously.

“The obvious question people are asking is, ‘Can I make plans for this summer?’” Dr. Peter Hotez, a Hartford native, Baylor University professor and vaccine scientist, said. “And I think the answer is, yes you can, but be prepared that nature could throw us a curveball and bring us a new variant.”

A COVID-free summer?

Each of the past two summers, Connecticut has experienced dramatic drops in COVID-19 transmission, permitting major steps toward pre-pandemic normalcy for many residents. Early last summer — before the delta variant caused a moderate spike — the state’s positivity rate fell below 0.5%, leaving as few as 25 patients hospitalized statewide in early July.

This experience has led some experts to believe COVID-19 waves are largely seasonal, with the Northeast experiencing surges when the weather is coldest and residents are spending time together indoors — followed by dips in transmission when the weather is warmest and people can socialize outside.

“We saw COVID really plummet this summer, so I don’t see a reason that wouldn’t happen again,” Roberts said. “I am predicting that things will continue to improve, if not reach this low-level steady state of infection and hopefully only continue to get better as warmer months come about.”

Dr. David Banach, hospital epidemiologist at UConn Health, noted that most respiratory viruses, including many other coronaviruses, recede in the summer before returning each winter.

“I think there’s reason to be optimistic that we’ll see that low level of transmission during the summer months,” Banach said. “Based on what we know about the virus spread here in the Northeast, there is still reasonable expectation that the community level rates in the summer will likely be low, barring any surprises like new variants that may pop up.”

Of course, summer isn’t here yet.

As of Thursday, Connecticut was still averaging more than 3,7000 COVID-19 cases a day, more than at almost any time last year.

“We have to be careful not to be overly optimistic,” Hotez said, on a call organized by Hartford HealthCare. “Because we have seen situation where it starts to go down very quickly and then people assume we’re out of it and then it gets stuck halfway down and plateaus for a while.”

“The obvious question people are asking is, ‘Can I make plans for this summer?’ And I think the answer is, yes you can, but be prepared that nature could throw us a curveball and bring us a new variant.”

After two years of pandemic, many Americans are looking for a sign that things are OK again, that COVID-19 is no longer an acute concern. When can they stop wearing masks in public? When can they safely gather in large groups?

In Banach’s view, that point won’t arrive all at once but will instead play out incrementally over several months.

“It’ll be a gradual transition. I don’t think it’ll be an on-and-off switch,” Banach said.

“As rates start to get lower, people in the community will have increasing comfort with gathering in small groups, potentially without masks, and that’ll be a more gradual process,” he said.

Road to endemicity

Given the degree to which the delta and omicron variants have managed to evade vaccine-induced immunity, experts say it’s highly unlikely that the state, the nation or the world can stamp out COVID-19 entirely.

The new best-case scenario, they say, is that COVID-19 shifts from its pandemic stage to an endemic stage, meaning it remains present but at levels that can be more easily controlled.

“When we’re thinking about ‘endemic,’ we’re not thinking about eradication. We’re thinking about something that is predictable and more manageable,” Banach said.

“For instance, with the flu, we know that there are going to be … waves of flu activity, we know generally when they’re going to occur, and we can prepare for them accordingly and react when we start to see them.”

Crucially, endemic doesn’t mean harmless. Malaria and tuberculosis, for example, are endemic diseases that nonetheless cause hundreds of thousands of deaths each year worldwide. But when a disease is endemic, there is less likelihood of a devastating surge that strains hospitals and necessitates dramatic control measures.

“Endemic may still mean seeing waves in which a substantial number of cases occur,” Banach said. “The key is to be able to predict when that is going to happen and respond in a way that is going to decrease the impact without causing the level of disruption to society that we’ve seen.”

Just as the flu kills tens of thousands of Americans — and hundreds of Connecticut residents — most winters, COVID-19 will likely cause some level of sickness and death even once the pandemic officially ends.

“We see that surge every winter with a lot of the respiratory diseases,” said Dr. Ulysses Wu, chief epidemiologist at Hartford HealthCare. “We still worry about everything that happens when [a disease] is endemic.”

Of course, Connecticut hasn’t yet reached the endemic stage. For now, the pandemic continues to smolder, one new variant away from igniting again.

The variant variable

All optimism about the coming months of the pandemic come with a notable caveat: A new strain can change Connecticut’s outlook at barely a moment’s notice. It happened last summer with the delta variant and again this winter with the omicron variant.

Experts say the next prominent strain could be less severe than omicron, potentially helping to facilitate the endemic stage, but that it could also be more severe.

“There’s always the outstanding question of, ‘What’s the next variant around the corner?’” Roberts said.

Hotez, who has become a go-to national voice on COVID-19 over the past two years, said he thinks some in the medical community are overly optimistic about the coming months of the pandemic and are failing to account for the possibility of a new, highly threatening variant.

Though Hotez said he’s not overly concerned about the new omicron subvariant, BA.2, recently detected in Connecticut, he warned that more strains could be on the way, particularly if vaccination rates were to remain low across large segments of the global population.

“Mother Nature is pretty much telling us what she has in store for us,” Hotez said. “As long as we refuse to vaccinate the Global South, meaning the world’s low and middle-income countries …. she’s going to continue to hurl variants of concern at us.”

And so most experts aren’t ready to make assurances about the coming year. Maybe the omicron wave will prove to have been Connecticut’s last and the state will have a manageable time ahead — or maybe another variant will prolong the pandemic even further.

“I don’t know that we really have a lot of evidence to know what the next variant of concern might be,” Hotez said. “In some ways we got lucky: Can you imagine if omicron … was causing as severe illness as delta? As bad as things are, it could be much worse.”

The Ayurvedic Kitchen Launched

With the idea behind the book to present Ayurveda in a simplified, contemporary and relatable manner to ensure that the reader can incorporate Ayurvedic principles in their daily cooking and food habits to achieve optimum health, authors Dr. Asghar and Sonal Chowdhary say that this system considers food as the first medicine, and in these times of the Pandemic, it has become even more important to stay healthy.

The duo, whose book ‘The Ayurvedic Kitchen’ (Westland Publishers) recently hit the stands stresses that recent times have proven that the best defense against the virus is immunity.

“There is a lot of buzz, curiosity and a variety of readily available information on the internet regarding the same. People try different ways to boost their immunity but unfortunately, the information available on the web gives a blanket approach for everyone. With this book, we want the reader to have an individualised approach as per their own constitution and genotype (which they can know using the Dosha Quiz in the book ) and help them understand ways to include immunity-enhancing foods in their diet,” Dr. Asghar tells IANS.

They say the book is for anyone who is looking to reset their food habits which are in sync with their own body, mind and health.

“It will be useful to ayurvedic consultants, nutritionists, dieticians, therapists, as they can guide their patients towards a healthier food approach as the recipes and food items scientifically connotes calories, effects on doshas, seasons and also their nutritional benefits,” says Chowdhary.

Both believe that contrary to popular perception, the young are getting more inclined towards natural ways of healing.

“Millennials are increasingly getting aware that natural forms of healing are better as they have minimal or no side effects. They are happiest when diseases are cured with fewer medicines or by practising proper diets or regimens,” asserts Chowdhary.

Dr. Asghar adds that when one looks at the pathology of diseases, many of them occur owing to incorrect diets and skewed daily regimes — something which Ayurveda sheds much light on.

“Well, the result of wrong eating habits are quite visible to everyone. Lifestyle disorders are on a rise and they are directly linked to incorrect eating habits. The result of these habits have started to build fear in most people and they have started taking more interest towards natural ways to combat the present condition.”

Chowdhary adds that fitness is becoming important for this experimental generation who are keen to try alternative natural ways and work more towards prevention than looking for cures.

The authors also say that in this time and age, it is paramount to think about the integration of different medical systems that can instrumental in making people healthier.(IANS)

Are Scientists Being Fooled by Bacteria?

For decades, a small group of cutting-edge medical researchers have been studying a biochemical, DNA tagging system, which switches genes on or off. Many have studied it in bacteria and now some have seen signs of it in, plants, flies, and even human brain tumors. However, according to a new study by researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, there may be a hitch: much of the evidence of its presence in higher organisms may be due to bacterial contamination, which was difficult to spot using current experimental methods. 

To address this, the scientists created a tailor-made gene sequencing method which relies on a new machine learning algorithm to accurately measure the source and levels of tagged DNA. This helped them distinguish bacterial DNA from that of human and other non-bacterial cells. While the results published in Science supported the idea that this system may occur naturally in non-bacterial cells, the levels were much lower than some previous studies reported and were easily skewed by bacterial contamination or current experimental methods. Experiments on human brain cancer cells produced similar results.

“Pushing the boundaries of medical research can be challenging. Sometimes the ideas are so novel that we have to rethink the experimental methods we use to test them out,” said Gang Fang, PhD, Associate Professor of Genetics and Genomic Sciences at Icahn Mount Sinai. “In this study, we developed a new method for effectively measuring this DNA mark in a wide variety of species and cell types. We hope this will help scientists uncover the many roles these processes may play in evolution and human disease.”

The study focused on DNA adenine methylation, a biochemical reaction which attaches a chemical, called a methyl group, to an adenine, one of the four building block molecules used to construct lengthy DNA strands and encode genes. This can “epigenetically” activate or silence genes without actually altering DNA sequences. For instance, it is known that adenine methylation plays a critical role in how some bacteria defend themselves against viruses.

For decades, scientists thought that adenine methylation strictly happened in bacteria whereas human and other non-bacterial cells relied on the methylation of a different building block—cytosine—to regulate genes. Then, starting around 2015, this view changed. Scientists spotted high levels of adenine methylation in plant, fly, mouse, and human cells, suggesting a wider role for the reaction throughout evolution.

However, the scientists who performed these initial experiments faced difficult trade-offs. Some used techniques that can precisely measure adenine methylation levels from any cell type but do not have the capacity to identify which cell each piece of DNA came from, while others relied on methods that can spot methylation in different cell types but may overestimate reaction levels.

In this study, Dr. Fang’s team developed a method called 6mASCOPE which overcomes these trade-offs. In it, DNA is extracted from a sample of tissue or cells and chopped up into short strands by proteins called enzymes. The strands are placed into microscopic wells and treated with enzymes that make new copies of each strand. An advanced sequencing machine then measures in real time the rate at which each nucleotide building block is added to a new strand. Methylated adenines slightly delay this process. The results are then fed into a machine learning algorithm which the researchers trained to estimate methylation levels from the sequencing data.

“The DNA sequences allowed us to identify which cells—human or bacterial—methylation occurred in while the machine learning model quantified the levels of methylation in each species separately,” said Dr. Fang.

Initial experiments on simple, single-cell organisms, such as green algae, suggested that the 6mASCOPE method was effective in that it could detect differences between two organisms that both had high levels of adenine methylation.

The method also appeared to be effective at quantifying adenine methylation in complex organisms. For example, previous studies had suggested that high levels of methylation may play a role in the early growth of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster and of the flowering weed Arabidopsis thaliana. In this study, the researchers found that these high levels of methylation were mostly the result of contaminating bacterial DNA. In reality, the fly and the plant DNA from these experiments only had trace amounts of methylation.

Likewise, experiments on human cells suggested that methylation occurs at very low levels in both healthy and disease conditions. Immune cell DNA obtained from patient blood samples had only trace amounts of methylation.

Similar results were also seen with DNA isolated from glioblastoma brain tumor samples. This result was different than a previous study, which reported much higher levels of adenine methylation in tumor cells. However, as the authors note, more research may be needed to determine how much of this discrepancy may be due to differences in tumor subtypes as well as other potential sources of methylation.

Finally, the researchers found that plasmid DNA, a tool that scientists use regularly to manipulate genes, may be contaminated with high levels of methylation that originated from bacteria, suggesting this DNA could be a source of contamination in future experiments. 

“Our results show that the manner in which adenine methylation is measured can have profound effects on the result of an experiment. We do not mean to exclude the possibility that some human tissues or disease subtypes may have highly abundant DNA adenine methylation, but we do hope 6mASCOPE will help scientists fully investigate this issue by excluding the bias from bacterial contamination,” said Dr. Gang. “To help with this we have made the 6mASCOPE analysis software and a detailed operating manual widely available to other researchers.”

This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health (GM139655, HG011095, AG071291); the Icahn Institute for Genomics and Multiscale Biology; the Irma T. Hirschl/Monique Weill-Caulier Trust; the Nash Family Foundation; and the Department of Scientific Computing at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Methods validation using Mass Spectrometry was supported by the collaborators at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (XDPB2004) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (22021003).

About the Mount Sinai Health System

The Mount Sinai Health System is New York City’s largest academic medical system, encompassing eight hospitals, a leading medical school, and a vast network of ambulatory practices throughout the greater New York region. Mount Sinai advances medicine and health through unrivaled education and translational research and discovery to deliver care that is the safest, highest-quality, most accessible and equitable, and the best value of any health system in the nation. The Health System includes approximately 7,300 primary and specialty care physicians; 13 joint-venture ambulatory surgery centers; more than 415 ambulatory practices throughout the five boroughs of New York City, Westchester, Long Island, and Florida; and more than 30 affiliated community health centers. The Mount Sinai Hospital is ranked on U.S. News & World Report’s “Honor Roll” of the top 20 U.S. hospitals and is top in the nation by specialty: No. 1 in Geriatrics and top 20 in Cardiology/Heart Surgery, Diabetes/Endocrinology, Gastroenterology/GI Surgery, Neurology/Neurosurgery, Orthopedics, Pulmonology/Lung Surgery, Rehabilitation, and Urology. New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai is ranked No. 12 in Ophthalmology. Mount Sinai Kravis Children’s Hospital is ranked in U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Children’s Hospitals” among the country’s best in four out of 10 pediatric specialties. The Icahn School of Medicine is one of three medical schools that have earned distinction by multiple indicators: ranked in the top 20 by U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Medical Schools,” aligned with a U.S. News & World Report “Honor Roll” Hospital, and No. 14 in the nation for National Institutes of Health funding. Newsweek’s “The World’s Best Smart Hospitals” ranks The Mount Sinai Hospital as No. 1 in New York and in the top five globally, and Mount Sinai Morningside in the top 20 globally.

For more information, visit https://www.mountsinai.org or find Mount Sinai on FacebookTwitter and YouTube.

Europe Could Be Headed For Covid Pandemic “Endgame”: WHO

The Omicron variant has raised long-awaited hopes that Covid-19 is starting to shift from a pandemic to a more manageable endemic illness like seasonal flu.

The Omicron variant has moved the Covid-19 pandemic into a new phase and could bring it to an end in Europe, the WHO Europe director said Sunday.

“It’s plausible that the region is moving towards a kind of pandemic endgame,” Hans Kluge told news agency AFP in an interview, adding that Omicron could infect 60 percent of Europeans by March.

Once the current surge of Omicron currently sweeping across Europe subsides, “there will be for quite some weeks and months a global immunity, either thanks to the vaccine or because people have immunity due to the infection, and also lowering seasonality.”

“We anticipate that there will be a period of quiet before Covid-19 may come back towards the end of the year, but not necessarily the pandemic coming back,” Kluge said. Top US scientist Anthony Fauci expressed similar optimism on Sunday.

He told ABC News talk show “This Week” that with Covid-19 cases coming down “rather sharply” in parts of the United States, “things are looking good”.

While cautioning against over confidence, he said that if the recent fall in case numbers in areas like the US’s northeast continues, “I believe that you will start to see a turnaround throughout the entire country”.

The WHO regional office for Africa also said last week that cases of Covid had plummeted in that region and deaths were declining for the first time since the Omicron-dominated fourth wave of the virus reached its peak.

The Omicron variant, which studies have shown is more contagious than Delta but generally leads to less severe infection among vaccinated people, has raised long-awaited hopes that Covid-19 is starting to shift from a pandemic to a more manageable endemic illness like seasonal flu.

But Kluge cautioned that it was still too early to consider Covid-19 endemic. “There is a lot of talk about endemic but endemic means…that it is possible to predict what’s going to happen. This virus has surprised (us) more than once so we have to be very careful,” Kluge said. With Omicron spreading so widely, other variants could still emerge, he warned.

Focus On ‘Minimising Disruption’

The European Commissioner for Internal Markets, Thierry Breton, whose brief includes vaccine production, said Sunday that it will be possible to adapt existing vaccines to any new variants that may emerge.

“We will be able to better resist, including to new variants”, he told French television LCI.

“We will be ready to adapt the vaccines, especially the mRNA ones, if necessary to adapt them to more virulent variants”.

In the WHO Europe region, which comprises 53 countries including several in Central Asia, Omicron represented 15 percent of new cases as of January 18, compared to 6.3 percent a week earlier, the health body said.

Omicron is now the dominant variant in the European Union and the European Economic Area (EEA, or Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein), the EU health agency ECDC said last week.

Because of the very fast spread of the variant across Europe, Kluge said emphasis ought to be on “minimising disruption of hospitals, schools and the economy, and putting huge efforts on protecting the vulnerable”, rather than measures to stop transmission.

He, meanwhile, urged people to exercise personal responsibility. “If you don’t feel well, stay home, take a self test. If you’re positive, isolate,” he said.

Kluge said the priority was to stabilise the situation in Europe, where vaccination levels range across countries from 25 to 95 percent of the population, leading to varying degrees of strain on hospitals and health-care system.

“Stabilising means that the health system is no longer overwhelmed due to Covid-19 and can continue with the essential health services, which have unfortunately been really disrupted for cancer, cardiovascular disease, and routine immunisation.”

Dr. Fauci Says U.S. Omicron Outbreak ‘Going in the Right Direction’

President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser expressed optimism that the omicron surge that has pushed Covid-19 infections and hospitalizations to records will soon peak, though that decline won’t be uniform throughout the U.S.“Things are looking good,” Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. “We don’t want to get overconfident, but they look like they’re going in the right direction right now.”

Infections are “starting to come down rather sharply” in the U.S. Northeast and Midwest, Fauci said, in line with the variant’s trajectory in South Africa and other places. He said he expected that states in the South and West where cases are still rising will soon follow the same downward path, depending in part on vaccination rates.

“I believe that you will start to see a turnaround throughout the entire country,” he said. “There may be a bit more pain and suffering with hospitalizations in those areas of the country that have not been fully vaccinated or have not gotten boosters.”

Fauci sketched out two longer-term scenarios for Covid-19 as the pandemic enters its third year.

The first is that Covid-19 becomes “less virulent” and can be controlled.

“You’re not eradicating it but it gets down to such a low level, that it’s essentially integrated into the general respiratory infections that we have learned to live with,” he said.

The worst-case scenario is the emergence of a still-more dangerous variant, he said. He said this possibility is more reason for people to get vaccinated and receive booster shots, and to make testing and medical treatment more widely available.

Anthony Fauci, top US infectious disease expert, has said he is confident that most states in the country will reach a peak of Omicron infection cases by mid-February.

“You never want to be overconfident when you’re dealing with this virus,” Fauci added on Sunday in an interview with ABC News.

“Things are looking good. We don’t want to get overconfident, but they look like they’re going in the right direction right now,” he said.

Fauci added that there are states in the northeast and in the upper midwest where cases have already peaked and declined “rather sharply.” But cases are still rising in southern and western states, Xinhua news agency reported.

“There may be a bit more pain and suffering with hospitalisations in those areas of the country that have not been fully vaccinated or have not gotten boosters,” he warned.

The recent Covid-19 surge in the US driven by the Omicron variant is leading to record high cases, hospitalisations and critical shortage of healthcare staff.

The country has recorded over 70 million Covid-19 cases and nearly 866,000 deaths as of Sunday afternoon, according to real-time data from Johns Hopkins University.(IANS)

Harvard Immunologist Pillai Says, Omicron Could Replace Other Covid Variants, Survive As Common Cold

Harvard Medical School professor Dr Shiv Pillai says India’s third wave likely to subside by March, and suggests that the country’s response to the pandemic was a mixed bag.

The current Covid-19 surge in India is likely to subside by March. Over the long term, given its high transmissibility, it’s possible that Omicron will edge out all other variants of SARS-CoV-2 and survive as a relatively mild virus for which only the elderly need to be vaccinated.

That’s Harvard immunologist Dr Shiv Pillai’s “optimistic” take on the future at a time when an Omicron wave is sweeping the world.

In an exclusive conversation with ThePrint, he said it’s possible that Omicron will stay on as a fifth common cold coronavirus. These don’t confer immunity to those infected — it’s possible to catch the same virus multiple times in a year.

Dr Pillai added, however, that there’s also an alternative possibility of another wave caused by a resurgent Delta variant.

He also said that governments around the world didn’t tackle the pandemic as well as they could have — with India’s performance being a mixed bag — and emphasised that the flu vaccine gives no protection whatsoever against Covid.Dr Pillai is a professor of medicine and health sciences and technology at Harvard Medical School. He is the director of Harvard’s PhD and MMSc Immunology programmes. His research group studies T cell-B cell collaboration and its relevance to autoimmune and inflammatory diseases.

He grew up in India, studied medicine at Christian Medical College, Vellore, and went on to receive a doctorate in biochemistry from the University of Calcutta. He also has a unique poetic take on immunology.

Two future scenarios

Dr Pillai painted two possibilities for the future. He called the first an “overly optimistic scenario”, saying, “If Omicron replaces all other variants and takes over the population — which it’s doing quite well now — then it may be the only SARS-Cov-2 variant left. There would be immunity among the vaccinated against it, less among the unvaccinated. So, after seven-eight months, people who never got the vaccine would get Omicron.”

He added, “We currently have four known common cold coronaviruses that share similarities with Omicron. What might happen is that Omicron might become the fifth common cold coronavirus. It mutates but never gets highly pathogenic. We will then develop vaccines targeted at it, maybe get the elderly vaccinated. Nothing is a slam dunk in this situation. But there is a history of similar things happening in animals.”

Evolutionally, he said, the purpose of a virus is to replicate itself, not to kill its host — so any virus that does the former as well as Omicron has a fair chance of out-surviving other variants.

However, he added that there’s also an alternative possibility, that the Delta variant, surviving somewhere in the “Amazon forests”, will resurface and, taking advantage of the limited immunity Omicron confers against the other variant — “about 40 per cent of what you want” — unleash a virulent new wave.

India’s response varied

India’s response to the pandemic has varied, and sometimes lacked adequate information in policy decisions, said Dr Pillai. But there’s also a strong element of public education that seems to be missing, with people still shunning masks or not wearing them properly.

Large gatherings, including religious ones, were held in the open, and led to surges when the participants returned home, he said.

“All over the world, governments did not do as good a job as they could have. These things have to be rooted in science,” he said, adding, “I think people (in India) are not as serious as they should be. People don’t wear masks, or wear them in a way that will do nothing for them.”

“I am concerned about people not having information. I understand people are tired and life will go on. The issue of public education is a broader issue for a longer time,” he said.

He added, however, that “India did a great job in vaccinations.”

Expert CEO Forum at 15th AAPI Global Healthcare Summit 2022 in Hyderabad Urges Modi Govt. to Appoint an Indian Preventive Task Force (IPTF) and Conduct Annual Preventive Healthcare Screenings Nationwide.

Hyderabad: January 18th, 2022: The Healthcare industry in India and worldwide is rapidly changing, leading to many describing the healthcare environment as dynamic, complex, and highly uncertain. How the health care environment is perceived and characterized is vital for several reasons.  In this context, continuing with the traditions on the successful experiences of the past Global Health Summits, the largest ethnic medical organization in the United States, The American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) organized the next edition of the influential Healthcare CEOs Forum on January 7th in Hyderabad during the 15th annual Global Healthcare Summit 2022.
During the much anticipated CEOs Forum, a panel of healthcare experts, health industry leaders, opinion makers, and community organizers discussed the significance of promoting Preventive healthcare in India.
The CEO Forum Unanimously approved “An Appeal by AAPI to the Government of India to initiate efforts for creating an Indian Preventive Task Force (IPTF) and conduct annual preventive healthcare screenings nationwide,” benefitting the 1.4 billion people in India.
“We are excited to welcome you to the 15th Global Healthcare Summit and this elite panel of experts and physicians and healthcare industry leaders from India and the United States, offering an excellent platform to brainstorm and explore ways to focus on the theme, “Transformation of Healthcare through Telehealth and Technology usage during this post-Covid Era,” and to have an opportunity to recommend possible ways to plan and implement preventive medicine that will save resources and precious human lives,” said Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President of AAPI.
Prof. Joseph Chalil, Chair of AAPI’s CEO Form, who organized such an elite panel of healthcare leaders, said, “AAPI, under the guidance of President Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, would like to collaborate with the Healthcare leaders in proposing the creation of an Indian Preventive Task Force (IPTF). IPTF guidelines should be promoted and implemented as part of the annual physical exam or telemedicine visit at government hospitals and primary care centers. We envision a great future for our country with the direct result of complex interactions at this forum with your assistance, guidance, and experience.”
Analyzing and assimilating the diverse and expert views expressed by the renowned speakers at the CEO Forum regarding the current state of healthcare in India, the CEO Forum provided a great stage to interact with a varied and distinct group of individuals and corporations, and comprehend the complex dynamics of the commerce of health care enterprise.
“At the CEO forum, AAPI is excited to perceive, debate, and walk towards a common goal of “Preventive medicine is better than Cure.”  We intend to promote preventive care guidelines in India by collaborating with Indian Physicians, Pharmaceutical companies, modern diagnostic labs, medical device companies, robust hospital chains, and public health experts,” Prof (Dr) Joseph M. Chalil, Chair of the Complex Health Systems advisory board at Nova Southeastern University’s School of Business; Chairman of the Indo-American Press Club and The Universal News Network publisher, added.
In her eloquent keynote address, Dr. Sangita Reddy, a Global Healthcare Leader, Indian Entrepreneur, and Humanitarian, is the Joint Managing Director of Apollo Hospitals Enterprise Limited – Asia’s largest and most trusted healthcare group, shared her passion for the care of the masses, using technology to reach out. Her conviction in using the Internet for patient management was substantiated by an MOU signed between Apollo Hospitals and AAPI for Telemedicine for Second Opinions. “Healthcare is in the center stage as never been before. Let us work together to bring about the transformation in healthcare. Technology is the great growling engine of change and transformation. It transforms quietly and silently,” she said.
Attended by a record 17 senior leaders from the healthcare industry, several challenges were addressed by multiple renowned speakers from the healthcare field, deliberating on the healthcare delivery system in India. Expert panelists who were part of the CEO Forum included: Prof. MD Nalapat, Vice-Chair of Manipal Advanced Research Group; Prof. (Dr.), Joseph M Chalil Global Healthcare Strategist & Best Selling Autor; Dr. Sangita Reddy, Joint Managing Director of Apollo Hospitals Enterprise Limited; Dr. Juby A Jacob-Nara, Vice President, Head of Global Medical- Respiratory Allergy & Gastroenterology (Sanofi-Genzyme); Dr. Anuj Maheshwari, the current Governor of the American College of Physicians India Chapter and the Vice President of Research Society for Study of Diabetes in India (RSSDI);
Dr. Gurava Reddy, Founder & Chairman, Sunshine Hospitals; Dr. Karthik Anantharaman Chief Operating Officer, Karnataka cluster of Roche India; Dr. Vikas Bhatia, Director of All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Hyderabad, and the founder, Dean of AIIMS Bhubaneshwar; Gaurav Agarwal, Managing Director of IITPL and co-founder of Involution Healthcare Pvt. Ltd; Shekhar Sattiraju, Senior Director – Takeda Pharmaceuticals, USA; Dr. Aarti Shah, Trustee, SRLC-USA; former senior VP of Eli Lilly; Dr. Neyas Mohammed, Chairman, AEC GROUP; Dr. Murthy Gokula, CEO & Founder, Global Tele Clinics; Dr. Venkat Ramana Sudigali, Founder-Director Excell Multispeciality Hospital, Hyderabad; Mr. Narayana Rao Sripada, Founder/CTO, Salcit Technologies Pvt. Ltd; and Ravi Gopalan, President & CEO of Argusoft India Ltd.
The CEO Forum unanimously approved “An Appeal by AAPI to the Government of India to initiate efforts for creating an Indian Preventive Task Force and conduct annual preventive healthcare screenings nationwide.” And an appeal was signed by the panelists to be submitted to the Honorable Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi, and India’s Ministry of Health.
“We urge the Government of India to appoint an expert panel of nationally recognized experts in the disciplines of preventive medicine and primary care,  including Internal medicine, Family medicine, Geriatrics, Pediatrics, Preventive medicine, Behavioural, Critical Care medicine, public health, mental health, obstetrics and gynecology, and nursing to create an Indian Preventive Task Force (IPTF),” the Panelists on the CEO Forum wrote to the Government of India.
Urging the Government of India to encourage private hospitals and insurance companies to provide Annual Physical exams, or Telehealth visits at an affordable cost to patients, the CEO Forum members stated, “many routine lab tests, vaccinations, blood pressure checks, and some cancer screenings like self-breast examination can be done remotely and even at patients’ homes with the help of Asha workers.”
“ We believe, the largest democracy in the world needs urgent investment in the preventive health of all its citizens and grassroots level reforms of the public healthcare system,” the letter to the Government of India, pointed out. “AAPI will be happy to collaborate with the appropriate authority of the Government of India to support India in its efforts to provide one of the best healthcare systems in the world.”
With the changing trends and statistics in healthcare, both in India and US, we are refocusing our mission and vision, AAPI would like to make a positive and  meaningful impact on the healthcare delivery system both in the US and in India,” said Dr. Gotimukula.
American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), the largest ethnic physician organization in the United States, representing over 100,000 Indian American Physicians, has initiated preventive healthcare screenings in 75 Indian villages to diagnose any silent diseases, which are causing premature deaths from Diabetes, Hypertension, Renal disease,  Coronary heart disease and cancers like Breast cancer, cervical cancer, which are preventable if diagnosed early through these annual screenings.
For more information on Global Health Summit, please visit: https://summit.aapiusa.org/ceo-forum/  CEO Forum Video: https://youtu.be/t1cw1toalAQ

Over 10 Million Perform ‘Surya Namaskar For Vitality’ Globally On Makar Sankranti

Over 10 million people are reported to have joined the first ever Global Sury Namaskar event, organized by the Ministry of AYUSH under ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’ celebrations on the occasion of Makar Sankranti on Friday, January 14. The global Surya Namaskar demonstration was done to mark the occasion of Makar Sankranti.

The Surya Namaskar’s significance is all the more critical on the auspicious occasion of Makar Sankranti. It is celebrated to worship the Sun God and is the beginning of the harvest season for farmers. In light of this, the Ayush Ministry organised an event dedicated to the transitional movement of the sun as it moves towards the North. “Surya Namaskar has a profound impact on the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of humans,” Sarbananda Sonowal, India’s Minister for AYUSH said.

The sun will rise a little to the north on Makar Sankranti, January 14, bringing along many messages of cultural, spiritual and agricultural significance for the country. The word “sankranti” signifies transitional movement, the movement for betterment within and without, transitions on a cosmic level and in the zodiac signs.

The Ministry of Ayush has decided to utilize this occasion to reach out to humanity with a special and topical message of rejuvenation through the surya namaskar — the set of yoga asanas used to “salute” the sun.

Thirteen rounds were conducted on the DD National channel between 7 and 7:30 am. Many leading Yoga gurus and institutes like the Indian Yoga Association, National Yoga Sports Federation participated. In his address, Sonowal highlighted the advantages, “Scientifically, the Surya Namaskar has been known to develop immunity and improve vitality, which is significant to our health during the pandemic conditions.”

Calling the sun as the primary source of energy, it provides essential Vitamin D in the body and has been recommended by several medical experts around the world. The minister also added that the initiative sends a special message. “The demonstration also intends to carry the message of climate change and global warming. In today’s world where climate consciousness is imperative, the implementation of solar energy will reduce carbon emissions that threaten the planet.”

Sarbananda Sonowal addressed the audience during the festival and explained the same benefits. A statement issued by the Ministry said, “On the auspicious day of Makar Sankranti and during the celebrations of Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, the Ministry of AYUSH is hosting the first-ever global Surya Namaskar demonstration programme.” ‘Surya Namaskar For Vitality’ Around one crore people globally took part in the demonstration that took place virtually. Under the hashtag ‘Surya Namaskar for Vitality’, Twitter was buzzing with activity as many shared videos of them in action.

Considering the importance of yoga, the Ministry of AYUSH has dedicated due resources towards its growth and development — along with naturopathy — under the ambit of Indian traditional medicine systems. Furthermore, in a bid to popularise yoga at the global level, it has also been recognised as a competitive sport. The International Yoga Sports Federation (IYSF) has been constituted by the ministry and concrete steps are being taken to promote it as a sport at the international level.

Since 2014, when the International Day of Yoga was recognised, the event has grown each year, with greater international participation. As a part of its commitment to promote yoga on a grand scale, the ministry is in the process of setting up a centre of excellence for Ayurveda and yoga in the United Kingdom. In order to further boost professional activity in the domain, the Ministry of AYUSH has constituted the yoga certification board for yoga professionals and  accreditations to the institutions.

Building upon the “whole of government” approach of PM Narendra Modi, a surya namaskar demonstration program is being launched in line with the tribute to 75 years of India’s independence, Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav. The AYUSH ministry has not only engaged other ministries and state governments but has involved all major stakeholders in the global yoga fraternity in this mass demonstration program.

The universal appeal of yoga is embodied in the surya namaskar. As the sun is the source of vitality for all living beings, the surya namaskar is a sure-shot dose of vitality for humans without any side effects. The world is realising that vitality and strong immunity from within are the most pressing requisites to battle the re-resurfacing Covid-19 infection. For this reason, the surya namaskar becomes even more important.

Surya namaskar is a combination of eight asanas performed in 12 steps. The beauty of these asanas is that all age groups can perform them without much difficulty and their regular practice makes the whole system resilient. I will not go into the details of the benefits of performing regular surya namaskars here but would just like to remind the reader that a practitioner, like myself, is bound to feel energised, with overall well-being, throughout the day, thus saving personal and national expenditure on health-related issues to a great extent.

I am sure that this Makar Sankranti will herald the beginning of a novel resolve from the global community in making natural resources of energy, like the sun and the surya namaskar, our best and most dependable friends. This will help our planet in more ways than one.

Biden Admn. Announces Free At-Home COVID Test Kits To Every American

The Biden Administration announced that it is buying 1 billion COVID-19 rapid tests to give to Americans for free. The online ordering begins on Wednesday, Jan. 19, but is limited to four rapid tests per household.

Beginning Wednesday, Jan. 19, Americans will be able to order tests online at COVIDTests.gov, and tests will typically ship within 7-12 days of ordering, according to a press release from the White House.

Public health experts and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that Americans use at-home tests if they begin to have symptoms, at least five days after coming in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, or are gathering indoors with a group of people who are at risk of severe disease or unvaccinated.

The tests will be mailed directly to American households.

There will be free tests available for every household, and to promote broad access, the initial program will allow 4 free tests to be requested per residential address.

Biden free COVID tests plan

The Biden administration will launch a website where Americans can order free COVID-19 tests Wednesday, Jan. 19.

The tests, part of the administration’s purchase of 500 million tests last month to help tackle a record surge in infections, will be mailed to homes within seven to 12 days, according to an official who briefed reporters.

Biden announced earlier this week the administration would double its order with the purchase of an additional 500 million at-home COVID-19 tests amid a shortage of tests nationwide that’s led to long lines at testing locations and overburdened hospitals.

Insurance now covers at-home COVID testing kits. How to get free tests or reimbursement

Americans with health insurance can get up to eight at-home COVID-19 tests for free thanks to a new requirement. Starting Saturday, private health plans are required to cover the over-the-counter tests at up to $12 per test. Consumers can either purchase the testing kits at no cost or submit receipts for reimbursement from the insurance company.

A family of five could be reimbursed for up to 40 tests per month under the plan. PCR tests and rapid tests ordered or administered by a health provider will continue to be fully covered by insurance with no limit.

President Joe Biden announced the federal requirement for insurance companies in December and officials said Monday that it would begin Jan. 15.

“This is all part of our overall strategy to ramp up access to easy-to-use, at-home tests at no cost,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement Monday. “By requiring private health plans to cover people’s at-home tests, we are further expanding Americans’ ability to get tests for free when they need them.”

The administration is trying to incentivize private insurers to cover the tests up-front and without a cumbersome reimbursement process.

Health insurance industry groups have said insurers would carry out the administration’s order, but cautioned consumers that it won’t be as easy as flipping a switch.

Health Care Service Corporation or HCSC, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, told USA TODAY that if a member uses a pharmacy in its pharmacy benefit manager’s network, Prime, “they do not need to submit a separate claim for reimbursement.”

Aetna updated its website Friday with new frequently asked questions about the new requirement. The site said more information on how members can submit claims will soon be available.

How do I get a free at-home COVID-19 test with insurance?

According to the government’s frequently asked questions, starting Jan. 15, “most people with a health plan can go online, or to a pharmacy or store to purchase an at-home over-the-counter COVID-19 diagnostic test authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) at no cost, either through reimbursement or free of charge through their insurance.”

How much is the COVID home test reimbursement?

Insurance companies are required to reimburse up to $12 per individual test or the cost of the test if it is less than $12. If the price of the test is more than $12 each, the consumer will have to pay the difference.

Can I get reimbursed for past COVID test purchases?

Most likely, no. This will vary by insurance but plans and issuers are not required by federal law to “provide such coverage for at-home over-the-counter COVID-19 tests purchased before January 15,” the government FAQ said, suggesting consumers contact their health plans to ask about reimbursement for previous test purchases. Some states also already require coverage of the at-home tests.

What about COVID tests at testing sites? Will they stay open?

Insurers are required to pay for coronavirus tests administered at testing sites and medical offices, which can cost $100 or more, based on previous legislation passed by Congress to address the pandemic. Home tests, which consumers can buy without a prescription at retail stores or online, are less expensive.

How long will it take to receive test reimbursements?

“Health plans are encouraged to provide prompt reimbursement for claims for at-home tests, and consumers can find out directly from their plan how their claims process works and ask questions about reimbursement timing,” the government FAQ said.

Will Medicare pay for home COVID tests?

Americans on Medicare won’t be able to get at-home tests reimbursed through the federal insurance plan, but some Medicare Advantage Plans may cover and pay for over-the-counter COVID-19 tests. The Medicare website says to check with your Advantage Plan to see if it will cover and pay for the tests.

Will Medicaid and other government plans cover the tests?

As part of the American Rescue Plan, state Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) programs are required to cover FDA-authorized at-home COVID-19 tests. Coverage rules may vary by state, the federal government said.

Can the uninsured get free tests?

Those who are not on a covered insurance plan can receive free tests through the forthcoming federal website or from some local community centers and pharmacies.

How can I order free COVID tests from the government?

“Every home in the U.S. can soon order 4 free at-⁠home COVID-⁠19 tests. The tests will be completely free – there are no shipping costs and you don’t need to enter a credit card number,” according to a message on the government website.

What is the website to order free COVID tests?

The website for ordering free COVID tests is Covidtests.gov

Conservative US Supreme Court Justices Block Vaccine And Testing Mandate

The Conservative Justices in the US Supreme Court on Thursday, January 13th  blocked President Joe Biden’s vaccine and testing requirement aimed at large businesses, but it allowed a vaccine mandate for certain health care workers to go into effect nationwide.

The decision is a huge hit to Biden’s attempts to use the power of the federal government to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

The President has emphasized the necessity of getting vaccinated against the virus for months and eventually decided to use the mandate on large employers as his main vehicle for convincing hesitant Americans to get their shots.

In freezing a lower court opinion that allowed the regulation to go into effect nationwide, the majority sent a clear message the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, charged with protecting workplace safety, overstepped its authority. In contrast, the justices said that a separate agency could issue a rule to protect the health and safety of Medicare and Medicaid patients.

“Although Congress has indisputably given OSHA the power to regulate occupational dangers, it has not given that agency the power to regulate public health more broadly. Requiring the vaccination of 84 million Americans, selected simply because they work for employers with more than 100 employees, certainly falls in the latter category,” the unsigned opinion in the businesses case says.

Biden issued a statement praising the ruling on health care workers but criticized the ruling on businesses that will have the much wider effect.

“I am disappointed that the Supreme Court has chosen to block common-sense life-saving requirements for employees at large businesses that were grounded squarely in both science and the law,” Biden said.

Moving forward, Biden said “it is now up to States and individual employers to determine whether to make their workplaces as safe as possible for employees, and whether their businesses will be safe for consumers during this pandemic by requiring employees to take the simple and effective step of getting vaccinated.”

Liberal Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan issued a blistering dissent.

“When we are wise, we know not to displace the judgments of experts, acting within the sphere Congress marked out and under Presidential control, to deal with emergency conditions,” they wrote. “Today, we are not wise. In the face of a still-raging pandemic, this Court tells the agency charged with protecting worker safety that it may not do so in all the workplaces needed. As disease and death continue to mount, this Court tells the agency that it cannot respond in the most effective way possible.”

The rule would impact some 80 million individuals and requires employers with 100 or more employees to ensure that their employees are fully vaccinated or undergo regular testing and wear a face covering at work. There are exceptions for those with religious objections.

The agency said that it had the authority to act under an emergency temporary standard meant to protect employees if they are exposed to a “grave danger.”

The Biden administration defended the regulation and argued that the nation is facing a pandemic “that is sickening and killing thousands of workers around the country” and that any delay in implementing the requirement to get a vaccine or submit to regular testing “will result in unnecessary illness, hospitalizations and death.”

During oral arguments, the Biden administration had asked that at the very least, if the court says employers can’t require the employees to get the vaccine, it should leave in place an alternate requirement for masking and frequent testing. The majority rejected that request Thursday.

Why the Supreme Court decided against vaccine mandate

Steve Vladeck, CNN Supreme Court analyst and professor at the University of Texas School of Law, said the ruling on the business mandate could have wide-reaching effects in future cases about the power of government.

“These cases were not referenda on vaccine mandates — which can still come from states, local governments, and private businesses — they were referenda on whether these kinds of expert policy decisions are better made by agency experts accountable to the President or by judges accountable to no one,” Vladeck said. “And if the answer is the latter, that’s going to be true long after, and in contexts far beyond, the immediate response to the Covid pandemic.”

Mandate for health care workers

Although the justices have been receptive to past attempts by states to mandate vaccines, the new disputes centered on federal requirements that raised different legal questions. The cases come to the Supreme Court in an unusual posture, because the justices are only being asked to block the requirements while the legal challenges play out.

The court allowed to take effect the vaccine policy rolled out in November by the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which sought to require the Covid-19 vaccine for certain health care workers at hospitals, nursing homes and other facilities that participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs.

According to government estimates, the mandate regulates more than 10.3 million health care workers in the United States. Covered staff were originally required to get the first dose by December 6 and the mandate allows for some religious and medical exemptions.

Two lower courts had blocked the mandate in 24 states.

Justice Samuel Alito, joined by conservatives Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett, dissented.

“Neither CMS nor the Court articulates a limiting principle for why, after an un-explained and unjustified delay, an agency can regulate first and listen later, and then put more than 10 million healthcare workers to the choice of their jobs or an irreversible medical treatment,” Alito wrote.

Study Identifies Predictors Of Severe Outcomes In Children With COVID-19

A new international study offers a clearer picture of the impact of COVID-19 infection and the risk of severe outcomes on young people around the world.

The study was co-led by a team of researchers from the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine (CSM), Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, and University of California-Davis Medical Center.  It followed more than 10,300 children at 41 emergency departments in 10 countries including Canada and United States, Italy, Spain and Australia.

Researchers followed more than 3,200 children who visited hospital emergency departments and tested positive for COVID-19. Approximately 3 percent (107 total) of those diagnosed with COVID-19 experienced severe outcomes within two weeks of their visit to an emergency room. In addition, 23 percent (735 total), were hospitalized for treatment. Severe outcomes included cardiac or cardiovascular complications, such as myocarditis (inflammation of the heart), as well as neurologic, respiratory, or infectious problems. Four children died. The study was published in JAMA Network Open.

“The study sought to quantify the frequency of and risk factors for severe outcomes in children with COVID-19,” says study co-lead Stephen Freedman, MD, a paediatrician and professor at the CSM.  “We found that older age, having a pre-existing chronic condition and symptom duration were important risk factors for severe outcomes.”

Researchers also found children deemed healthy at an initial emergency department visit rarely deteriorated significantly after the first visit.

“Fortunately, the risk of developing severe disease in children with COVID-19 discharged from the emergency department is very low,” says study co-lead Todd Florin, MD, MSCE, director of Research in Emergency Medicine at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and associate professor of Pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “Our findings can provide reassurance to parents and clinicians for children well enough to be managed in the community, while also providing important insights on which children may be at particular risk for severe outcomes.”

Although asthma has previously been suggested as a risk factor for severe outcome, this study was not able to confirm a link. It also did not find that very young infants were at a higher risk for severe outcomes.

“With emergency departments across the world seeing an influx of patients due to the COVID-19 pandemic and stressing capacity, this study will help address the surge by providing an estimate of the risk among pediatric COVID-19 patients screened in emergency department,” said Nathan Kuppermann, MD, MPH, chair of Emergency Medicine at University of California Davis Medical Center and co-lead of the study. “It will support emergency physicians triage of pediatric patients more efficiently by knowing who has risk factors for severe outcomes and focus advanced level care to those who do.”

The study occurred within the Pediatric Emergency Research Network, a global consortium of the world’s major pediatric emergency care research networks. It received support from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Alberta Innovates, Alberta Health Services and the University of Calgary. It also received COVID grant funding from the University of California Davis, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. Dr. Anna Funk, PhD, an epidemiologist and UCalgary postdoctoral fellow, was lead author of the study.

“There are no specific evidence-based treatments and therapies for children at this time and detailed research data describing outcomes in young people with COVID-19 has been lacking, so this study offers important insights that we believe will be helpful to front-line care providers treating children with COVID-19,” adds Freedman.

Research at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago is conducted through the Stanley Manne Children’s Research Institute. The Manne Research Institute is focused on improving child health, transforming pediatric medicine and ensuring healthier futures through the relentless pursuit of knowledge. Lurie Children’s is ranked as one of the nation’s top children’s hospitals by U.S. News & World Report. It is the pediatric training ground for Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

5 Supplements That All Adults Should Be Taking

Supplements are an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Even when adhering to a nutrient-rich diet, there are common vitamins and minerals that are deficient in most adults. Thankfully, there are many companies that make high-quality supplements that can help adults get the nutrients they need to be healthy and strong. In this article, we will share the five supplements that all adults should be taking to improve their well-being.

Vitamin B Complex

Vitamin B supplements are an important part of a healthy lifestyle. There are eight different vitamins that fall under the umbrella of vitamin B, and each one does something unique for your body. If you are deficient in any of these vitamins, which can easily happen, it can lead to major issues with energy levels, immune function, and metabolism. By taking a daily dose of a quality vitamin B complex, more adults will experience the benefits of proper energy levels and superb immune functionality.

Vitamin D3

In addition to being crucial for building strong bodies, calcium also plays an important role in brain function. In order to get enough calcium from the foods you eat, make sure you’ve got adequate vitamin D as well. Vitamin D helps improve the absorption of calcium in the body. While there is quite a bit of  vitamin D in foods like salmon, there are numerous other sources that people may not be consuming on a regular basis. Vitamin D3 is recommended for most adults who want to continue improving their brain function and bone health.


In most cases, people want to take steps to better their nutrition. Yet, many of us aren’t sure what supplements we need and which nutrients would benefit us. A high-quality multivitamin should be essential on everyone’s daily schedule. Take time to research a multivitamin that will benefit you based on your unique situation.

It is important to conduct research to make sure the brand is consistent, high-quality and trustworthy. Thankfully, there are companies like Steel Supplements that have 75,000+ reviews from individuals who loved their product. Multivitamins provide an easy way to make up for any deficiencies you might have in your diet.


Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid that is important for heart health, and it cannot be produced by the body naturally. It needs to come through alternative sources such as pills or foods. For some people, including more omega-3 supplements in their diet can make a world of difference when it comes to mental well-being, specifically related to depression and anxiety.


Magnesium supplements are an important part of maintaining healthy muscle function. Although magnesium occurs naturally in many foods, there are many adults who still have deficiencies. By taking an additional dose, adults can ensure they’re getting enough to relax the muscles in their body and reduce symptoms related to stress and anxiety. Physical discomforts such as strains, spasms, and tensions  can all be improved by working more magnesium into your daily regimen.


If you want to improve your health and fitness levels, supplemental nutrition is a great place to start. Try integrating these vitamins and see how much better you feel by simply improving on some small things. Remember, these supplements will not replace nutrient-rich meals; continue to eat well-balanced meals to see maximum results.

AAPI Inaugurates Biochemistry Lab/Immunoanalyzer At AIIMS, Bibinagar, Telangana

American Association of Physicians of Indian origin (AAPI) has been in the forefront, especially during the Covid pandemic with its numerous initiatives to address and help communities  in the United States and in India to overcome the impact of the deadly pandemic. The deadly pandemic, COVID-19 that has been instrumental in the lockdown of almost all major programs and activities around the world, could not lockdown the creative minds of AAPI leadership and its thousands of dedicated members.

In continuation of its efforts, during the recently concluded Global Healthcare Summit in Hyderabad, AAPI donated immunoanalyzer at AIIMS, Bibinagar, Telangana, which does hundreds of tests every day. This is part of Covid relief efforts AAPI has taken over during the second wave of pandemic.

“The generosity of the members of AAPI and Indian community has been unprecedented,” says Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President of AAPI. “I want to thank the AAPI fraternity, for not only contributing $5 Million towards Covid Relief Funds, but has spent hundreds of hours in coordinating and disbursing the vital medical supplies to the most needed hospitals across India. Thanks to the overwhelming support of its members that AAPI has raised almost $5 million in the past few months and has sent much needed medical supplies to India during the peak of the pandemic in India.”

Taking the lockdown and the social isolation as a challenge, AAPI leadership has creatively worked with the members to plan programs in educating and sharing knowledge on various timely issues affecting the healthcare sector and the people at large. In its efforts to help patients and medical professionals across the nation to receive the required support, training and supplies to protect and heal those infected with the deadly COVID-19 virus that continues to impact the entire nation, AAPI created a Help Line and had physicians participate and run COVID helpline.

AAPI coordinated with dozens of physicians including primary care physicians, ER, critical care and ID physicians, who see these patients on a constant basis, to help during this crisis. Questions are being sent by email and physicians answer them at the earliest convenience.

“AAPI has also collaborated with other national international and government organizations such as, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Indian Embassy in Washington, DC, National Council of Asian Indian Americans (NCAIA), GAPIO, BAPIO and Australian Indian Medical Graduates Association, in its efforts to educate and inform physicians and the public about the virus, to prevent and treat people with the affected by corona virus,” said Dr. Ravi Kolli, President-Elect of AAPI.

“As always, AAPI has been in the forefront, rising to the need of the hour. After our initial donation to AIIMS, Bibinagar, Telangana AAPI is planning to donate immunoanlysers to all AIIMS across the country. As you may remember, AAPI had donated ventilators and high flow oxygen equipment to AIIMS in the past,” Dr. Satheesh Kathula, Clinical Professor of Medicine and AAPI Secretary said.

Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, president of AAPI along with Dr. Satheesh Kathula, AAPI secretary, and Dr. Sujeeth Punnam, Chair, Chair, Covid relief committee participated in the inauguration of biochemistry lab/Immunoanalyzer at AIIMS, Bibinagar, Hyderabad. Later on they planted trees in AIIMS Vatika, Bibinagar and named one of them “AAPI”.  For more details, please visit: www.aapiusa.org

AAPI’s Historic 15th Annual Global Healthcare Summit In Hyderabad Concludes With A Commitment To Continue Efforts For Preventive Healthcare In India

AAPI Urges Government Of India To Appoint An Expert Panel Of Nationally Recognized Experts In The Disciplines Of Preventive Medicine And Primary Care

(Hyderabad: January 7, 2022) The 15th edition of the annual Global Healthcare Summit organized by the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) USA concluded here today with a commitment to continue efforts to preventive care in India and to collaborate with the federal, state and local governments, healthcare and technological industries, as well as with several not for profit organizations to help India make health delivery accessible, affordable and efficient.

“During the 15th annual Global Healthcare Summit, organized in Hyderabad, India from January 5th to 7th, 2022, physician leaders from the United States and India had an opportunity to brainstorm and explore ways to focus on the theme, “Transformation of Healthcare through Telehealth and Technology usage during this post-Covid Era,” and have recommended possible ways to plan and implement preventive medicine that will save resources and precious human lives,” said Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President of AAPI.

Towards this end, while offering to collaborate with the Government Authorities, “AAPI is urging the Government of India  to appoint an expert panel of nationally recognized experts in the disciplines of preventive medicine and primary care,” she added.

The GHS 2022 was inaugurated by Shri Venkaiah Naidu, Vice President of India, who addressed virtually the hundreds of participants from the United States and India at Avasa Hotel in Hyderabad on January 5th.

“With numerous initiatives, AAPI has come a long way since its inception and has proved to be beneficial not only to Indian-origin American Physicians, but to Indian healthcare as well,” Mr. Naidu observed. He urged the medical fraternity and told them, “as you seek excellence in human health and well-being, do not forget the power of a kind human touch when treating your patients.”

Expressing regrets for not being able to be present in person due to the ongoing pandemic, Mr. Naidu told the hundreds of delegates in a recorded inaugural message stated that the Indian origin physicians in the United States have gained a formidable reputation and that several of them occupy the top administrative positions in the country. “They are among the most successful ambassadors of India’s value systems.” he said.

The Vice President complimented AAPI for its services in India – for raising $5 million during the second wave of the pandemic, for its ‘Adopt a Village’ program among its other initiatives.

The groundbreaking Global Healthcare Summit (GHS) organized by AAPI in collaboration with the Government of India, BAPIO & GAPIO, as well as Host Alumni Chapters, including OGKTMA, ATMGUSA, KAMCOSA, and GMCGA, was packed with programs that were treat to the hearts and souls of every participant.

In her opening remarks, Dr. Udaya Shivangi, Chair of AAPI GHS 2022, said, “This GHS held in amid the fears of Covid pandemic, and following strict Covid restrictions, has promised to be one with the greatest impact and significant contributions towards harnessing the power of international Indian diaspora to bring the most innovative, efficient, cost effective healthcare solutions to India.”

“We thank all the AAPI Members who are sparing their valuable time to come over to Hyderabad in order to attend this event, despite the ongoing situation of the existence of Omicron and travel restrictions. We really appreciate this gesture of courage and confidence displayed by you on behalf of Local Organizing Committee, for braving odds and attending the 15th Annual AAPI GHS, Hyderabad. This is highly admirable,” said Dr. D. Dwarakanatha Reddy, India Chair, AAPI GHS 2022.

Dr. Ravi Kolli, President-Elect f AAPI said, “We have made great strides in helping people to live longer, however, people are spending too many years in poor health, and these gains in health not felt equally across society. We need to focus on the rising levels of obesity, mental illness, addictions, age-related conditions like dementia, and a growing, ageing, and diverse populations, We also need to be aware of cyberbullying, pervasive misinformation and other harmful social media influences affecting our youth.”

“AAPI is collaborating with Global Teleclinics (GTC) to carry out this project in 5 states including Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Telangana,” said Dr. Satheesh Kathula, Secretary of AAPI. “It will be expanded to other states in India eventually. The tests will include CBC, HbA1C, lipid profile, creatinine, pulse oximetry, measurement of blood pressure, height and weight. 150-200 people are screened in each village in one day. There is an opportunity to screen a total of up to 15,000 people in 75 villages across 5 states,” he added.

Dr. Krishan Kumar, Treasurer of AAPI, pointed out, “India, thus needs to redouble and continue its efforts and dedicate resources to tackle these perennial challenges. Many of these projects and programs need regular funding, and management of resources. We are grateful to dozens of AAPI members who have committed to serve India with an ongoing commitment.”

“AAPI is here 365 days a year with the launch of the AAPI India Foundation. With the goal that every Medical student in India should have a Post Graduate seat and that every family in India  is under the care of a Post Graduate Family Medicine Physician,” Dr. Lokesh Edara, Chair, AAPI Global Education Committee and AAPI Board of Trustee said.

Dr. Sujeeth Punnam, US Coordinator of the GHS said, “An excellent 3 hour CME sessions with renowned speakers from around the world, Poster/Research contest and Med Quiz that was attended by a record 1,500 Medical students from several states in India, breath taking cultural events, interactive roundtables, clinical practice workshops, and meet-the-expert sessions, Women’s Forum by internally acclaimed successful women from India and the US, were only some of the major highlights of the Healthcare Summit.”

The topics for CMEs broadly covered the recent advances in Medicine. Workshops on Medical Education and Reforms in India, Psychiatry, Palliative Care and Diabetes as well the seminar on Lifestyle Medicine led by world renowned leader and founder of Life Style Medicine, Dr. Neil Bernard were educative and offered new awareness on trends in medicine and healthier living. The Tuberclosis Awareness Seminar focused on recent advances in the TB epidemic.

Dr. Seema Arora, the Chair of AAPI National Women’s Committee, along with Dr. Meher Medavaram, Dr. Malati Mehta and Dr. Uma Jonnalagadda organized the Women’s Forum with a panel of “Women Who Inspire” from all walks of life who have achieved extraordinary feats in each of their phenomenal lives.

Dr. Tejaswini Manogna, Miss India-Earth 2019 and the title of Divine Miss Earth India 2019, who was the keynote speaker and part of the much popular Women’s Forum said, “Woman is defined by her courage and self-confidence.” She told her fellow women to “Speak up. Do not suffer in silence. Be bold and brave to voice your opinion. If a woman can lead at home, she can lead the world.”

The CEO Forum, chaired by Dr. Joseph Chalil had a galaxy of CEOs from India and the United States, who shared their insights into the challenges and opportunities for making healthcare affordable, using modern technology and scientific research, Sangita Reddy, Joint MD of Apollo group of hospitals and incoming Chairman of FICCI shared her passion for the care of the masses, using technology to reach out. She praised AAPI’s efforts to help India through its Healthcare Summits in making policies in healthcare delivery more effective.

“AAPI, under the guidance of President Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, would like to collaborate with the Healthcare leaders in proposing the creation of an Indian Preventive Task Force (IPTF). We envision a great future for our country with the direct result of complex interactions at this forum with your assistance, guidance, and experience,” said Dr. Joseph Chalil.

“January is #CervicalCancer Awareness Month! In coordination with the local organizers of the GHS, AAPI is donating funds for the HPV Vaccination, a total of 200 doses of the vaccine for 100 children from the state of Telangana on January 9th,” said Dr. Meher Medavaram, an organizer of the program. “AAPI’s this new initiative through education and awareness programs, is aimed at help save millions of lives in India,” she added.

Indian Idol Keshav Kumar entertained the audience on Jan 5thnight during the gala.

The grand finale was the colorful rendition of the classical Indian dance forms, representing several states in India brilliantly choreographed by Mona Lisa, an internationally acclaimed Indian Dance Maestro. Dr.  Amit Chakrabarty, past Secretary of AAPI delighted the audience with his impromptu live music extravaganza.

The Pre-Tour of the GHS 2019 took the delegates to the serene Kanha Shanti Vanam, located in the suburbs of Hyderabad. Magnificent in its conception and design, tranquil in its atmosphere, Kanha, blending the beauty of nature with sprawling facilities gave an inspiring experience to AAPI members an opportunity to learn to relax and meditate, through the Heartfulness movement.

AAPI delegates and local GHS organizers had a unique and once in a lifetime experience, when they were treated to a royal reception at the fabulous Falanama Palace of the Nizam of Hyderabad.

The guided tour of the royal palace built in 1897, live Qawali by local artists at the palace for AAPI delegates and a memorable sit down royal dinner at the world’s largest Dining Table  with 101 Guests were some of the most amazing moments in life for the participants.

During his address to the AAPI delegates on Jan 6th, DAAJI inspired the audience with his enriching address focusing on modern day life, the stressors and the challenges, while offering insights into how stress relaxation, meditation and cleansing would help human beings lead a peaceful life.

“The next edition of the Global Healthcare Summit 2023 will be held in Vishakapatnam in Andhra Pradesh in the first week of January in 2023,” Dr. Ravi Kolli, President-Elect of AAPI announced.

“With the changing trends and statistics in healthcare, both in India and US, we are refocusing our mission and vision, AAPI will continue to make a positive meaningful impact on the healthcare delivery system both in the US and in India,” Dr. Gotimukula said.  “AAPI has made significant contributions towards addressing several issues affecting the healthcare system in India,” she added. “AAPI is pleased to announce that the National NMC of India has communicated to the World Federation of Medical Education (WFME) of its intent to be the national agency for accreditation of all the medical colleges in India,” Dr. Gotimukula said.

Appealing to the Government of India to appoint a panel of nationally recognized experts in the disciplines of preventive medicine and primary care; Adopt A Village Program in 75 villages, Cervical Cancer Vaccine Camp for 100 girls in Hyderabad, Establishing AAPI India Foundation; Efforts by AAPI Global Education Committee Advocacy of National Medical Commission (NMC) on WFME accreditation for ECFMG eligibility for Indian Medical graduates and successfully mobilizing NMC leadership and engaging and motivating Medical students in India through research contest and Med Quiz as well as the CMEs by highly acclaimed international speakers are only some of the tangible outcomes from the GHS 2022,  Dr. Gotimukula stated with pride. For more details, please visit:  www.aapiusa.org

India’s Vice President Naidu Lauds Indian American Physicians For Being ‘Ambassadors Of Indian Value Systems’

“With numerous initiatives, AAPI has proved to be beneficial not only to Indian-origin American Physicians, but to Indian healthcare as well,” Mr. Naidu tells AAPI Delegates at 15th annual Global Health Care Summit in Hyderabad

(Hyderabad, India: January 5th, 2022) The Vice President, Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu praised Indian origin medical professionals for “making their mark in every corner of the world” and being the “personification of our nation’s civilizational value of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam.”

Mr. Naidu was addressing the international delegates from the United States and India during the 15th Annual Global Healthcare Summit 2022 being organized by American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) at the AVASA Hotel in the historic city of Hyderabad on January 5, 2022.

“With numerous initiatives, AAPI has come a long way since its inception and has proved to be beneficial not only to Indian-origin American Physicians, but to Indian healthcare as well,” Mr. Naidu observed. He urged the medical fraternity and told them, “as you seek excellence in human health and well-being, do not forget the power of a kind human touch when treating your patients.”

Expressing regrets for not being able to be present in person due to the ongoing pandemic, Mr. Naidu told the hundreds of delegates in a recorded inaugural message stated that the Indian origin physicians in the United States have gained a formidable reputation and that several of them occupy the top administrative positions in the country. “They are among the most successful ambassadors of India’s value systems.” he said.

The Vice President complimented AAPI for its services in India – for raising $5 million during the second wave of the pandemic, for its ‘Adopt a Village’ program among its other initiatives.

The Vice President of India noted that “AAPI, founded in 1982, is one of the largest groups that represent the interests of more than 80,000 practicing Indian-origin physicians in the United States and 40,000 medical students, residents and fellows of Indian origin.”

In her welcome address, Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President of AAPI, said, “This year’s Summit is focused on the theme: “Prevention is better than cure” through Technology, Telemedicine, and Transformation from the current disease-care system to a preventive healthcare system.” Dr. Gotimukula, who has chosen to focus on the “Adopt a Village” Rural Preventive Healthcare screening initiative, stated that “AAPI has brought to the attention of the Government of India the need for preventive health care screening to help detect diseases at an early stage and our purpose of the Global health summit is to interact and collaborate with Government of India and emphasize the need of annual preventive healthcare screening and have the healthcare accessible and affordable.”

She thanked Dr. Udaya Shivangi, Chair GHS, Dr. Dwarakanatha Reddy, Convener India, Dr. Sujeeth Punnam, US Coordinator, Dr. Lokesh Edara, Chair Global Medical Education, Ms. Vijaya Kodali, AAPI Office Manager, and my entire planning committees for dedicating their personal time and spending countless hours in shaping the conference well.” The official GHS Souvenir was presented to the leadership by Dr. Anupama Gotimukula.

In her introductory remarks, Dr. Udaya Shivangi said, “This annual tradition is a way of sharing, caring and giving back our medical expertise to our motherland. The theme of this year’s summit is “Prevention is Better than Cure”. Using Technology and Telemedicine as a platform we can make healthcare more accessible, Transforming the healthcare approach from Disease Care to Preventive Care.”

“We thank all the AAPI Members who are sparing their valuable time to come over to Hyderabad in order to attend this event, despite the ongoing situation of the existence of Omicron and travel restrictions. We really appreciate this gesture of courage and confidence displayed by you on behalf of Local Org. Committee, for braving odds and attending the 15th Annual AAPI GHS, Hyderabad. This is highly admirable,” said Dr. D. Dwarakanatha Reddy, India Chair, AAPI GHS 2022.

Dr. Ravi Kolli, President-Elect f AAPI said, “We have made great strides in helping people to live longer, however, people are spending too many years in poor health, and these gains in health not felt equally across society. We need to focus on the rising levels of obesity, mental illness, addictions, age-related conditions like dementia, and a growing, ageing, and diverse populations, often living with multiple and chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma, and arthritis. We also need to be aware of cyberbullying, pervasive misinformation and other harmful social media influences affecting our youth.”

“Continuing with our magnificent efforts to help our motherland, members of AAPI, the premier medical organization in the United States has initiated Adopt-A-Village, a Rural Health Initiative in India, with plans to adopt 75 villages to commemorate 75 years of India’s independence,” said  Dr. Satheesh Kathula, the Secretary of AAPI and the Chair of AAPI’s Adopt A Village Program.

Dr. Krishan Kumar, Treasurer of AAPI, pointed out, “India, thus needs to redouble and continue its efforts and dedicate resources to tackle these perennial challenges. Many of these projects and programs need regular funding, and management of resources. We are grateful to dozens of AAPI members who have committed to serve India with an ongoing commitment.”

Mr. Naidu lauded the contributions of API, stating, “I am happy to know that  during the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, AAPI members had raised $5 million in a short time to support relief activities including sending life-saving equipment such as oxygen concentrators and ventilators” and that “AAPI team is working on installing oxygen plants in hospitals serving rural India, with some of these units having been commissioned already.”

He commended “this initiative because improving the infrastructure for rural healthcare is the pressing need of the hour in our country.” He expressed appreciation as “AAPI has started an ‘Adopt a Village’ pilot program to provide free health screening camps in villages across five states—Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka and Telangana. I am told they are planning vaccination camps in India with the help of local doctors, to address the issue of vaccine hesitancy. These are commendable initiatives indeed.”

Calling it an important initiative, he praised AAPI for its “awareness program for CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation). At a time of increasing share of Non-Communicable Diseases, especially those related to the heart, we need greater awareness among people to apply CPR as a lifesaving first-aid technique and save lives during heart attacks or near drowning. I believe school children, at least at higher secondary level, and in fact, every citizen, must be taught CPR along with other basic aspects of first-aid,” her added.

“Apart from being the ‘pharmacy to the world’ with path-breaking innovations in the pharmaceuticals industry, India has over the years, become a much sought after ‘medical tourism destination of the world’. Data reveals that nearly 7 lakh foreign tourists came for medical treatment in India in the year 2019 alone,” Mr. Naidu pointed out.

Mr. Naidu stated that “Indian medical professionals—doctors, nurses and technicians have been making their mark in every corner of the world and have been offering invaluable services for many decades now. It is estimated that there are 1.4 million physicians of Indian origin all over the world.”  Several of them occupy the top administrative positions in the medical field in the country, including Dr Vivek Murthy, the present Surgeon-General of the United States, among others.

These Indian-origin physicians are a personification of our nation’s cherished civilisational value of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’. They are among the most successful ambassadors of India’s value systems and propagators of our mission to ‘Share and Care’ for all the people of the world, irrespective of their nationalities. We are indeed proud of them and their services.

Noting that Indian firms have collaborated with US-based organizations to produce the recently approved vaccines — Corbevax and Covovax, the Vice President said “this experience clearly shows India-US collaboration in healthcare can reap great benefits not only for our countries, but for the entire world”.

In the midst of a possible 3rd wave of Covid infections, Naidu called for a sense of urgency in dealing with the new surge in COVID cases and to apply the lessons of the past waves of the pandemic. “We must consider it our ‘Dharma’ and ‘Kartavya’ to follow the COVID protocol at all times – wearing a mask, maintaining physical distancing and getting vaccinated, and secure ourselves and our community.”

He called upon public-minded individuals, social advocacy groups, medical professionals and the government to reach out to as many people as possible and get rid of any vaccine hesitancy that may be stopping India in its collective fight against the pandemic.

To bridge the gap between urban and rural communities, the Vice President suggested seriously exploring the use of telehealth and other technological solutions in reaching out better to rural and remote areas. “This will expand the utilization of our limited manpower and health infrastructure to reach the last mile,” he said.

Pointing to the many health-tech start-ups in India, Mr. Naidu suggested scaling up their healthcare services for rural areas, so that the geographical barriers may be overcome and out-of-pocket expenditures are rationalized. He observed that Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission, with a digitized record of the patient’s medical history, will boost these efforts.

The historic Global Healthcare Summit, especially during the challenging C ovid situation around the world, organized by AAPI in collaboration with the Government of India, BAPIO & GAPIO, as well as Host Alumni Chapters, including OGKTMA, ATMGUSA, KAMCOSA, and GMCGA, will have participation from some of the world’s most well-known physicians, and industry leaders.

Offering education to First Responders, a CEO Forum by a galaxy of CEOs from around the world, inauguration of AAPI-sponsored clinic, CMEs, Research contests, Med Quiz, cultural events, interactive roundtables, clinical practice workshops, scientific poster/research session and meet-the-expert sessions, Women’s Forum by internally acclaimed successful worm from India, a session on Public-Private Partnership featuring AAPI Healthcare Charitable showcase & innovation, are only some of the major highlights of the Healthcare Summit.

“With the changing trends and statistics in healthcare, both in India and US, we are refocusing our mission and vision, AAPI would like to make a positive meaningful impact on the healthcare delivery system both in the US and in India,” Dr. Gotimukula said. For more information on Global Health Summit, please visit www.aapiusa.org

AAPI-QLI Celebrates Silver Jubilee Gala

Nearly 500 people from across the country came together to celebrate the contributions, achievements and growth of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin of QUEENS and LONG ISLAND (AAPI-QLI) during the 25th annual convention here at the Hilton Huntington, Long Island, NY on Saturday, December 4th, 2021.

Entertainment, CME lectures, Exhibition, Business Forums, Networking, Recognition of five distinguished physicians for their achievements and contributions, Gala and Dinner were some of those made the convention historic on this colorful and eventful day.

The United States Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, chief guest at the event, in his address, praised the contributions of Indian Americans to the larger American society. He lauded the great contributions of the largest AAPI Chapter with over 850 Member Physicians, who serve the state of New York in various capacities. “For 25 years, members of AAPI QLI has worked tirelessly to support Indian American physicians excel in patient care , teaching and research,” he said.

Kathy Hochul, the Governor of New York, lauded the great contributions of Indian American physicians, especially during the pandemic, putting your lives at the forefront, making New York stronger and vibrant. She praised the dedication, hard work and their contributions to the state of New York with their strong membership of over 3,000 member physicians of Indian Origin in the Queens Long Island region. “Our entire state of New York befits from the great contributions of Indian American physicians, who work in all areas of healthcare, and we appreciate their commitment to ensuring quality care for our people,” she said.

In his welcome address, Dr. Rajendra Bhayani, who was the President of AAPI-QLI, during the Jubilee year and as the Chair of Jubilee Committee, describing of AAPIQLI as “One of most prestigious organizations in the country today,” gave an overview of how the organization, and its trajectory of growth over the past 25 years and how it has become today to be one of the most powerful ethnic Physician organizations in the country.

“I am grateful  anmd stand here with adeep sense of gratitude and appreciation. You all esteemed members of AAPI QLI have given me tremendous opportunity to be your president during the very special year a silver jubilee year of AAPIQLI and to serve as the Chair of the Jubilee Celebrations. It has been  my pleasure and very special privilege to serve as your president during silver jubilee year of AAPIQLI.”

Dr. Abhay Malhotra, President of AAPI QLI in his address, enumerated some of the major achievements of the Chapter. He said, “AAPI-QLI has been providing a forum for monthly meetings for Continuing Medical Educations on Sunday, monthly sessions with discussions on current trends and changes on a range of topics in healthcare, wealth management, and practice management issues on Wednesday. AAPI-QLI is also engaged in charitable activities for the benefit of our community at large in the form of donations to several charitable organizations every year.

Dr. Jagdish K Gupta, past President of AAPI QLI, called upon the AAPI members to “stand united, in order to be able to fight for our rights,” while pointing to the fact that Indian American Physicians service every 7th patient in the nation and contribute immensely to the healthcare industry in the nation.”

Dr. Rakesh Dua, Chair of AAPI QLI BOT lauded the many achievements of the Indian Americans. “Tonight, as proud members of the AAPI-QLI, the largest and most active Chapter of national AAPI, we are celebrating the achievements of our community and our many contributions to the diverse society in New York and Long Island area.”

AAPIQLI, one of the largest chapters of national AAPI, has been serving 800 member physicians since 1995, providing continuing medical education, charity, and discussing the state of the art topics in healthcare, wealth management and practice management.

AAPI QLI has grown rapidly in membership and has been well accepted and appreciated by all local and national professional organizations. From the very beginning the leadership put heavy emphasis on transparency and the democratic process, which is the main ingredient for its enormous success.

The Mission of AAPI Queens and Long Island has been to represent the interests of all physicians of Indian Origin in the area including providing Continuous Medical Education (CME) and engaging in charitable activities for the benefit of the larger community in the New York region. For information, please visit: http://aapiqli.org/about-aapiqli/

“Heart Health Awareness And Community Bystander CPR” Program Organized By Indian Consulate in Chicago

During the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav (AKAM) week, the Chicago Indian Consulate organized a Heart Health Awareness and Community ‘Saving Lives’ Bystander Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) program at the Indian Consulate in Chicago on December 15,2021.

The Indian American community-focused program was jointly developed by Dr. Vemuri S Murthy, Chairman of the Board of  Chicago Medical Society and Founder of the Chicago Medical Society Community Bystander CPR project “SMILE” (Saving More Illinois Lives through Education) in association with Dr. Srinivas Ramaka, an eminent Cardiologist from Telangana, India. The program was attended by several members of the Indian diaspora, leaders of Medical Organizations, and Diplomats of the Indian Consulate, staff, and families.

Inaugurating the program, Honorable Consul General Amit Kumar spoke on the importance of Indo-US healthcare partnerships to reduce morbidity and mortality due to heart disease and the major role of the Indian diaspora in strengthening these affiliations through jointly developed innovative projects. As an example, he referred to the Heart Rescue India (HRI) project, recently implemented successfully with Indo-US collaboration, involving the University of Illinois College of Medicine and UI Health, Chicago, and Ramaiah Medical College in Bengaluru with a grant from Medtronic. He congratulated the Indian Physician community for their ongoing contributions to the Indian and US Healthcare sector.

In his address, Hon’ble Member of Congress Danny K. Davis stressed the importance of taking care of one’s health. He commended the significant role of the Indian American doctors in contributing to the general health and well-being of US communities. In a virtual message, Honorable Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi congratulated the Indian Consulate and Dr. Vemuri Murthy for organizing the program and their efforts to enhance outcomes after cardiac arrests among the communities.

Consul General Amit Kumar, Congressman Danny K Davis, PBSA Dr. Bharat Barai and Dr. Vemuri Murthy released the community bystander CPR Informational brochure in three languages – English, Gujarati, and Spanish for the Indian and US communities. Brochures in other Indian languages will be available soon.

Dr.Murthy gave a presentation on Global Heart Disease, Heart Attacks and Sudden Cardiac Arrests with a special focus on Indians and Indian diaspora in the USA. He spoke of the  programs needed to improve the survival and outcomes during cardiac emergencies via. community awareness, prevention, early recognition, and timely intervention. He also brought to the attention of audience the need to seriously address “Women’s Heart Health” issues. A Hands-only CPR demonstration and training of the participants followed.

Efforts to raise awareness of heart disease and promote “Healthy Heart” lifestyles is essential. Heart disease is the number one Global Public Health problem. South Asians are at a four-times greater risk of heart disease than their western counterparts and have a greater chance of having a heart attack before 50 years of age. Heart attacks strike South Asian Men and Women at younger ages, and as a result, both morbidity and mortality are higher among them compared to any other ethnic group. They tend to develop heart disease ten years earlier than other groups.

Dr. Vemuri S. Murthy, an Adjunct Faculty in the Department of Emergency Medicine @ The University of Illinois College of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois, USA and Visiting Professor in India, is an Advocate of Resuscitation education, training and research in USA and India.His current work involves Cardiac Arrest Registries and Cardiac Health-promoting Projects with Indo-US collaborations.

Biden Resists Shutdowns As Omicron Threat Rises

President Joe Biden is resisting school closures and other shutdown measures in the face of the highly transmissible omicron variant as the public grows increasingly weary about a seemingly never-ending pandemic and confusion over mixed messages from health officials.

Biden is trying to urge people to take precautions, but his speech on Tuesday represented a shift from earlier messaging. No longer is he endorsing strict mitigation measures, such as nonessential business closures, and the concept of social distancing is hardly mentioned.

But Biden is facing the limits of what he can accomplish. The administration is pushing testing and vaccines, which it cites as part of the reason for not needing stricter pandemic measures, but there is no political appetite for anything stronger.

Biden’s new tone instead reflects the reality that COVID-19 is here to stay and that Americans should not be expected to completely upend their lives once again.

The U.S. never had a nationwide lockdown like other nations did. Even during the height of the pandemic in the spring of 2020, each governor made his or her own decisions about the level of restrictions to enact state by state.

Still, health experts and administration officials generally agree that widespread shutdowns of businesses and other in-person settings are unnecessary because the U.S. has widespread coronavirus vaccines that protect against serious illness.

“This moment is much different than March 2020. We have tools to keep people safe and will continue using them to do so,” White House coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients said during a White House briefing Wednesday.

Further restrictions would also be massively unpopular, and Biden is already dealing with sagging poll numbers and a country exhausted by the seemingly never-ending cycle of exploding case numbers. The prolonged closures and restrictions last year had a damaging effect on the economy that the country has only partially bounced back from.

“The public is thoroughly disillusioned and past the point that they will accept a closure of society or that their kids are going to go home and learn remotely again,” said Lawrence Gostin, a public health law professor at Georgetown University.

“From a public health point of view, what we’ve seen from lockdowns is that every time we lock down, we do dampen down the virus, but as soon as we open up again, it roars back,” Gostin said. “We haven’t demonstrated any long-term benefit from lockdowns.”

But even if it’s not on the same level as 2020, the U.S. is starting to see some signs of disruption to operations it did not experience during the delta variant wave that began hitting the U.S. in the summer.

Some Broadway shows have been postponed, or even closed for good, after outbreaks. Restaurants are also shutting their doors due to infections or exposures among staff.

In the Washington, D.C., area, dozens of schools have resorted to virtual learning for the rest of the year; Prince George’s County schools in Maryland said they will be virtual until at least mid-January.

The NHL became the first U.S. professional sports league to pause its season after a rash of outbreaks among teams. The league also withdrew its athletes from the Winter Olympics in February.

But the White House is not endorsing any closures or pauses, especially in schools. With vaccines widely available for children as young as 5, Biden is leaning into policies such as mandates as a way to force the issue.

“We can keep our K-through-12 schools open, and that’s exactly what we should be doing,” Biden said.   Once a school or district announces plans to go remote, it puts pressure on others to follow suit. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, said there’s no reason for anyone not to be learning in person, at any level.

“I think it’s irresponsible at this point to do that,” Jha said in an MSNBC interview Monday.  “We have all the tools to keep schools open and safe: vaccinations, testing, improvements in ventilation. Tens of billions of dollars have gone to schools. … If I hear of a single school district that goes remote but keeps bars open, what that says to me is they don’t care about kids and they don’t care about COVID,” Jha said.

Republicans tried to make school reopenings a major political issue at the start of 2021, accusing the Biden administration of bending to teachers unions. A recent White House memo distributed to Democrats about progress in Biden’s first year said that 99 percent of schools are currently open, compared with 46 percent before Biden took office.

Biden also recently endorsed “test-to-stay” programs that allow kids who have been exposed to COVID-19 to avoid quarantining as long as they test negative.

The federal government largely does not control whether businesses, sporting venues or schools close due to the threat of the virus or whether they implement mask or vaccine mandates. Those decisions mostly fall on state and local officials.

But Biden can use his bully pulpit to make a recommendation one way or another, as he did when he needled Republican Govs. Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas for barring mask mandates in schools.

Bill Galston, chair of the Brookings Institution’s governance studies program and former Clinton domestic policy aide, said that Biden recommending further lockdowns would be a “grave step” that could further divide the country and inspire opposition from Republicans.

“It will just give them another opportunity to emerge as faces of the resistance,” Galston said.  That doesn’t mean there aren’t other aggressive, potentially politically fraught steps that health experts think Biden should take.

Leana Wen, professor of health policy and management at George Washington University, said the administration should institute a national vaccine passport program to make it easier for businesses that want to require proof for indoor activities. She said the administration should stay away from any mention of closures or lockdowns.

“Lockdowns are the ultimate blunt instruments. That is what you use when you have no other choice. There are so many steps you could take before reaching that point. And also, once you use that blunt instrument, it’s very difficult to use it again,” Wen said.

Gostin said that Biden should require proof of vaccination for domestic flights, something the White House has said is on the table. But he noted that Biden has met resistance to his other vaccine-or-test mandates for businesses and health workers.

David Dowdy, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said it’s important to be realistic about the impact of any potential policy changes.

“I think empowering people to test themselves is a good thing. I think encouraging and even mandating vaccination is also likely to have an important effect,” Dowdy said.

Still, any major change would probably take too long to implement, and given the signs from South Africa, cases may start falling as soon as in the next month. “So I think the key is, what can we do to support people to make the right decisions right now, like today and tomorrow, to take the edge off this wave?” Dowdy said.

Dr. Akash Patel Assumes Office As IMANE’s New President, Deepa Jhaveri Is The President-Elect

The Indian Medical Association of New England, known as IMANE, installed Dr. Akash Patel, MD as its new president for the year 2022 and selected Dr. Deepa Jhaveri, DPM as its president-elect. Dr. Patel replaces Dhrumil Shah, MD, whose term expired this year.

Dr. Patel earned his medical school degree from Pramukhswami Medical College at Sardar Patel University in Gujarat, India. He completed his Family Medicine Residency at University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey/Hoboken University Medical Center in Hoboken, NJ. Dr. Patel is Board Certified in Family Medicine. His clinical interests include hypertension, cardiovascular health and preventive medicine.

Dr. Jhaveri is a board certified surgical podiatrist. She earned her undergraduate degree at University of Maryland and podiatric medical degree at Temple University. She is credentialed and works at Beth-Israel Lahey Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital and Boston Medical Center.

Dr. Pramod Shah, MD, Chair of the Board of Trustees of IMANE, said that 2020 and part of 2021 were dead years because of the COVID19 pandemic.

“Board of Trustees congratulate Dr. Dhrumil Shah for his leadership during these trying times. He kept the communication going and activities going using zoom meetings, emails and telephone calls. His continued efforts and constant prodding and reminders kept the organization functioning well and achieving a lot,” said Dr. Pramod Shah.

“Life of a healthcare professional in today’s environment is full of challenges and uncertainties we have never faced in the past. While we are not going back to yesterday, we have to embrace our past irrespective of our desires and work together to build a better future for generations to come,” outgoing IMANE President Dr. Dhrumil Shah said. “I am really thankful for members and our community partners who showed us in 2021 despite all uncertainties, how we can all do our part in making the difference.”

He said that IMANE closely collaborated and worked with network of its alliance partners in 2021 to facilitate fundraisers and campaigns geared towards helping underserved communities in India.

“Empowering our community through new partnerships and facilitating activities with common objectives has been at the center of our new normal in 2021,” added Dr. Shah. “Please join me in welcoming the 2022 IMANE Leadership team as we continue our journey together to further IMANE mission and goals.”

Dr. George M. Abraham, MD, MPH, FACP, FIDSA, Chief of Medicine at Saint Vincent Hospital, Worcester, Massachusetts, a Professor of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and Adjunct Professor at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (MCPHS), served as the Chief Guest during the IMANE annual gala.

Three members of IMANE were also honored by IMANE President’s awards. D.. Sapna Agarwal was recognized for her contributions towards IMANE Leadership & Excellence. Dr Manju Sheth was honored  for her work in making a global impact, and Dr Paul Mathew was honored for leading IMANE’s CME efforts.

The 43rd general body meeting of IMANE also elected new members to its executive committee and it Board of Trustees. Here is the complete list of all IMANE officers:

President: Akash Patel, MD

Past-President: Dhrumil Shah, MD

President-elect: Deepa Jhaveri, DPM

Secretary: Sonali Khond, MD

Treasurer: Shikha Merchia, MD

Members at Large:

Paul Mathew, MD

Monnie Malhotra, MD

Gita Trivedi, MD

Sanjay Aurora, MD

Smita Patel, MD

Board of Trustees:

Pramod Shah, MD

Rajendra Trivedi, MD

Sapna Agarwal, MD

Vikas Desai, MD

Kishore Mehta, MD

Chairman of Nominating Committee: Devila Shah, MD

ByLaws Chair: Pramod Shah, MD

YPS Representative: Tej Shah, DMD.

Omicron Less Likely To Put You In The Hospital, Studies Say

Two new British studies provide some early hints that the omicron variant of the coronavirus may be milder than the delta version. Scientists stress that even if the findings of these early studies hold up, any reductions in severity need to be weighed against the fact omicron spreads much faster than delta and is more able to evade vaccines. Sheer numbers of infections could still overwhelm hospitals.

Still, the new studies released Wednesday seem to bolster earlier research that suggests omicron may not be as harmful as the delta variant, said Manuel Ascano Jr., a Vanderbilt University biochemist who studies viruses. “Cautious optimism is perhaps the best way to look at this,” he said.

An analysis from the Imperial College London COVID-19 response team estimated hospitalization risks for omicron cases in England, finding people infected with the variant are around 20% less likely to go to the hospital at all than those infected with the delta variant, and 40% less likely to be hospitalized for a night or more.

That analysis included all cases of COVID-19 confirmed by PCR tests in England in the first half of December in which the variant could be identified: 56,000 cases of omicron and 269,000 cases of delta.

A separate study out of Scotland, by scientists at the University of Edinburgh and other experts, suggested the risk of hospitalization was two-thirds less with omicron than delta. But that study pointed out that the nearly 24,000 omicron cases in Scotland were predominantly among younger adults ages 20-39. Younger people are much less likely to develop severe cases of COVID-19.

“This national investigation is one of the first to show that Omicron is less likely to result in COVID-19 hospitalization than Delta,” researchers wrote. While the findings are early observations, “they are encouraging,” the authors wrote.

The findings have not yet been reviewed by other experts, the gold standard in scientific research.

Ascano noted the studies have limitations. For example, the findings are specific to a certain point in time during a quickly changing situation in the United Kingdom and other countries may not fare the same way.

Matthew Binnicker, director of clinical virology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, said that in the Scottish study, the percentage of younger people was almost twice as high for the omicron group compared with the delta group, and that “could have biased the conclusions to less severe outcomes caused by omicron.”

He nonetheless said the data were interesting and suggest omicron might lead to less severe disease. But he added: “It’s important to emphasize that if omicron has a much higher transmission rate compared to delta, the absolute number of people requiring hospitalization might still increase, despite less severe disease in most cases.”

Data out of South Africa, where the variant was first detected, have also suggested omicron might be milder there. Salim Abdool Karim, a clinical infectious disease epidemiologist in South Africa, said earlier this week that the rate of admissions to hospitals was far lower for omicron than it was for delta.

“Our overall admission rate is in the region of around 2% to 4% compared to previously, where it was closer to 20%,” he said. “So even though we’re seeing a lot of cases, very few are being admitted.”

A New South African Study

A new South African study found the omicron variant could be significantly less severe than previous strains of the novel coronavirus.

The study found people with omicron infections had an 80 percent lower chance of being hospitalized, compared to other COVID-19 cases.

The researchers cautioned, though, that it is unclear to what extent omicron is intrinsically less severe than earlier strains, and to what extent the drop is due to more immunity in the population, from both prior infection and vaccination, than there was in earlier waves.

“It is difficult to disentangle the relative contribution of high levels of previous population immunity versus intrinsic lower virulence to the observed lower disease severity,” the study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, states.  Still, the findings could provide some good news.

“New pre-print from South Africa suggests that, at least among those vaccinated and/or previously infected, Omicron is much less severe than Delta,” tweeted Tom Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Will that hold true in the US with an older population? We’ll find out in the coming weeks.” The South African study adds to earlier indications that omicron could be less severe, though researchers are still gathering data.

US-Authorizes Pfizer Pill For COVID Treatment

U.S. health regulators on Wednesday authorized the first pill against COVID-19, a Pfizer drug that Americans will be able to take at home to head off the worst effects of the virus.  The long-awaited milestone comes as U.S. cases, hospitalizations and deaths are all rising and health officials warn of a tsunami of new infections from the omicron variant that could overwhelm hospitals.

The drug, Paxlovid, is a faster way to treat early COVID-19 infections, though initial supplies will be extremely limited. All of the previously authorized drugs against the disease require an IV or an injection.

An antiviral pill from Merck also is expected to soon win authorization. But Pfizer’s drug is all but certain to be the preferred option because of its mild side effects and superior effectiveness, including a nearly 90% reduction in hospitalizations and deaths among patients most likely to get severe disease.

“The efficacy is high, the side effects are low and it’s oral. It checks all the boxes,” said Dr. Gregory Poland of the Mayo Clinic. “You’re looking at a 90% decreased risk of hospitalization and death in a high-risk group — that’s stunning.”

The Food and Drug Administration authorized Pfizer’s drug for adults and children ages 12 and older with a positive COVID-19 test and early symptoms who face the highest risks of hospitalization. That includes older people and those with conditions like obesity and heart disease, though the drug is not recommended for patients with severe kidney or liver problems. Children eligible for the drug must weigh at least 88 pounds (40 kilograms).

The pills from both Pfizer and Merck are expected to be effective against omicron because they don’t target the spike protein where most of the variant’s worrisome mutations reside.

Pfizer currently has 180,000 treatment courses available worldwide, with roughly 60,000 to 70,000 allocated to the U.S. The company said it expects to have 250,000 available in the U.S. by the end of January.

Federal health officials are expected to ration early shipments to the hardest hit parts of the country. Pfizer said the small supply is due to the manufacturing time — currently about nine months. The company says it can halve production time next year.

The U.S. government has agreed to purchase enough Paxlovid to treat 10 million people, and it will be provided free to patients. Pfizer says it’s on track to produce 80 million courses globally next year, under contracts with the U.K., Australia and other nations.

President Joe Biden said the pill marks a “significant step forward in our path out of the pandemic” and said his administration will work with states to ensure equitable distribution.

Health experts agree that vaccination remains the best way to protect against COVID-19. But with roughly 40 million American adults still unvaccinated, effective drugs will be critical to blunting the current and future waves of infection.

The U.S. is now reporting more than 140,000 new infections daily and federal officials warn that the omicron variant could send case counts soaring. Omicron has already whipped across the country to become the dominant strain, federal officials confirmed earlier this week.

Against that backdrop, experts warn that Paxlovid’s initial impact could be limited. For more than a year, biotech-engineered antibody drugs have been the go-to treatments for COVID-19. But they are expensive, hard to produce and require an injection or infusion, typically given at a hospital or clinic. Also, laboratory testing suggests the two leading antibody drugs used in the U.S. aren’t effective against omicron.

Pfizer’s pill comes with its own challenges.

Patients will need a positive COVID-19 test to get a prescription. And Paxlovid has only proven effective if given within five days of symptoms appearing. With testing supplies stretched, experts worry it may be unrealistic for patients to self-diagnose, get tested, see a physician and pick up a prescription within that narrow window.

“If you go outside that window of time I fully expect the effectiveness of this drug is going to fall,” said Andrew Pekosz, a Johns Hopkins University virologist.

The FDA based its decision on company results from a 2,250-patient trial that showed the pill cut hospitalizations and deaths by 89% when given to people with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 within three days of symptoms. Less than 1% of patients taking the drug were hospitalized and none died at the end of the 30-day study period, compared with 6.5% of patients hospitalized in the group getting a dummy pill, which included nine deaths.

Pfizer’s drug is part of a decades-old family of antiviral drugs known as protease inhibitors, which revolutionized the treatment of HIV and hepatitis C. The drugs block a key enzyme which viruses need to multiply in the human body.

The U.S. will pay about $500 for each course of Pfizer’s treatment, which consists of three pills taken twice a day for five days. Two of the pills are Paxlovid and the third is a different antiviral that helps boost levels of the main drug in the body.

U.S. Life Expectancy Dropped Nearly 2 Years in 2020

It’s clear that 2020 was a terrible year for health in the U.S., but just how terrible is now coming into focus. New mortality data from the National Center for Health Statistics finds that life expectancy dropped by 1.8 years in 2020 compared to 2019, and more than 528,800 more U.S. residents died in 2020 than in 2019. It is the largest single-year increase in annual mortality since 1933, when data for the entire country first became available.

COVID-19 is the primary reason for this shift. The virus was the cause of 10.4% of all deaths last year and became the third-most common cause of death in the country. However, the report also reflects the shock waves the pandemic sent through the U.S. healthcare system. “The report card for the year was an F,” says Samuel Preston, professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Arts and Sciences (who was not involved with the study). “It’s a very dismal portrait of what happened in the United States. And what happened in the United States is worse than what happened in other developed countries.”

Death rates rose from various causes, including heart disease (up 4.1%), strokes (up 4.9%) and Alzheimer’s disease (up 8.7%) as COVID-19 stretched the entire health care system to its limit. Mark Hayward, a demographer and a professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin, says that increases in these particular diseases is striking. “They’re the kinds of deaths that are likely to occur because you can’t access hospitals or you can’t access care,” he says. “The overall consequence of COVID is broader than just COVID-related deaths. It’s because we can’t provide care to people with other conditions.”

Access issues during the pandemic were reported across the health care system: ambulances bounced from one overwhelmed emergency room to another; short-staffed nursing homes struggled to contain the deadly infection; and hospitals were forced to postpone non-emergency surgeries to cope with the influx of COVID-19 patients. Check-ups, during which doctors might have prescribed cholesterol-lowering drugs, were canceled, and those unprescribed drugs did not prevent heart attacks. Many care providers also left the profession because of burnout and exhaustion.

Even these high numbers are likely an underestimate. About 17% to 20% more deaths should have been attributed to COVID-19, says Preston, who is studying COVID-19 and 2020 mortality rates as part of a collaboration between the University of Pennsylvania and Boston University. “We have concluded, as others have, that COVID itself was under-reported as a cause of death,” says Preston. “There are areas of the country where, compared to the changes in death rates overall, there are clearly insufficient numbers of deaths being assigned to COVID.” While undercounting was likely a bigger issue early in the pandemic, problems persisted, Preston says. For instance, areas with coroners (who are typically elected) instead of medical examiners (who are generally appointed medical officials) are more likely to assign COVID-19 deaths to other causes.

The pandemic also contributed to increased deaths caused by another type of illness: drug-use disorders. Recent government data found that between April 2020 and 2021, more than 100,000 people died from drug overdoses, the highest number ever recorded in a 12-month period. This record high was at least partially the result of the pandemic, as the virus not only disrupted treatment programs and affected patients’ mental health, but likely accelerated the spread of the dangerous synthetic opioid fentanyl. In the new NCHS report, overdoses are included in the category of unintentional injuries, which rose 16.8% year over year.

What’s also clear from the report is that while no part of American society was untouched by the pandemic, some groups experienced worse effects. Death rates rose among all age groups over the age of 15, and among white, Black and Hispanic people alike. The increase was particularly steep for Hispanic and non-Hispanic Black people: death rates rose by 42.7% for Hispanic men, 32.4% for Hispanic women, 28% for Black men, and 24.9% for Black women in 2020 compared to 2019. The gap between men and women’s life expectancy also widened. Men’s life expectancy fell by 2.1 years, to age 74.2, and dropped 1.5 years to age 79.9 for women.

The racial disparities are likely due to the fact that more people of color are frontline workers who aren’t able to avoid being exposed to the virus, says Hayward, who studies mortality and inequality. As more data become available, he anticipates seeing inequalities across educational lines. “The college educated could work at home and avoid exposure,” says Hayward. “​​You’re going to see a very dramatic widening of educational differences in life expectancies…driven in part because of absolute decline in life expectancy among the most socially disadvantaged groups in this country.”

Covid Claims Over 800,000 Deaths In US

The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 topped 800,000 on Tuesday, a once-unimaginable figure seen as doubly tragic, given that more than 200,000 of those lives were lost after the vaccine became available practically for the asking last spring.

The number of deaths, as compiled by Johns Hopkins University, is about equal to the population of Atlanta and St. Louis combined, or Minneapolis and Cleveland put together. It is roughly equivalent to how many Americans die each year from heart disease or stroke.

The United States has the highest reported toll of any country. The U.S. accounts for approximately 4% of the world’s population but about 15% of the 5.3 million known deaths from the coronavirus since the outbreak began in China two years ago.

The true death toll in the U.S. and around the world is believed to significantly higher because of cases that were overlooked or concealed.

A closely watched forecasting model from the University of Washington projects a total of over 880,000 reported deaths in the U.S. by March 1. President Joe Biden on Tuesday noted what he called a “tragic milestone.” He again called on unvaccinated Americans to get shots for themselves and their children, and urged the vaccinated to get booster shots.

“I urge all Americans: do your patriotic duty to keep our country safe, to protect yourself and those around you, and to honor the memory of all those we have lost,” Biden said. “Now is the time.” Health experts lament that many of the deaths in the United States were especially heartbreaking because they were preventable by way of the vaccine, which became available in mid-December a year ago and was thrown open to all adults by mid-April of this year.

About 200 million Americans are fully vaccinated, or just over 60% of the population. That is well short of what scientists say is needed to keep the virus in check. “Almost all the people dying are now dying preventable deaths,” said Dr. Chris Beyrer, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “And that’s because they’re not immunized. And you know that, God, it’s a terrible tragedy.”

When the vaccine was first rolled out, the country’s death toll stood at about 300,000. It hit 600,000 in mid-June and 700,000 on Oct. 1. The U.S. crossed the latest threshold with cases and hospitalizations on the rise again in a spike driven by the highly contagious delta variant, which arrived in the first half of 2021 and now accounts for practically all infections. Now the omicron variant is gaining a foothold in the country, though scientists are not sure how dangerous it is.

Beyrer recalled that in March or April 2020, one of the worst-case scenarios projected upwards of 240,000 American deaths. “And I saw that number, and I thought that is incredible — 240,000 American deaths?” he said. “And we’re now past three times that number.” He added: “And I think it’s fair to say that we’re still not out of the woods.”

Omicron Spreading At Unprecedented Rate, WHO Warns

The new coronavirus variant Omicron is spreading across the globe at an unprecedented rate, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned. Cases of the heavily mutated variant have been confirmed in 77 countries.

But at a press conference, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it was probably in many others that had yet to detect it. Dr. Tedros said he was concerned that not enough was being done to tackle the variant.

“Surely, we have learned by now that we underestimate this virus at our peril. Even if Omicron does cause less severe disease, the sheer number of cases could once again overwhelm unprepared health systems,” he said.

The WHO’s latest data suggests the variant – first detected in South Africa in November – can better evade existing vaccines and carries a higher risk of re-infection, leading the organisation to say the level of risk remains very high.

A number of countries have introduced travel bans affecting South Africa and its neighbours following the emergence of Omicron, but this has failed to stop it from spreading around the world.

In other developments

  1. More than 800,000 Americans have now died from the coronavirus – the highest recorded national death toll from the global pandemic
  2. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson won backing for Covid passes in England, despite the biggest revolt by members of his own party since he became PM
  3. The UK government also announced on Tuesday that all 11 countries on its travel red list would be taken off, with Health Secretary Sajid Javid saying the Omicron variant had spread so widely the rules no longer had much purpose
  4. Italy has extended a state of emergency until 31 March 2022, citing concerns over Omicron. The measures, which were due to expire at the end of December, give the government more power to limit travel and public gatherings
  5. The Netherlands says it will close primary schools a week before the Christmas holidays are due to start, in a pre-emptive bid to tackle infections
  6. Norway has announced a ban on serving alcohol in bars and restaurants, among other measures

In a news conference, Dr. Tedros reiterated concerns about vaccine inequity, as some countries accelerate rollouts of a booster shot in response to Omicron.

Recent studies of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine showed it produced far fewer neutralising antibodies against Omicron than against the original strain, but that this deficit could be reversed by a third, booster, jab. Dr. Tedros said boosters could play an important role in curbing the spread of Covid-19, but that it was “a question of prioritization”.

“The order matters. Giving boosters to groups at low risk of severe disease or death simply endangers the lives of those at high risk who are still waiting for their primary doses because of supply constraints,” he said. Supplies to the global vaccine-sharing program Covax have increased in recent months.

However, world health officials fear a shortfall of tens of millions of doses – like the one which occurred in the middle of this year when India suspended its vaccine exports – could happen again. In poorer countries, some vulnerable people are yet to receive a single dose.

This information is regularly updated but may not reflect the latest totals or vaccines administered for each location. Total vaccinations refers to the number of doses given, and may include booster doses in addition to those required for full vaccination. The definition of full vaccination varies by country and vaccine type and is subject to change over time.

New Jersey Physicians Donate $300,000 To Food Bank, Indian Cultural Center

The Monmouth Ocean County Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (MOCAAPI) in the state of New Jersey announced that it has donated $300,000 of which $150,000 to the Fulfil Food Bank, and another $150,000 to the Indian Cultural & Community Center in Toms River, making good on its pledge to help the community.

According to a Dec. 11, 2021 press release, MOCAPPI, a non-profit, 501(c)(3) charitable organization, was established in 2003, and has raised more than $500,000 over the years through annual charitable galas, popular golf outings, and other events, will continue to work for the betterment of society through its impactful donations.

“It was a long-time dream of MOCAAPI members to make an impactful donation which is being fulfilled today by making a $150,000 donation to Fulfill Food Bank of Monmouth Ocean Counties and $150,000 to the Indian Cultural & Community Center to build a much-needed Community Hall in Toms River,” MOCAAPI President Dr. Avinash Gupta is quoted saying in the press release.

“With everyone’s participation, generosity, and thanks to our past presidents’ efforts, we have been able to raise over $500,000 over the years,” Gupta added.

The physicians’ organization has also partnered with OCHD (Ocean County Health Department) to vaccinate thousands of its residents during the peak of COVID-19, distributed hot meals to health care workers in local hospitals and vaccination centers, and distributed blankets to the homeless.

For their volunteer work with OCHD, the physicians of MOCAAPI were presented with a proclamation from the New Jersey state senate and general assembly. It was awarded Healthcare Hero Award by the CMC Board of Trustees.

Fulfill’s new CEO and President Triada Stampas, along with Fulfill’s Director of Development Linda Kellner, attended the event where the donations were made.

Stampas said this donation will provide 450,000 meals. Currently, Fulfill provides meals to 215,000 residents of Monmouth Ocean counties out of which 70,000 are children. They even pack meals in the backpacks of 1,000 children to go, and last the weekend.

Ocean County Sheriff Michael Mastronardy and Commissioner Virginia Haines praised the MOCAAPI doctors for their outstanding service to the community during the pandemic.

 Dr. Bankim Shah, co-chairman of Shri Siddhivinayak Temple USA, (SSVT), and Pravin Parekh among several others from ICCC expressed their appreciation and said it will fulfill the need of the growing Indian community in the area. According to information provided by MOCAAPI, Dr. Shah “announced another matching contribution of $150,000 from SSVT.”

The leadership and generosity of Drs. Avinash and Geeta Gupta were praised, for a personal matching donation of $150,000 to the ICCC to build the community hall where children can learn about the culture and heritage, senior citizens can meet, carry out yoga, health care camps, motivational & life-skills classes, fundraising events and celebrate festivals together.

Dr. Avinash Gupta thanked his team of Officers, Executive Members, the Board of Trustees, and especially the past Presidents because of whom this was made possible, a press release from the organization said.

Child hunger is projected to increase by approximately 75% in New Jersey due to the impact of the pandemic, MOCAAPI said. Fulfill, a tax-deductible organization, has a four-star rating from Charity Navigator, with 95 cents out of every dollar donated going directly towards feeding hungry individuals.

The Indian Cultural & Community Center was incorporated in 2016 as a non-religious non-profit charitable organization(https://www.indianculturalcommunitycenter.org) in Toms River, N.J.

Eye Drops Could Replace Reading Glasses For Millions Of Adults

Can’t find your reading glasses? A new eye drop out Thursday could be a game-changer for millions of aging Americans who struggle to see up close.

“It’s definitely a life changer,” Toni Wright, one of the 750 participants in a clinical trial to test the drops, told CBS News national correspondent Jericka Duncan.

Vuity, the first eye drop for sharpening near vision, hit the market this week after the Food and Drug Administration approved it in October. The new medicine is meant to be used once a day and can improve vision for up to six hours at a time.

The eye drops will work best for people between the ages of 40 and 55, a Vuity spokesperson told CBS. That age group comprised two clinical trials and is most likely to notice the onset of near vision loss. 

Presbyopia, or age-related blurred near vision, typically sets in after age 40, according to the American Optometric Association. Around 1.8 billion people around the world have presbyopia, according to a 2018 estimate, and the condition affects almost half of US adults per earlier estimates.

For this group, Vuity offers a potential alternative to reading glasses. The eye drops might be easier to keep track of, but they are pricier at about $80 for a 30-day supply, according to a press release from biopharmaceutical giant AbbVie. The drops must be prescribed by a physician and are not currently covered by insurance.

The medicine works by causing the pupil to constrict, which naturally allows the eye to focus at different ranges. About 15 minutes after administering one drop in each eye, participants in clinical trials could see three additional lines on a reading chart.

The drops are not meant to be used for night driving, although they worked in low-light conditions for at least three hours after application in the trials. Side effects detected during the three-month trial period included headaches and red eyes, and some users had difficulty adjusting their focus between near and far objects.

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy Urges Action On Youth Mental Health Crisis

United States Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued a new   Advisory Dec. 7, 2021, to highlight the urgent need to address the nation’s youth mental health crisis.

The “Advisory on Protecting Youth Mental Health” outlines the pandemic’s unprecedented impacts on the mental health of America’s youth and families, as well as the mental health challenges that existed long before the pandemic.

Murthy calls for a “swift and coordinated response” to this crisis as the nation continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. It provides recommendations that individuals, families, community organizations, technology companies, governments, and others can take to improve the mental health of children, adolescents and young adults.

“Mental health challenges in children, adolescents, and young adults are real and widespread. Even before the pandemic, an alarming number of young people struggled with feelings of helplessness, depression, and thoughts of suicide — and rates have increased over the past decade.” Murthy is quoted saying in the press release.

“The COVID-19 pandemic further altered their experiences at home, school, and in the community, and the effect on their mental health has been devastating,” Surgeon General Murthy warned.

“The future wellbeing of our country depends on how we support and invest in the next generation. Especially in this moment, as we work to protect the health of Americans in the face of a new variant, we also need to focus on how we can emerge stronger on the other side. This advisory shows us how we can all work together to step up for our children during this dual crisis,” he emphasized.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health challenges were the leading cause of disability and poor life outcomes in young people, with up to 1 in 5 children ages 3 to 17 in the U.S. having a mental, emotional, developmental, or behavioral disorder.

Additionally, from 2009 to 2019, the share of high school students who reported persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness increased by 40%, to more than 1 in 3 students, the press release noted. Suicidal behaviors among high school students also increased during the decade preceding COVID, with 19% seriously considering attempting suicide, a 36% increase from 2009 to 2019, and about 16% having made a suicide plan in the prior year, a 44% increase from 2009 to 2019. Between 2007 and 2018, suicide rates among youth ages 10-24 in the U.S. increased by 57%, – PDF and early estimates show more than 6,600 suicide deaths – PDF among this age group in 2020.

The pandemic has added to the pre-existing challenges that America’s youth faced, disrupting the lives of children and adolescents, such as in-person schooling, in-person social opportunities with peers and mentors, access to health care and social services, food, housing, and the health of their caregivers.

The pandemic’s negative impacts most heavily affected those who were vulnerable to begin with, such as youth with disabilities, racial and ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+ youth, low-income youth, youth in rural areas, youth in immigrant households, youth involved with the child welfare or juvenile justice systems, and homeless youth, ther press release said. This Fall, a coalition of the nation’s leading experts in pediatric health declared a national emergency in child and adolescent mental health.

The Surgeon General’s Advisory on Protecting Youth Mental Health outlines a series of recommendations to improve youth mental health across eleven sectors, including young people and their families, educators and schools, and media and technology companies. Topline recommendations include:

  • Recognize that mental health is an essential part of overall health.
  • Empower youth and their families to recognize, manage, and learn from difficult emotions.
  • Ensure that every child has access to high-quality, affordable, and culturally competent mental health care.
  • Support the mental health of children and youth in educational, community, and childcare settings. And expand and support the early childhood and education workforce.
  • Address the economic and social barriers that contribute to poor mental health for young people, families, and caregivers.
  • Increase timely data collection and research to identify and respond to youth mental health needs more rapidly. This includes more research on the relationship between technology and youth mental health, and technology companies should be more transparent with data and algorithmic processes to enable this research.

Dr. Ann Shippy Launches Be Resilient, Be Immune Program

Are you worried about the status of your immune system? You’re not alone. People all over the globe have been feeling anxious about their health and the health of their loved ones. It’s something that most of us have not had to deal with in our lifetimes. With stress and the uncertainty of your future health, it’s more important than ever to build a strong, resilient immune system.

Dr. Ann Shippy’s Be Resilient Be Immune program provides strategies to build immune defenses and lifelong wellness.  Dr. Ann Shippy merged her internal medicine background, extensive research, and clinical expertise into an online program that was designed to help you take control of your health, build confidence, and stop living with fear. Be Resilient Be Immune is for anyone who wants to learn Dr. Shippy’s strategies for resilient health.

In a series of over 25 comprehensive videos, Dr. Shippy shares her recommendations and action steps on what you can do now to help prepare your body so that you’ll be better equipped to resist and fight infection. This program includes everything from diet recommendations, treatment protocols and lifestyle choices to help you elevate and improve your immune system naturally while helping to support lifelong wellness.

Dr. Shippy’s methods are designed to help you identify your individual challenges and build a solid foundation for a stronger immune system. The program’s topics include labs to help assess your immune status, lifestyle choices that may lower immune status, analysis of worldwide data and treatments, and nutraceuticals and other strategies to support resilience.

Dr. Shippy has committed her work to designing life-altering treatments and protocols for her patients by tapping into the human body’s incredible ability to express or repress helpful or detrimental genes, as well as prevent, heal and even reverse certain illnesses. In this program, Dr. Shippy also addresses the science of epigenetics, the way lifestyle impacts genetic expression and how this all ties into resilience, immunity, and your future health.

Clients who have completed the program mention how Dr. Shippy helped get their body back into balance while laying the foundation for a healthy immune response that was resilient when challenged. Be Resilient Be Immune is a substantial and compelling program for anyone who is looking for sound, scientific resources and tools from a premier functional medicine doctor.

Dr. Shippy believes that everyone (especially those who may be at high risk) should implement key strategies to build up their immune system to achieve resilience for this infection as well as other illnesses. If you or someone you know wants to learn how to be prepared, be resilient and be strong, sign up today for this insightful and informative health program, led by Dr. Shippy.

Dr. Shippy’s Background
As a former IBM engineer, Dr. Ann Shippy, MD transitioned to the world of medicine in part in search of better solutions to her own health ailments, which she hadn’t found in traditional medicine. She is board-certified in internal medicine and certified in functional medicine to better serve her patients. Her practice, which is based in Austin, Texas, takes a functional approach to a wide range of health concerns, including autoimmunity, digestive issues, and toxicity from mold exposure and heavy metals. Dr. Shippy has authored two health manuals: Mold Toxicity Workbook and Shippy Paleo Essentials.

Eye Drops Approved By FDA To Replace Reading Glasses

A newly-approved eye drop could change the lives of millions of Americans with age-related blurred near vision, a condition affecting mostly people 40 and older, CBS News reported. Vuity, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in October, would potentially replace reading glasses for some of the 128 million Americans who have trouble seeing close-up.

The new medicine takes effect in about 15 minutes, with one drop on each eye providing sharper vision for six to 10 hours, according to the company, the CBS News report said. Toni Wright, one of the 750 participants in a clinical trial to test the drug, said she liked what she saw. “It’s definitely a life changer,” she told the media.

Before the trial, the only way Wright could see things clearly was by keeping reading glasses everywhere — in her office, bathroom, kitchen and car. “I was in denial because to me that was a sign of growing older, you know, needing to wear glasses,” she said.

It was in 2019 that her doctor told her about a new eye drop with the potential to correct her vision problems, temporarily. The 54-year-old online retail consultant, who works from her farm in western Pennsylvania, instantly noticed a difference, the report said. “I would not need my readers as much, especially on the computer, where I would always need to have them on,” she said.

Vuity is the first FDA-approved eye drop to treat age-related blurry near vision, also known as presbyopia. The prescription drug utilizes the eye’s natural ability to reduce its pupil size, said George Waring, the principal investigator for the trial. “Reducing the pupil size expands the depth of field or the depth of focus, and that allows you to focus at different ranges naturally,” he said.

A 30-day supply of the drug will cost about $80 and works best in people 40 to 55 years old, a Vuity spokesperson said. Side effects detected in the three-month trial included headaches and red eyes, the company said. “This is something that we anticipate will be well tolerated long term, but this will be evaluated and studied in a formal capacity,” the CBS News report quoted Waring as saying.

Vuity is by no means a cure-all, and the maker does caution against using the drops when driving at night or performing activities in low-light conditions. The drops are for mild to intermediate cases and are less effective after age 65, as eyes age. Users may also have temporary difficulty in adjusting focus between objects near and far.

Lessons In Critical Care Nursing From The COVID-19 Pandemic

Since March of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has put an unprecedented strain on the American health care system as large surges of intensive care unit patients overwhelmed hospitals.  Facing this challenge, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) expanded ICU capacity by 93 percent and maintained surge conditions during the nine weeks in the spring of 2020.

In a pair of papers and a guest editorial published in Dimensions of Critical Care Nursing, a team of nurse-scientists at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) share their experiences nearly doubling the hospital’s intensive care unit capacity; identifying, training and redeploying staff; and developing and implementing a proning team to manage patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome during the first COVID-19 surge.

“As COVID-19 was sweeping through the nation, we at BIDMC were preparing for the projected influx of highly infectious, critically ill patients,” said lead author Sharon C. O’Donoghue, DNP, RN, a nurse specialist in the medical intensive care units at BIDMC. “It rapidly became apparent that a plan for the arrival of highly infectious critically ill patients as well as a strategy for adequate staffing protecting employees and assuring the public that this could be managed successfully were needed.”

After establishing a hospital incident command structure to clearly define roles, open up lines of communication and develop surge plans, BIDMC leadership began planning for the impending influx of patients with COVID-19 in February 2020.

BIDMC – a 673 licensed bed teaching hospital affiliated with Harvard Medical School – has nine specialty ICUs located on two campuses for a total of 77 ICU beds. Informed by an epidemic surge drill conducted at BIDMC in 2012, leadership determined that the trigger to open extra ICU space would be when 70 ICU beds were occupied. When this milestone was met on March 31, 2020, departmental personnel had a 12-hour window to convert two 36-bed medical-surgical units into additional ICU space, providing an additional 72 beds.

“Because the medical-surgical environment is not designed to deliver an ICU level of care, many modifications needed to be made and the need for distancing only added to the difficulties,” said senior author Susan DeSanto-Madeya, PhD, RN, FAAN, a Beth Israel Hospital Nurses Alumna Association endowed nurse scientist. “Many of these rooms were originally designed for patient privacy and quiet, but a key safety element in critical care is patient visibility, so we modified the spaces to accommodate ICU workflow.”

Modifications included installing windows in all patient room doors, and repositioning beds and monitors so patients and screens could be easily seen without entering the room. Lines of visibility were augmented with mirrors and baby monitor systems as necessary. To further minimize staff exposure to the virus, care providers were given two-way radios to decrease the number of staff required to enter a room when hands-on patient care was necessary. Mobile supply carts and workstations helped improved overall workflow efficiency.

In addition to stockpiling and managing medical equipment including personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators and oxygen, increasing ICU capacity also required redeploying 150 staff trained in critical care. The hospital developed a recall list for former ICU nurses. Further, medical-surgical nurses that could bring their skills to care for critically ill patients on teams with veteran ICU nurses were also identified.

Redeployment of staff required education and support. In-person, socially-distanced workshops were developed for each group, after which nurses were assigned to shadow an ICU nurse to reduce anxiety, practice new skills and gain confidence.

“Staff identified the shadow experience as being most beneficial in preparing them for deployment during the COVID-19 surge,” said O’Donoghue. “Historically, BIDMC has had strong collaborative relationships with staff from different areas and these relationships proved to be vital to the success of all the care teams. The social work department played a major role in fostering teams, especially during difficult situations.”

One of the redeployment teams was the ICU proning team, brought together to support bedside clinicians by facilitating safe and timely prone positioning. Proning is an intervention known to improve oxygenation in patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome – a key feature of severe COVID-19 – that is complex, takes time and is not without its potential dangers to the patient and staff alike. The coalition maximized resources and facilitated more than 160 interventions between March and May of 2020.

“Although the pandemic was an unprecedented occurrence, it has prepared us for potential future crises requiring the collaboration of multidisciplinary teams to ensure optimal outcomes in an overextended environment,” O’Donoghue said. “BIDMC’s staff rose to the challenge, and many positive lessons were learned from this difficult experience.”

“We must continue to be vigilant in our assessment of what worked and what did not work and look for ways to improve health care delivery in all our systems,” said DeSanto-Madeya, who is also an associate professor at the College of Nursing at the University of Rhode Island. “The memories from this past year and a half cannot be forgotten, and we can move forward confidently knowing we provided the best care possible despite all the hardships.”

Co-authors included Jacqueline Hardman, BSN, RN; Joanna Anderson, BSN, RN, CCRN, CNRN; Jane Foley, DNP, RN; Jean Gillis, MSN, RN; Kimberly Maloof, MSN, RN; Andrea Milano, MSN, RN, CCRN, CMC; John Whitlock, MS, RN; Meghan Church, DPT; Kristin Russell, BSN, RN; Kelly A. Gamboa, DNP, RN, CNOR; Jennifer Sarge, BSN, RN, Ari Moskowitz, MD; Margaret M. Hayes, MD, ATSF; and Michael N. Cocchi, MD, of BIDMC.

The authors disclosed that they have no significant relationships with or financial interest in any commercial companies pertaining to this article.

AAPI Initiates “Awareness Campaign On Cervical Cancer Prevention With HPV Vaccination In Children” During Global Healthcare Summit In Hyderabad

“January is #CervicalCancer Awareness Month!,” Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President of Association of American Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) said here today. “At AAPI, in keeping with our efforts and initiatives to educate and create awareness on disease prevention, we are planning to focus on bringing awareness of Cervical Cancer in India during the upcoming Global Healthcare Summit (GHS) 2022 at the Hotel Avasa in Hyderabad, India from January 5th to 7th, 2022.

Dr. Ravi Kolli, President-Elect of AAPI, said, “Our theme for GHS 2022 is: ‘Prevention Better than Cure.” Cervical Cancer is preventable through Vaccination and Early Pap smears and cervical examinations. Justifiably so, one of our preventive campaign goals this year is to provide education and prevention of  Cervical Cancer in India.”

According to The American Cancer Society, Cervical Cancer was once one of the most common causes of cancer death for American women. The cervical cancer death rate dropped significantly with the increased use of the Pap test for screening. Cervical cancer is among a number of cancers that can be caused by infections with pathogens – bacteria, viruses, and parasites.

Dr. Udhaya Shivangi, Chair of AAPI GHS 2022 said, “If vaccination programs are effectively implemented, approximately 90 percent of invasive cervical cancer cases worldwide could be prevented, in addition to the majority of precancerous lesions. We want to sponsor a minimum of 100 free vaccines among High School children during our Global Healthcare Summit. We urge all AAPI members and leaders, to join us in this fight to eradicate Cervical Cancer.”

Quoting research studies, Dr. Kusum Punjabi, Chair of AAPI BOT, said, “Cervical cancer could be the first cancer EVER in the world to be eliminated, if: 90 % of girls are vaccinated; 70% of women are screened; and, 90% of women with cervical disease receive treatment. GHS 2022 will be a forum to educate and create awareness about this deadly disease that can be prevented.”

Once a leading cause of cancer death for women in the United States. Today, screening and prevention have greatly reduced the impact of this form of cancer. Increasing screening and prevention are key components of the effort to eradicate cervical cancer. Since almost all cases of the disease are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, vaccines that protect against the virus could prevent the vast majority of cases. Moreover, regular Pap tests can catch – and lead to treatment of – the disease at the precancerous stage.

“AAPI’s this new initiative will help save millions of lives in India” Dr. Meher Medavaram, a key organizer of GHS 2022 pointed out. “Usually cervical cancer develops slowly over time, and another powerful preventive measure is Pap test screening, a procedure during which cells are collected from the surface of the cervix and examined. The Pap test can both detect cancer at an early stage, when treatment outcomes tend to be better, and detect precancerous abnormalities, which can then be treated to prevent them from developing into cancers.”

Dr. Anjana Samadder, Vice President of AAPI, said, “In addition to Cervical cancer, GHS 2022 will also focus on: Chronic diseases which can be prevented- notably diabetes, cardiovascular, hypertension, COPD, oncology, maternal and infant mortality, Mmanagement of neurological emergencies ENLS a certification course  are only some of those that are going to be covered during this Summit.”

While elaborating the objectives of the Summit, Dr. Satheesh Kathula, Secretary of AAPI, says, “This innovative Summit is aimed at advancing the accessibility, affordability and the quality of world-class healthcare to the people of India. Among other areas, the Summit will focus on prevention, diagnosis, treatment options and share ways to truly improve healthcare transcending global boundaries.”

Dr. Krishan Kumar, Treasurer of AAPI said, “Through Continuing Medical Education and non-CME seminars by experts in their fields, AAPI will provide comprehensive and current reviews and guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of various disease states to reduce morbidity and mortality and achieve cost effective quality care outcomes.”

There are several AAPI leaders who are working hard to make the GHS a memorable event, said Dr. Gotimukula. “Among them, I want to recognize Dr. Sujeeth Punnam, US Coordinator, Dr. Dwarkananda Reddy, GHS Indian Coordinator; Dr. Lokesh Edara, Chair Global Medical Education; Dr. Prabhakar Sharma, CME Chair, Dr. Prabhat Sinha, Chair Sponsorships and Exhibits, Dr. Seema Arora, Chair of Women’s Forum; Dr. Joseph M. Chalil, Chair of CEO Forum; Dr. Belani Kumar, Chair of the Medical Students Research Poster presentations; Dr. Lakshmi Thirunagari and Coordinators of Medical Jeopardy.

Expressing confidence, Dr. Gotimukula, the 4th ever Woman President in the four decades long history of AAPI, the largest ethnic medical organization in the United States, said, “Together we can all bring the awareness in the community to prevent Cervical Cancer in India which is 2nd leading cause of cancer deaths in women!” For more information, please visit www.aapiusa.org/ https://summit.aapiusa.org

Northeastern Pennsylvania Chapter Of AAPI In Partnership With Red Cross Organizes Blood Drive

The newly formed NORTHEASTERN Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) in partnership with the local Red Cross organized a highly successful Blood Donation Drive on December 9, 2001 at The Jewish community center of SCRANTON, PA, with dozens of people coming forward and donated blood in a matter of five hours.

The Blood Drive, which, Dr. Dipti Pancholy Founding President NEPA-AAPI, described as “the first step in fulfilling our mission, which is to improve quality, access and delivery of health care by creating an environment of professionalism, and rewarding service as well as merit in Northeastern PA and globally.”

”This drive was a team effort on the part of Dr. Kishori Veerabhadrappa, Dr. Sanket Dalwadi, Dr. Jumee Barooha and Red Cross representative Heidi Deleo,” Dr. Pancholi added. Excited about the very positive and encouraging support from the community, Dr. Pancholi said, “We plan to conduct future blood drives in the 11 counties that north eastern Pennsylvania.

Dr. Pancholi praised the efforts and contributions of her Team members, including, Dr. Kishori Veerabhadrappa, a Hematologist by profession and the Coordinator of Blood Drive for NEPA-AAPI; Dr.
Sanketkumar Dalwadi, Chairperson of Community Service Committee; Dr. Sandhya Desai, Secretary NEPA AAPI; Ms. Judy McGovern, Red Cross Volunteer; and, Ms. Heidi Deleo Lackawanna, County Red Cross Director for their generous support in helping organize the highly successful event.

“I am grateful to the dozens of local AAPI Chapters, and the newly formed NEPA AAPI Chapter  for initiating and organizing the Blood Donation Drives and Stem Cell Registration across the nation, in honor of the Fallen Heroes of Covid-19, and as India is celebrating 75 years of our Independence, we have taken  this initiative to do National AAPI Blood Donation Drives in 75 cities,” said Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President of American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI,) the largest ethnic organization in the United States.

“On the occasion of the 75thIndependence Day of India, we the physicians of Indian origin serving every 7th patient in the United States, are excited to launch this unique and noble initiative and Stem Cell Drive”  in 75 cities across the United States,” Dr. Gotimukula added.

“Well done, Dr.  Dipti Pancholi and NEPA AAPI team. So glad you all are an integral part of our AAPI team. AAPI has launched 75 city blood donation drive. It only takes 15 minutes of one’s time and can save and sustain 3 lives with each pint of blood. So let us all be the heroes and life savers. We all are one humanity and one family, Vasudhaiva Kutubakam,” said Dr. Ravi Kolli, President-Elect of AAPI.

A single blood donation can save three lives. Each blood component of whole blood transfusion can help up to three different people. Pointing to the fact that Blood cannot be manufactured despite medical and technological advances. The only way we can give blood to those who need it is through donation. It doesn’t cost us anything to donate but your donation saves lives. Blood is needed every two seconds.

NEPA-AAPI is a newly formed, nonprofit association of physicians and dentists in the 11 counties of northeastern Pennsylvania and a chapter of the American Association of Physician of Indian Origin (AAPI), the largest ethnic physician organization in the United States

“We are grateful to Northeastern Pennsylvania Chapter of American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (NEPA AAPI) for participating in a national initiative of AAPI that has initiated and organized Blood Donation Drives across the United States, in honor of Fallen Heroes of Covid-19,” said Dr. Pancholy, President of NEPA AAPI.

“I urge others to take the lead in your town and help in AAPI’s blood donation drive. Thank you and truly appreciate your support in helping our blood banks.”  For more details to organize Blood Donation Drive in your city/town/region, please contact: Vijaya Kodali, AAPI Office Manager at: [email protected]. For more details on AAPI, please visit: www.aapiusa,org

CT Association of Physicians of Indian Origin Organizes Blood Drive

The Connecticut Chapter of The American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (CAPI) in partnership with the local Red Cross organized a highly successful Blood Donation Drive on December 11th, 2001 at the Norfield Church in Weston, CT with dozens of people coming forward and donated blood to save lives.

Dr. Jaya Daptardar and Dr. Ram Chirunomula of CAPI coordinated the efforts and organized the successful Blood Drive, which has been dedicated to the Fallen Heroes, who have sacrificed their lives to save the lives of others infected with the ongoing deadly Covid pandemic.

“Thank you all for your generous support and help in making the Blood Drive very successful,” said Dr. Jaya Daptardar. ”This drive was a team effort. I want to express my gratitude to Dr. Sushil Gupta, President of CAAPI, Dr. Subbarao Bollepalli, Viji Kurup and family members of CAPI, who came in attendance and to donate blood and support this noble initiative.” “I am grateful to First Selectwoman of Weston Samantha Nestor and Toni Boucher for gracing the event with their presence and for their support,” said Dr. Ram Chirunomula.

“In line with the motto, we at CAPI are happy to join in several other AAPI Chapters and lead this noble initiative to donate blood with the objective of saving lives around the nation,” said Dr. Sushil Gupta, President of CAPI. “We plan to organize future blood drives in other parts of Connecticut in the near future.”

CAPI was formed with the objective of promoting charitable and philanthropic activities; communicate with other Indian associations in North America to promote cultural and social events; and to foster a relationship with future generations of physicians of Indian Ancestry.

“I am grateful to the dozens of local AAPI Chapters including CAPI for initiating and organizing the Blood Donation Drives and Stem Cell Registration across the nation, in honor of the Fallen Heroes of Covid-19, and as India is celebrating 75 years of our Independence. I am so proud that we have taken this initiative to organize AAPI Blood Donation Drives in 75 cities across the nation,” said Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President of American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI,) the largest ethnic organization in the United States.

“On the occasion of the 75thIndependence Day of India, we the physicians of Indian origin serving every 7th patient in the United States, are excited to launch this unique and noble initiative in 75 cities across the United States,” Dr. Gotimukula added.

Each blood component of whole blood transfusion can help up to three different people. Pointing to the fact that Blood cannot be manufactured despite medical and technological advances. The only way we can give blood to those who need it is through donation. It doesn’t cost us anything to donate but your donation saves lives. Blood is needed every two seconds, said Dr. Meher Medavaram, Chair of the national blood donation drive.

“We urge all Local Chapters and AAPI members to take the lead in your town and help in AAPI’s blood donation drive. Thank you and truly appreciate your support in helping our blood banks,” said Dr. Gotimukula. For more details to organize Blood Donation Drive in your city/town/region, please contact: Vijaya Kodali, AAPI Office Manager at: [email protected]. For more details on AAPI, please visit: www.aapiusa,org

FIA Chicago Elects Hitesh Gandhi As New President For 2022

Federation of Indian Associations (FIA) hosted a welcome reception to unveil its comprehensive roadmap for 2022 & beyond replete with meaningful events that seek to complement and celebrate a multitude of community-centric program initiatives with emphasis on India’s festivals, community outreach, charitable causes, social, cultural, business, medical and other community-oriented events including addressing the emerging pandemic challenges at its annual board meeting held on Sunday, November 28, 2021, at the Big Suchir Banquets in Westmont, IL. The meeting was attended by the entire FIA team as well as the advisory board members.

This year FIA Chicago unanimously elected its new leader Hitesh Gandhi and the new board. The event was presided by Founding Members Sunil Shah, Onkar Sangha, Neil Khot, Rita Singh, Mukesh Shah, Dhitu Bhagwakar, and Current President Kamal Patel.

FIA’s General Secretary Richa Chand conducted the proceedings of the Annual Board Meeting for the year 2021-2022 and invited Founder President Sunil Shah for his opening remarks. Shahin his speech, outlined the successes behind the year 2021, listing the events conducted by the FIA and its team. He thanked the outgoing team for its hard work in putting together and conducting various India-centric and Charitable events during the year. He also took the opportunity to welcome new members to team FIA. In a major announcement, he declared that FIA would initiate an annual FIA Scholarship for deserving students starting from the year 2022.

Current President Dr. Kamal Patel in his speech thanked the founding board, and the team 2021 for all the work put in to make the year a resounding success. From the Republic Day event in January 2021 albeit a Zoom Event attended by more than 350 guests headline by Kailash Kher the prominent Bollywood Singer to the Holi Festival of Colors Event which was two-pronged – one to celebrate the festival of Holi and two to collect funds to send to India as a donation for the fight against Covid and supply Oxygen Concentrators, not to forget the grand Independence Day event to celebrate Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav.

Founding Members Onkar Sangha, Neil Khot, Rita Singh, Mukesh Shah, Dhitu Bhagwakar also took the stage thanking team 2021 and praising the work of the team in making the year a resounding success. Founding Member and Past President Neil Khot announced the formation of a Board of Trustees that would be seated with Past Presidents and announced the names of Ninad Daftari and Gurmeet Singh Dhawan as the two past presidents being the trustees on this esteemed board.

Founder President Sunil Shah then announced Team 2022, President-Elect Hitesh Gandhi will spearhead the team for the year 2022 with the help of Executive Vice Presidents Shital Daftari and Vinita Gulabani and the entire board which include Vice Presidents – Altaf Bukhari, Pratibha Jairath, Anu Malhotra, Sonia Luther, Abir Maru, General Secretary – Richa Chand, Joint Secretary – Neelam Saboo, Treasurer – Vaishal Talati, Joint Treasurer – Ashwani Mahajan, Cultural Secretary – Pika Munshi, Joint Cultural Secretary – Ila Chaudhari, Directors: Harsh Shah, Mukesh Shah, Chetan Patel, Vibha Rajput, Varsha Visal, Jitendra Bulsara, Vidya Joshi, Jesse Singh, Bharat Malhotra, N Nagasubramaniam Iyyer, Hitesh Patel, Ashima Washington, Vikas Kalwani, Mir Ali, Dr. Afroz Hafeez, Chandni Kalra, Nirav Patel, Murugesh Kasilingam, Pratik Deshpande and Sujal Patel.

The incoming President Hitesh Gandhi offered his view for the year 2022 and the plans to take the organization to new heights with events planned for Celebrating India’s Republic Day, Independence Day, and Cultural events like Holi and Diwali. This year FIA Chicago will also host a Medical Wellness Checkup Camp, Blood Donation Drive, Food Drive, and Toys of Kids during the holiday season.

FIA Chicago was founded to bring Cultural awareness to the Chicagoland area and has now grown to serve the community by hosting many events for the community and helping the community grow and become one. FIA Chicago plans to take on projects like Job fairs, Entrepreneurship camps, and Youth Leadership Development Skill Camps.

Sunil Shah then took the opportunity to thank the new advisory board members for the year 2022 year including  Deepakkant Vyas, Anil Loomba of HMSI, Suresh Bodiwala of Asian Media Broadcasting, Yogi Bhardwaj, Vinoz Chanamolu, Nag Jaiswal, Jasbir Suga, Syed Hussaini, Manish Gandhi, Brij Sharma (Power Volt), Asha Oroskar (Orochem), Smita Shah (Direct Floors), Amarbir Singh Ghuman, Pradeep Shukla (CPA) and Neal Patel (MedStar), Pinky Thakkar, Sanhita Agnihotri, Ajeet Singh, Aishwarya Sharma, and Keerthi Reevori.

Early Data On Omicron Severity Encouraging: Fauci

Early data on the Omicron Covid-19 variant is “a bit encouraging” and does not indicate a great degree of danger, says Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious disease expert.

While there have been reports of a spike in hospitalization due to Omicron in South Africa, according to President Cyril Ramaphosa, they are “not alarming”.

“Though it’s too early to make any definitive statements about it, thus far it does not look like there’s a great degree of severity to it,” Fauci was quoted as saying on CNN’s ‘State of the Union on Sunday.

“Thus far, the signals are a bit encouraging. But we have got to be careful before we make any determinations that it is less severe, or it doesn’t cause any severe illness, comparable to Delta,” he added.

Lab tests are underway to determine whether the super mutant Omicron is more transmissible than other strains, resistant to immunity from vaccination and if the infection is more severe. The results are expected within weeks.

Meanwhile, at least 15 states in the US have detected the Omicron variant and that number is expected to rise, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director, Rochelle Walensky.

“We know we have several dozen cases and we’re following them closely. And we are every day hearing about more and more probable cases so that number is likely to rise,” Walensky was quoted as saying on ABC News ‘This Week’.

Even if Omicron proves less dangerous than Delta, it remains problematic, World Health Organization epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove told CBS’ ‘Face The Nation.

“Even if we have a large number of cases that are mild, some of those individuals will need hospitalizations,” she said.

“They will need to go into the ICU and some people will die. We don’t want to see that happen on top of an already difficult situation with Delta circulating globally.”

The US, last week, along with more than 50 countries imposed a travel ban on South Africa and seven other southern African countries to stem the variant’s spread. However, scientists say that the travel restrictions have come too late and could even slow studies of the new super mutant.

Fauci said the US will likely lift its ban on travelers from southern African countries in a “reasonable period”.

However, the vast majority of cases in the US continue to be caused by the Delta variant.

“We have about 90 to 100,000 cases a day right now in the US, and 99.9 percent of them are the Delta variant,” Walensky said.

Understanding Medicare Fraud

“Corruption, embezzlement, fraud are all characteristics which exist everywhere. It is regrettably how human nature functions, whether we like it or not. What successful economies do is keep it to a minimum. But, unfortunately, no one has ever eliminated any of that stuff”- said. Alan Greenspan, on the evil characteristic of frauds in general.

In USA, the system of Medicare benefits has been an abundant resource for fraudsters. Medicare improper payments were estimated to be $25.74 billion in fiscal year 2020. However, the amount of improper payments made in Medicare are significant, during 2019 representing to an amount of $28.91 billion.

Medicare fraud occurs when someone, whether doctors or patients or scammers, knowingly deceives Medicare to receive payment when they receive a higher payment than they should. Committing fraud is illegal and should be reported. Anyone can commit or be involved in fraud, and there are cases of fraudsters  including doctors, other providers, and Medicare beneficiaries.

Some common examples of Medicare fraud include billing for services that were not provided, over billing, billing unnecessary services, misrepresenting dates of service or providers of service, and paying kickbacks for patient referrals.

Medicare fraud happens when someone illegally use their Medicare card to get medical care, supplies, or equipment, or sell their Medicare number to someone who bills Medicare for services not received, or provide their Medicare number in exchange for money or a gift.

But sporadic instances of frauds are committed by greedy doctors, and a recent case reported, unveils an example of similar cases.

Ravi Murali, 39, formerly from Wisconsin, was sentenced by Chief U.S. District Judge James D. Peterson to 54 months in federal prison for Dr. Murali’s role in defraud Medicare. He pleaded guilty to this charge on March 31, 2021.

Dr. Murali wrote thousands of fraudulent orders for Durable Medical Equipment (DME). Other participants in the scheme used Dr. Murali’s fraudulent orders to bill Medicare $26,000,000, of which Medicare paid $13,000,000.

As we all know, Medicare is complicated. What may seem like an error to the beneficiary, may result from a misunderstanding about benefits.

It may also be abuse, which involves billing Medicare for services that are not covered or are not correctly coded. The provider has not knowingly and intentionally misrepresented the facts to obtain payment.

Medicare fraud assumes criminal offense. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) defines fraud as “the intentional deception or misrepresentation that the individual knows to be false or does not believe to be true,” and that is made “knowing that the deception could result in some unauthorized benefit to themselves or some other person.

Some common examples of suspected Medicare fraud or abuse are:

  • Billing for services or supplies that were not provided
  • Providing unsolicited supplies to beneficiaries
  • Misrepresenting a diagnosis, a beneficiary’s identity, the service provided, or other facts to justify payment
  • Prescribing or providing excessive or unnecessary tests and services
  • Violating the participating provider agreement with Medicare by refusing to bill Medicare for covered services or items and billing the beneficiary instead
  • Offering or receiving a kickback (bribe) in exchange for a beneficiary’s Medicare number
  • Requesting Medicare numbers at an educational presentation or in an unsolicited phone call
  • Routinely waiving co-insurance to attract business

The federal government has made significant strides in reducing fraud, waste, and improper payments across the government.

The CMS “Guard Your Card” campaign tells people how they can protect themselves against fraud by:

  • Never give out their Medicare or Social Security Number to anyone except those you know should have it.
  • They reported any suspicious activities like being asked over the phone for their Medicare/Social Security number or banking information. Medicare will NEVER call you uninvited for this information.
  • By checking their billing statements and reporting suspicious charges. Using a calendar to track doctor’s appointments and services helps quickly spot possible fraud and billing mistakes. Check claims early by logging into gov.

Any suspicious activities may be reported by calling 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).

Under the False Claims Act (FCA), the government may pay a reward of up to 30% to people who report healthcare fraud. In September 2019, TELG client Kevin Manieri was awarded more than $12 million for reporting that a drug company defrauded Medicare and other government insurance programs by encouraging doctors to prescribe an unnecessary medication to patients.

Health care fraud is a felony under Michigan’s Health Care False Claims Act, punishable by up to four years in prison, a $50,000 fine and loss of health insurance. It’s also a federal criminal offense under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

Daily Dose Of Yoghurt Could Be The Go-To Food To Manage High Blood Pressure

Whether it’s a dollop on your morning cereal or a simple snack on the go, a daily dose of yoghurt could be the next go-to food for people with high blood pressure, according to new research from the University of South Australia.

Conducted in partnership with the University of Maine, the study examined the associations between yoghurt intake, blood pressure and cardiovascular risk factors, finding that yoghurt is associated with lower blood pressure for those with hypertension.

Globally, more than a billion people suffer from hypertension (high blood pressure), putting them at greater risk of cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) such as heart attack and stroke.

CVDs are the leading cause of death worldwide – in the United States, one person dies from CVD every 36 seconds; in Australia, it’s every 12 minutes.

UniSA researcher Dr Alexandra Wade says this study provides new evidence that connects yoghurt with positive blood pressure outcomes for hypertensive people.

“High blood pressure is the number one risk factor for cardiovascular disease, so it’s important that we continue to find ways to reduce and regulate it,” Dr Wade says.

“Dairy foods, especially yoghurt, may be capable of reducing blood pressure.

“This is because dairy foods contain a range of micronutrients, including calcium, magnesium and potassium, all of which are involved in the regulation of blood pressure.

“Yoghurt is especially interesting because it also contains bacteria that promote the release of proteins which lowers blood pressure.

“This study showed for people with elevated blood pressure, even small amounts of yoghurt were associated with lower blood pressure.

“And for those who consumed yoghurt regularly, the results were even stronger, with blood pressure readings nearly seven points lower than those who did not consume yoghurt.”

The study was conducted on 915 community-dwelling adults from the Maine–Syracuse Longitudinal Study. Habitual yogurt consumption was measured using a food frequency questionnaire. High blood pressure was defined as being greater than or equal to 140/90 mmHg (a normal blood pressure level is less than 120/80 mmHg).

Researchers say that future observational and intervention studies should continue to focus on at-risk individuals to examine the potential benefits of yogurt.

At AAPI Fall Governing Body Meeting, AAPI-TN Raises $75,000 To Fight Human Trafficking in India

During the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) Fall Governing Body Meeting, a Fundraiser gala was held on November 20th, 2021 at Embassy Suites by Hilton in Franklin TN, Suburbs of “Music City” Nashville, TN.

The host chapter- AAPI-TN presented FFLI with a fundraised $75,000, in order to help strengthen the efforts to end human trafficking and to help continue and expand their impact in India.

While pointing out that Human Trafficking is one of the fastest growing criminal industries in the country, reported in all 50 states of the United States of America, “we as a community have a duty to end the various forms of slavery,” AAPI Tennessee Chapter President, Dr. Anuradha P. Mann said. “With the goal of supporting Nashville nonprofit FFLI (Free for Life International). FFLI works in prevention along with rescue, restoration, rehabilitation and education of trafficked victims, we are pleased to present this token of our appreciation to help support the efforts of FFLI,” she added.
The opening ceremony was symbolic, especially with the recent celebration of Diwali, and tied back to the soulful mission of FFLI. Gabrielle Thompson, FFLI CEO and Executive Director and Board Member Radha Babu addressed the audience, describing the impact of fighting human trafficking in India.
The underlying theme of Diwali, celebrating Light over Darkness, Victory of Good over Evil and Knowledge over Ignorance, which has caught up the attention of people all over the world, was done as the traditional lamp was lit by AAPI-TN Executive Committee, AAPI USA President Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, Congressman Jim Cooper and Grand Sponsor Dr. Bharat Sangani.
The audience was in awe of FFLI’s work and mission. In his keynote address, Congressman Jim Cooper from Nashville highlighted the numerous injustices that intersect with human trafficking and exploitation, along with the urgent need for action at the state, national, and international levels.
In her address, Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President of national AAPI highlighted some of the major achievements of AAPI under her leadership in the past five months ever since a new executive committee assumed charge of AAPI in July this year.
Evolving to meet the growing needs of its members and the larger population it is called to serve, AAPI, the largest ethnic physician organization in the United states, representing over 100,000 Indian American Physicians, has grown steadily and is recognized by the authorities, local communities and mainstream media for the many noble initiatives AAPI has led, especially during the Covid pandemic, she said.
She reminded AAPI members that, as part pf the upcoming Global Healthcare Summit, AAPI has initiated preventive healthcare screenings in 75 villages to understand the concept of preventive screenings help to diagnose any silent diseases which are causing premature deaths from Coronary heart disease and cancers like Breast cancer, cervical cancer which are preventable if diagnosed early through these annual screenings as mentioned above.
Dr. Satheesh Kathula, secretary of AAPI and treasurer of gala applauded the efforts of “ free for life” who are committed to curtail human trafficking and said “we are very glad to be part of the cause”. He thanked all the sponsors and the gala committee for their hard work in making this happen.

During the CMEs, several important topics with recent advances were well received by the AAPI fraternity. Themes for the CMEs included: ‘Cancer therapy: Advancement as we head for a cure’ by Dr. Nishitha Reddy, ‘Psychiatric sequelae of human trafficking’ by Dr. Sricharan Moturi, ‘Cardiovascular disease in South Asians- (Masala Study)’ by Dr. Ramya Suryadevara and ‘Stem cell therapy: The future of medicine’ by Dr. Sai Ram Atluri. The CME was well-attended, with active engagement between speakers and moderators (Dr. Amit Keswani, Dr.Varun Dhulipala, Dr. Biliyar, and Dr. Gunuganti. Attendees were eligible for 3 Category 1 CME hours, accredited by the Chicago Medical Society (CMS).

Organized by the AAPI Tennessee Chapter led by its President, Dr. Anuradha P. Mann, the gala, fund raiser and the Fall Governing Body Meeting of national AAPI was chaired by Dr. Sunil Kaza and effectively coordinated by Dr. Dayaker Mallipeddi, Dr. Shashank Ponugoti, and Dr Viren Shah.
The gala began with the Event Chair Dr. Sunil Kaza welcoming community members, family, friends, colleagues and sponsors.  “We, AAPI- TN team, worked hard to stick to the mission of AAPI, for education and charity to serve humanity. We thank each and every member that attended and supported the event. Our special thanks to all our Sponsors,” said Dr. Sunil Kaza, Chair of the Gala Committee. The Grand sponsor for the event, Dr. Bharat Sangani attended the meeting personally.
Attended by over 150 AAPI delegates from around the nation and more than 250 local members, the weekend event was packed with activities including Business Meet, “warm meet and greet” with local AAPI TN members, CMEs, fun-filled impromptu ‘Mehfil’ led by Dr. Amit Chakrabarty, Gala and Dinner. After a delicious dinner during gala, the participants were entertained with a live music, provided by ‘Geetanjali’ and the ‘SaReGaMa’ orchestra from Chicago. Several past Presidents of AAPI attended praised this event as ‘one of the best’ they have attended. AAPI’s BOT Chair Dr. Kusum Punjabi and other Board of Trustees attended and graced the event. AAPI-TN Chapter donated $10,000 to the National AAPI’s Endowment Fund.

AAPI Joins Rock & Roll Marathon In San Antonio, Creating Awareness On Healthy Living

The Covid pandemic has impacted all aspects of human life as never been before. The past two years have been challenging to everyone, particularly to those who are assigned with the responsibility of caring for the sick, even as hundreds of Millions are affected by the big pandemic.

Physicians and other health professionals on the front lines of COVID-19 care have experienced so many unknowns during the pandemic. They’ve also put their own health and the well-being of their families on the line to provide care.

At this critical juncture in human history, American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) the largest ethnic medical organization in the country, representing the interests of over 100,000 physicians of Indian origin, is focusing on themes such as how to take care of self and find satisfaction and happiness in the challenging situations they are in, while serving hundreds of patients everyday of their dedicated and noble profession, Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President of AAPI said.

In preparation for the upcoming 40th annual convention from June 23-26, 2022 in San Antonio, Texas with the timely theme that focusses on “Heal The Healers” and to create awareness among the public on the need for Healthy Lifestyle, AAPI Convention Team led by Dr. Jayesh Shah joined an “Rock and Roll Marathon” on Sunday, December 5th, 2021 in san Antonio, TX.

AAPI’s participation at the Marathon was inspired and sponsored by the Botla Foundation, which provided a great kick start to AAPI’s wellness theme, pointed to the Six Pillars of Lifestyle Medicine: 1. Healthy Diet; 2. Being active; 3. Restorative sleep; 4. Managing stress; 5. Have social and supportive connections; and,  6. Avoiding abusive drugs and habits.

Planning for joining the Rock and Roll Marathon started over three months ago, says Dr. Jayesh Shah, Chair of AAPI Convention 2022. Botla Foundation committed a donation of $25,000, However, in order to encourage Doctors to run, the Foundation initially put a caveat that they would donate $250 for every person who signs up for the half marathon. “This novel way of sponsorship did encourage many Indian doctors and other community members to register and participate in this unique marathon,” added Dr. Jayesh Shah. “We were lucky to have Dr. Akil Tahir to join us as the Chief Ambassador for the run. His presence also inspired all of us to join for this noble cause. His message of running with heart touched all of us.”

Dozens of Doctors and community leaders joined the Rock and Roll Marathon, which had attracted over 18,000 participants from around the nation, and made this an inspiring experience for all. Dr. Ravi Botla, while thanking and congratulating all the participants at the Marathon, said, “Running with you all is an amazing experience. Several friends made their personal bests today. Hope to continue to do some physical activity (running/walking/cycling) to improve our health. On behalf of all our runners yesterday and today, Botla Foundation will donate $25,000 to AAPI, irrespective of the number of participants. We should be proud of this accomplishment. Thank you Anupama and Jayesh to provide this opportunity.”

The Botla Charitable Family Foundation is a non-profit established in 2014 by Dr. Ravi and Vijaya Botla with the intention to give to charitable causes that highlight Indian culture and traditions as well as promote health and wellness in our community.

“After a hiatus of 5 years from long distance running, I am thrilled to announce that I completed running the half marathon in San Antonio on a PLANT BASED DIET!” Dr. Akil Taher said. “I ran to support the American Association of Physicians of Indian origin (AAPI) under the leadership of Dr. Anupama Gotimukula ad Dr. Jayesh Shah. AAPI has done some phenomenal charity work here in the US and India. Also a big thank you to the Botla family for their inspirational support to AAPI,” he added.

“That is why in keeping with AAPI’s 2022 Convention theme of “Heal the Healers,” this idea of having these healers finally put their health first by participating in the San Antonio Rock n Roll Half Marathon came to life,” Vijaya Botla said. “There was great enthusiasm from our local Indian doctors and a wonderful camaraderie was formed. Weekly meetups and training commenced. We were blessed that Dr. Akil Taher, from Atlanta, Georgia joining our group and was able to pass on his words of wisdom to us through his book “Open Heart” and by even coming to do the race with us in San Antonio on December 5, 2021.”

To run my first half-marathon with my Idol, Dr. Taher. He is a living proof of the power of ‘Whole Foods Plant Based’ Diet and Physical Exercise in not just recovering from a major surgery but healing from within for a better and stronger health than before. His presenceat the Marathon inspired us to sign up for the event and support AAPI in promoting ‘health & fitness’ in our community,” stated Dr.  Bhoja R. Katipally.

Several participants at the Marathon had weekly runs at trails to prepare for the run. The team also got the expertise of Pradeep, who had recently finished Chicago marathon as the coach. He taught the participants the dynamic exercises before the run and static exercises after the run. Dr Bhoja Reddy did a book signing event on Saturday, the day before the run. Dr.Taher contributed all the money from the book sale to AAPI.

While congratulating all the participants, organizers and sponsors, Dr. Gotimukula said, “I want to extend a few words of my appreciation to all the wonderful hearts from AAPI who participated in the Marathon.

The donor, Dr. Ravi Botla did his first full Marathon. There are several in the group who did their first half marathon including Dr. Jayesh Shah! We thank the Botla Foundation who inspired us! We ran with a good heart to support AAPI. Nothing is impossible if we have the motivation inside us!!” For more details on AAPI and the 40th convention, please visit: www.aapiusa.org


Omicron Virus Found In South Africa Described By WHO As “Variant Of Concern”

The World Health Organization (WHO) has designated a new variant, B.1.1.529, named as “Omicron” found in South Africa initially, and has now been found in several other countries as a “variant of concern (VOC).” The variant, which was announced by scientists in South Africa on Thanksgiving Day, November 25th has caused alarm around the world.

Fears that a new, fast-spreading coronavirus variant could potentially be more dangerous than even the Delta variant prompted several countries to impose restrictions on travel from affected regions, and caused stock markets across the globe to crash.

The WHO said about 100 genome sequences of the variant have been reported so far. Many of the infected people were fully vaccinated, with at least one person in Israel having also received a third, booster dose of vaccine.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that the Omicron coronavirus variant poses a high risk of infection surges around the globe.

The variant could lead to severe consequences in some regions, the WHO said on Monday.  The head of the organisation, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, renewed a call for a global push to get vaccines to poorer nations.

Covid-19 is “not done with us” yet he warned. The variant was detected in South Africa earlier this month with initial evidence suggesting it has a higher re-infection risk. South Africa has been praised for its prompt reporting of the variant.

“Omicron has an unprecedented number of spike mutations, some of which are concerning for their potential impact on the trajectory of the pandemic,” the WHO said.

The epidemiological situation in South Africa has been characterized by three distinct peaks in reported cases, the latest of which was predominantly the Delta variant. In recent weeks, infections have increased steeply, coinciding with the detection of B.1.1.529 variant. The first known confirmed B.1.1.529 infection was from a specimen collected on 9 November 2021.

This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning. Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other VOCs. The number of cases of this variant appears to be increasing in almost all provinces in South Africa. Current SARS-CoV-2 PCR diagnostics continue to detect this variant.

Several labs have indicated that for one widely used PCR test, one of the three target genes is not detected (called S gene dropout or S gene target failure) and this test can therefore be used as marker for this variant, pending sequencing confirmation. Using this approach, this variant has been detected at faster rates than previous surges in infection, suggesting that this variant may have a growth advantage.

There are a number of studies underway and the TAG-VE will continue to evaluate this variant. WHO will communicate new findings with Member States and to the public as needed.

The scientific analysis till now suggests that the new variant has been spreading at a rate faster than any other variant, including Delta. The fact that several of the infected people were fully vaccinated, including one with a booster dose, is an indication that this variant also has considerable capability to evade the immune response.

This means that this variant is a cause of worry on at least two of the three criteria that are used to assess how dangerous any new variant is. As of now, there is no information on its ability to cause severe disease, the third crucial criteria.

“This variant has a number of mutations, some of which are concerning. Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other VOCs,” the WHO said in a statement.

“The number of cases of this variant appears to be increasing in almost all provinces in South Africa… This variant has been detected at faster rates than previous surges in infection, suggesting that this variant may have a growth advantage,” it said.

The Delta variant, first discovered in India late last year, has been the deadliest variant of SARS-CoV2 on all these three counts till now. It is the dominant variant now in most regions, and is the reason behind the deadly second wave in India, and the ongoing surge in Europe and a few other regions.

“Not everything is known about this variant yet. Data is still coming in. As of now, we know that it has over 30 mutations, of which 10 are in the spike protein. Whether this variant turns out to be a faster spreading one, or one that has greater ability to evade immune response is still to be seen. But we need to be very alert,” virologist Shahid Jameel said.

Vineeta Bal, an immunologist associated with the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Pune, said the emergence of the variant was not an unexpected development, but authorities needed to respond with increased surveillance to ensure early detection and effective isolation. “Viruses mutate all the time. That is something to be expected. But we should be able to ensure that it does not gain a foothold in many people,” Dr Bal said.

The coronavirus evolves as it spreads and many new variants, including those with worrying mutations, often just die out. Scientists monitor for possible changes that could be more transmissible or deadly, but sorting out whether new variants will have a public health impact can take time.

As such, countries are asked to do the following:

  • enhance surveillance and sequencing efforts to better understand circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants.
  • submit complete genome sequences and associated metadata to a publicly available database, such as GISAID.
  • report initial cases/clusters associated with VOC infection to WHO through the IHR mechanism.
  • where capacity exists and in coordination with the international community, perform field investigations and laboratory assessments to improve understanding of the potential impacts of the VOC on COVID-19 epidemiology, severity, effectiveness of public health and social measures, diagnostic methods, immune responses, antibody neutralization, or other relevant characteristics.

Individuals are reminded to take measures to reduce their risk of COVID-19, including proven public health and social measures such as wearing well-fitting masks, hand hygiene, physical distancing, improving ventilation of indoor spaces, avoiding crowded spaces, and getting vaccinated.

At AAPI’s Global Healthcare Summit In Hyderabad, India’s Vice President Shri Venkaiah Naidu To Be Chief Guest

Shri Venkaiah Naidu, Honorable Vice President of India will be the Chief Guest at the next edition of the annual Global Healthcare Summit (GHS) 2022, organized by the Association of American Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) to be held at the prestigious Hotel Avasa in Hyderabad, India from January 5th to 7th, 2022, Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President of AAPI, announced here today.

“Harnessing the power of Indian Doctors worldwide, the AAPI Global Healthcare Summit platform has evolved with the support and collaboration with the Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare as well as several prominent global and Indian medical associations,” says Dr. Anupama Gotimukula. “The theme for the Summit this year is: ‘Prevention Is Better Than Cure Through Technology, Telemedicine & Transformation’ and we want to coordinate and collaborate all our resources towards helping India have established annual healthcare screening guidelines and development of “India Preventive Task Force” who will maintain and update the annual healthcare screening guidelines”

According to her, “Senior leaders from leading healthcare organizations such as pharmaceuticals, device and medical equipment manufacturers and major medical teaching institutions, hospitals and from the Ministries – Health, External/Overseas Affairs and regulatory bodies are collaborating with AAPI with the ultimate goal to provide access to high quality and affordable healthcare to all people of India.”

AAPI is hopeful that several international healthcare industry partners are looking for opportunities to participate at this event for greater collaboration on Research & Development and philanthropic engagements, Dr. Gotimukula added.  Chronic diseases, notably diabetes, cardiovascular, hypertension, COPD, oncology, maternal and infant mortality, and emerging ones – Management of neurological emergencies ENLS a certification course  are only some of those that are going to be covered during this Summit. An exclusive Healthcare CEO forum coordinated by Dr. Jospeh Chalil will bring the healthcare industry perspective, with senior Government officials, both Union and State providing the legislative wisdom.

Dr. Kusum Punjabi, the Chair of AAPI BOT said, “We flew away from India decades ago. However, our hearts are still in India.” She said, GHS 2022 will focus on several relevant issues to serve the many healthcare needs and delivery of healthcare in India.” She praised the local community and organizers for their enthusiastic support.

While elaborating on the theme and areas that are going to be covered during the Summit, Dr. Udaya Shivangi, Chair of AAPI GHS USA says, “In our efforts to realize the core mission of AAPI, which is to share the best from leading experts from around the world, to collaborate on clinical challenges, research and development, philanthropy, policy and standards formulation, the Summit in Hyderabad will have clinical tracks that are of vital to healthcare in India.”

Dr. Ravi Kolli, President-Elect of AAPI pointed out, “Healthcare in India is one of the largest sectors, in terms of revenue and employment.  India is making significant improvements in the healthcare infrastructure and is building modern medical facilities throughout India. Indian doctors have made tremendous progress in the 21st century and India is now being touted as a medical tourism hub”

While elaborating the objectives of the Summit, Dr. Anjana Samadder, Vice President of AAPI, says, “This innovative Summit is aimed at advancing the accessibility, affordability and the quality of world-class healthcare to the people of India. Among other areas, the Summit will focus on prevention, diagnosis, treatment options and share ways to truly improve healthcare transcending global boundaries.”

There are several AAPI leaders who are working hard to make the GHS a memorable event, said Dr. Gotimukula. “Among them, I want to recognize Dr. Sujeeth Punnam, US Coordinator, Dr. Lokesh Edara, Chair Global Medical Education; Dr. Prabhakar Sharma, CME Chair, Dr. Prabhat Sinha, Chair Sponsorships and Exhibits, Dr. Seema Arora, Chair of Women’s Forum; Dr. Joseph M. Chalil, Chair of CEO Forum; Dr. Belani Kumar, Chair of the Mwdical Students Research Poster presentations; Dr. Lakshmi Thirunagari and Dr. Apurva Yeluru, CoordinatorS Medical Jeopardy

“The much awaited Women’s Forum at the GHS will be led by a panel consisting of inspiring women leaders who have been in the forefront, and have shown resiliency, confidence, leadership, determination, and dedication, and have withered all obstacles in life, and have become women leaders, and are recognized to be an inspiration to all,” says Dr. Seema Arora, Chair of Women’s Forum.

“The essence of AAPI is educational,” Dr. Lokesh Edara, Chair Global Medical Education, while describing the CMEs by experts that are ebbing organized during GHS said. “That translates into numerous programs that AAPI has planned to motivate med students, physicians, academicians and researchers to excel and master in their areas of work and goal to have one PG seat for every Medical student who graduates and there should be one Doctor per 1000 population.

Dr. Joseph Chalil, Chair of the CEO Forum said, “AAPI has made significant contributions towards addressing several issues affecting the healthcare system in India. During the GHS 2022, AAPI at the popular CEO Forum, physician leaders from the United States and India will have an opportunity to brainstorm and explore ways to focus on the theme, “Prevention is Better Than Cure” and recommend possible ways to plan and implement preventive medicine that will save resources and precious human lives.”

Dr. Satheesh Kathula, Secretary of AAPI said, “Through Continuing Medical Education and non-CME seminars by experts in their fields, AAPI will provide comprehensive and current reviews and guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of various disease states to reduce morbidity and mortality and achieve cost effective quality care outcomes.”

According to Dr. Krishan Kumar, Treasurer of AAPI, “With the changing trends and statistics in healthcare, both in India and US, we are refocusing our mission and vision, AAPI would like to make a positive and meaningful impact on the healthcare delivery system both in the US and in India.”

This international health care summit is a progressive transformation from the first Indo-US Healthcare Summit launched by AAPI USA in 2007. Since then, AAPI has organized 14 Indo – US/Global Healthcare Summits and developed strategic alliances with various organizations.

Representing the interests of the over 100,000 physicians of Indian origin, leaders of American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), the largest ethnic organization of physicians, for 39 years.

“Being organized at this critical phase, GHS 2022 is aimed at exploring possibilities for greater collaboration and cooperation between the physicians and health care providers in India with those of Indian origin and major health-care providers abroad,” Dr. Gotimukula said. For more information, please visit www.aapiusa.org/ https://summit.aapiusa.org

Vaccine Makers Optimistic About Producing Omicron-Specific Shots If Needed

Vaccine makers say they are in the midst of testing their shots’ effectiveness against the newly discovered omicron coronavirus variant, and they remain optimistic that a new variant-specific vaccine could be produced and rolled out quickly if needed.

When asked about the new omicron variant that was first detected in southern Africa, Paul Burton, Moderna’s chief medical officer, told ABC News’ “Good Morning America” on Monday that vaccine manufacturers around the world, including Moderna, “are testing samples from people who have received our vaccines against the strains.”

Burton said that while the company thinks “vaccine effectiveness may come down, based on the mutation seen in this in this virus,” he added that with booster shots of the existing version of the vaccine, “We should be able to get antibody levels up, so that’s a very important initial line of defense.”

Burton said that researchers will know just how effective the vaccines are against this variant “in the next couple of weeks.” If manufacturers need to make an omicron variant-specific vaccine, it should take approximately “two to three months” to test and manufacture it, he said.

Fellow coronavirus vaccine maker Pfizer similarly expressed confidence that it could produce a new vaccine quickly if needed. Pfizer’s CEO Albert Bourla told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Monday that he is very optimistic the company will be able to speedily switch production to a new vaccine, if the research merits, without losing any volume.

Johnson & Johnson also said in a statement Monday that it is evaluating its current COVID-19 vaccine against the omicron variant.

“In addition, the company is pursuing an omicron-specific variant vaccine and will progress it as needed,” it said.

Scientists suspect the omicron variant could partially chip away protection from current vaccines due to its mutations, but they are still waiting on testing to learn if, and to what extent, that could be the case.

Vaccine experts have told ABC News that the current COVID-19 vaccines, which rely on genetic technology, could easily be updated to better combat emerging variants. This has not been necessary so far, as the original vaccines have been effective against the dominant variants that have spread in the past, but companies are preparing to tweak vaccines to respond to the omicron variant just in case.

The good news is that these novel vaccines employing genetic technology mean updates can be made to the vaccines easily — unlike vaccines based on older technology, which used a piece of the virus or a killed virus to mimic infection.

The new vaccines, which use the genetic technology, introduces an instruction manual of sorts into your body. This introduction manual tells your cells to start churning out a protein normally found on the outside of the virus, and your body activates an immune response when your body senses that viral protein.

In remarks on Monday, President Joe Biden assured Americans that the omicron variant “is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic.”

“We have the best vaccine in the world. The best medicines, the best scientists, and we’re learning more every single day,” the president said. “And we’ll fight this variant with scientific and knowledgeable actions and speed. Not chaos and confusion.”

Omicron Symptoms Mild So Far, Says South African Doctor Who Spotted It

The first South African doctor to alert the authorities about patients with the omicron variant has told The Telegraph that the symptoms of the new variant are unusual but mild.

Dr Angelique Coetzee said she was first alerted to the possibility of a new variant when patients in her busy private practice in the capital Pretoria started to come in earlier this month with Covid-19 symptoms that did not make immediate sense.

They included young people of different backgrounds and ethnicities with intense fatigue and a six-year-old child with a very high pulse rate, she said. None suffered from a loss of taste or smell.

“Their symptoms were so different and so mild from those I had treated before,” said Dr Coetzee, a GP for 33 years who chairs the South African Medical Association alongside running her practice.

On November 18, when four family members all tested positive for Covid-19 with complete exhaustion, she informed the country’s vaccine advisory committee.

She said, in total, about two dozen of her patients have tested positive for Covid-19 with symptoms of the new variant. They were mostly healthy men who turned up “feeling so tired”. About half of them were unvaccinated.

“We had one very interesting case, a kid, about six years old, with a temperature and a very high pulse rate, and I wondered if I should admit her. But when I followed up two days later, she was so much better,” Dr Coetzee says.

Dr Coetzee, who was briefing other African medical associations on Saturday, made clear her patients were all healthy and she was worried the new variant could still hit older people – with co-morbidities such as diabetes or heart disease – much harder.

“What we have to worry about now is that when older, unvaccinated people are infected with the new variant, and if they are not vaccinated, we are going to see many people with a severe [form of the] disease,” she said.

South African demographics are very different from those in the UK. Only about six per cent of the population are over the age of 65. This means that older individuals who are more vulnerable to the virus may take some time to present.

The B.1.1.529 variant, now called omicron, was first identified in Botswana on November 11. It has now been detected in the UK as well as South Africa, Israel, the Netherlands, Hong Kong and Belgium.

It is the most mutated form of Covid-19 discovered thus far, with 32 mutations to the spike protein. Scientists are concerned that the mutations may allow it to evade existing vaccines and spread quickly.

Two cases of omicron have now been found in the UK, with two people in Essex and Nottinghamshire testing positive for the new variant.

UK officials are busy scouring testing databases for any further sign of the omicron variant, not least because there were many South Africans in the Twickenham area of south-west London for the England and South Africa match last Saturday.

South African scientists say omicron is behind an explosion of cases in the country’s Gauteng province, which is home to the country’s commercial capital Johannesburg and Pretoria. Cases have rocketed up from about 550 a day last week to almost 4,000 a day currently.

The UK, US, the EU and Israel have all suspended travel to and from South Africa and the five surrounding countries: Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zimbabwe. The UK Government added Angola, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia to the travel red list on Sunday.

The Western travel ban has provoked anger among South Africans, with many claiming that they are being punished for having outstanding research institutions and being transparent about their findings.

Biden Urges Nation Not To Panic Over Omicron Fears

US President Joe Biden has called the Omicron Covid variant a “cause for concern, not a cause for panic” one day after it was detected in North America.

Cases have been found in Canada, and his speech from the White House comes as US travel bans on eight African countries takes effect. Biden also urged people to get a booster and to wear masks.

He said he does not anticipate any further US travel restrictions or lockdowns at this time.

In remarks on Monday, the president called it “almost inevitable” that the Omicron strain, first reported by South Africa, will be found in the US “at some point”. He added that said vaccine companies are creating “contingency plans” for new vaccines “if needed”.

Late last week, the US announced a ban on flights from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi. Canada, the UK and the EU and other countries have also restricted travel from southern Africa.

In his remarks, Mr Biden said that the ban had bought some time for the US to study the new strain. While the World Health Organization has deemed Omicron a “variant of concern”, it is still not clear whether it is associated with more transmission or more risk of evading vaccines.

“We have the best vaccine in the world, and the best medicines, the best scientist and we’re learning more every single day,” the president said. He also vowed to “fight this variant with scientific and knowledgeable actions and speed. Not chaos and confusion”.

He praised the scientific community of South Africa for reporting the strain, despite criticism that travel bans are being used to punish the country.

“To their credit, the scientific community in South Africa quickly notified the world of the emergence of this new variant,” Mr Biden said. “This kind of transparency is to be encouraged and applauded because it increases our ability to respond quickly to any new threats, and that’s exactly what we did.”

He also said he was directing the US Food and Drug Administration, which regulates vaccines, to use the “fastest process available without cutting any corners” to approve any potential new vaccines that specifically target Omicron.

Canada, the US neighbour to the north, said on Sunday that the Omicron strain had been discovered in two patients who had recently travelled to Nigeria. A third case was announced on Monday.

How Vaccine Makers Plan To Address The New COVID-19 Omicron Variant

A new strain of COVID-19 first discovered in South Africa was declared a variant of concern by the World Health Organization on Friday. Here’s how the pharmaceutical industry plans to address the latest coronavirus curve ball.

Vaccine makers are already pivoting their efforts to combat the new variant: testing higher doses of booster shots, designing new boosters that anticipate strain mutations, and developing omicron-specific boosters.

In a statement sent to NPR, Moderna said it has been working on a comprehensive strategy to predict variants of concern since the beginning of 2021. One approach is to double the current booster from 50 to 100 micrograms. Secondly, the vaccine maker has been studying two booster vaccines that are designed to anticipate mutations like those found in the omicron variant. The company also said it will ramp up efforts to make a booster candidate that specifically targets omicron.

“From the beginning, we have said that as we seek to defeat the pandemic, it is imperative that we are proactive as the virus evolves,” said Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel. “The mutations in the Omicron variant are concerning and for several days, we have been moving as fast as possible to execute our strategy to address this variant.”

Pfizer and BioNTech told Reuters that they expect more data about the omicron variant to be collected within two weeks. That information will help determine whether or not they need to modify their current vaccine. Pfizer and BioNTech said a vaccine tailored for the omicron variant, if needed, could be ready to ship in approximately 100 days.

Johnson & Johnson said in a statement sent to NPR that it too is already testing its vaccine’s efficacy against the new variant.

The omicron variant was first reported to the WHO on Nov. 24, the WHO said. Preliminary evidence indicates the variant poses an increased risk for reinfection due to the large number of mutations. Until recently, cases across South Africa have predominantly been from the delta variant, an earlier strain that has pushed health care systems to the max since early summer. But omicron infections have been on the rise in recent weeks, the WHO reported.

More concerning, omicron cases have emerged across the globe. Cases have been confirmed in Botswana, the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Israel, the Netherlands, Australia and Hong Kong.

News of the rapidly spreading variant led to a new set of air travel restrictions from South Africa and seven other countries, implemented by President Joe Biden, that go into effect Monday. The president made the announcement the day after Thanksgiving, one of the busiest travel periods of the year.

Unlike last year, when millions of people traveled against the advice of health experts, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and chief medical adviser to the president, Dr. Anthony Fauci, more or less condoned Thanksgiving get-togethers for vaccinated Americans. And, according to an American Automobile Association travel forecast, over 53 million people were expected to travel for Thanksgiving — an 18% jump compared to last year — including more than 4 million by air.

As of Friday, the CDC said that no cases of the omicron variant had been identified in the United States. However, Fauci said on Saturday that he would not be surprised if the variant is already here.

“We have not detected it yet, but when you have a virus that is showing this degree of transmissibility and you’re already having travel-related cases that they’ve noted in Israel and Belgium and other places … it almost invariably is ultimately going to go essentially all over,” he said in an interview on the Today show.

As Americans prepare to transition from one busy holiday to the next, the CDC is predicting that coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths will increase over the next four weeks. More than 776,000 people in the U.S. have died of COVID-19 to date, according to Johns Hopkins University’s tracker, and the country is projected to surpass 800,000 deaths by Christmas.

Dr. Vivek Murthy Urges Nation To Act Together To Address Physician Burnout

Physicians and other health professionals on the front lines of COVID-19 care have experienced so many unknowns during the pandemic. They’ve also put their own health and the well-being of their families on the line to provide care. Fortunately, though, the country is in a better position than it was a year ago. Despite the rise of the Delta variant and increases in cases and hospitalizations, the three available COVID-19 vaccines have helped save lives. But the fight isn’t over yet. Another battle remains: burnout within the exhausted physician workforce.

“It’s felt hopeful to me, especially in the early parts of the pandemic, to see many people in the public recognizing the role that clinicians were playing and the sacrifices they were making,” said U.S. Surgeon General Vice Adm. Vivek Murthy, MD, during a discussion with AMA CEO and Executive Vice President James L. Madara, MD, at the American Conference on Physician Health 2021.

But “I also worry about what’s happened to our clinicians. Yes, they have been absolute heroes, but that’s coming at a cost,” said Dr. Murthy. “The question that we have to ask ourselves as a country is: Are we willing to finally step up and do something?

“This is a time where we have an opportunity, but also an obligation, to address some of these deeper challenges of clinician well-being,” he added.

“We know that in order to address burnout, this isn’t about one organization or one sector—we all have to act together,” said Dr. Murthy. The “government has got to play an important role here. Health care systems have an important role to play.”

Also, “we know educational institutions, training institutions have an important role they can play,” he said, adding there’s even “an important role for policymakers and the public.”

How to promote physician well-being during a pandemic and beyond

The federal government has a unique opportunity and power “that is critical to highlight the issue for the general public and to lay out a national strategy around” physician burnout and well-being, said Dr. Murthy.

Don’t focus solely on the individual

“The bottom line with all of this, though, is … you can’t assume that solely focusing on equipping individual physicians with individual tools is going to be the solution to burnout,” said Dr. Murthy. “This is not just about enrolling physicians in a CME around self-care that they take for three days. … The problem is it is so much more systemic, and it’s deeper than that.”

Bringing “the right people together—the right sectors together—to commit to … both the systemic and process changes, but also the cultural changes that need to take place in an institution is going to be extraordinarily difficult,” he said.

Educate the public about burnout

“All of this cannot happen sustainably without us bringing the public in. And I don’t mean the broader health care professional,” Dr. Murthy said. “I mean the general public outside of health care because I don’t think that the general public fully appreciates how the problem of physician burnout is already impacting the care that you’re getting or not.

At pandemic peak, 1 in 3 resident doctors in NYC experienced burnout

“We know that when clinicians drop out of the workforce, it’s not just that there are fewer people that care for COVID patients at hospitals, but our ability to provide primary care, hospital-based care and other clinicians across the board also is compromised,” he said. “There’s so much more we need to do to help the public understand why clinician well-being is not just an issue for clinicians.

“It is a national priority, and it has to be treated with the urgency that it really deserves,” Dr. Murthy added.

The AMA offers resources to help physicians manage their own mental health and well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic and provides practical strategies for health system leadership to consider in support of their physicians and care teams during COVID-19.

Indian Government To Re-Examine Advisory On Efficacy Of Ashwagandha

The Ministry of Ayush in India has decided to re-examine the matter pertaining to the use of Ashwagandha — Withania somnifera — leaves in Ayurveda, Siddha and Unani (ASU) drugs by constituting an expert group to this end.

The Ayush Ministry earlier had directed ASU drug manufacturers to refrain from the usage of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) leaves, saying that no substantial evidence and literature is available to endorse the efficacy of crude drug or extract of Ashwagandha.

The Ministry also issued an advisory to all ASU Drugs Manufacturers Associations seeking the manufacturers of the crude drug/extracts, sellers, ASU drug manufacturing companies, ASU drug exporters not to use Withania somnifera leaves either in crude or extract or any other form for therapeutic purposes under the ambit of ASU drugs.

“No substantial evidence and literature is available to endorse the efficacy of crude drug/extract of Withania somnifera leaves. Considering this, it would not be appropriate to consider the Withania somnifera leaves as ASU medicine at this stage,” the ministry had said in its advisory.

However, after industry’s intervention, the Ayush Ministry invited the stakeholders to discuss their concerns about utilization of Ashwagandha leaves in ASU products.

After the discussion with the ASU industry partners, the Ministry of Ayush has decided to set up an expert group to re-examine the advisory issued to the drug manufacturers to refrain from using Ashwagandha leaves.

The group will make appropriate recommendations to the Centre on the use of Ashwagandha leaves and Panchanga of Ashwagandha in ASU products based on scientific evidence. (IANS)

Prevention Is Better Than Cure The Significance of Your Annual Physical Exam

Advika was in her late forties. Despite feeling tired and noting some abnormal pains during her monthly cycle, she declined to go to the doctor. The cost of traveling to the doctor was expensive and she didn’t have the extra funds or time to take a day off work for the trip. Eventually, she started feeling so bad that working was almost impossible. Finally, she went to the doctor, only to find out that she had an advanced stage of cervical cancer.

While we would all wish that her story was rare, the truth is that undiagnosed cancer happens frequently in India. Advanced stages of cancer are less likely to be cured and have a greater chance of relapse. In stage one, for instance, the cure rate is around 85% but that number falls dramatically for those in stage 3. Cancer patients who are diagnosed with stage 4 cancer are not likely to survive for more than five years.

The World Health Organization says that cancer is diagnosed in more than 14 million people worldwide annually and ends up killing approximately 8.8 million. What is most shocking is that two-thirds of these deaths are in low-middle income countries where diagnosis is found to be inadequate.

Indian system of modern medicine does not promote an annual preventive physical exam for patients even though several private hospitals promote comprehensive executive check ups for the wealthy.  Its time to change that. Identifying chronic diseases like Diabetes, Hypertension, and heart diseases early and managing them is a lot more effective than managing and treating its complications.

In the United States, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is an independent, volunteer panel of national experts in disease prevention and evidence-based medicine. The Task Force works to improve the health of people nationwide by making evidence-based recommendations about clinical preventive services. “The Prevention TaskForce” application assists primary care clinicians to identify the screening, counseling, and preventive medication services that are appropriate for their patients. Government of India could implement a similar project and use the lessons learned in the United States and other countries.

If all patients in India have access to complimentary annual preventive physical exam, including routine lab tests and cancer screenings, this will increase the chances of finding cancer and deadly diseases earlier and will enhance the likelihood of a cure. The cost to the taxpayers of India will eventually be far less as we prevent long term complications of Cancer and Chronic diseases.

For the individual patient who is covering the costs of seeing a doctor, the idea of annual physical examination when they feel fine seems like a waste of financial resources. As has become the case in countries around the world, primary care and annual physical examinations are beginning to disappear. As telehealth and digital medicine options have continued to increase in use, particularly during the pandemic, the idea of a traditional physical exam has come under greater scrutiny. A combination physical exam and telehealth might be the way of the future in keeping our nation healthy.

The annual physical exam is part of the larger discussion about primary care and whether it is necessary. In the U.S., India, and other countries around the world, medicine has become the way you manage disease, not prevent it. Primary care, on the other hand, is a way to prevent disease by talking with patients about their potential health risks and giving them practical advice on how to care for their health, while considering their unique lifestyle challenges.

Unfortunately, there is little discussion about how focusing on primary care, including the annual physical exam, could positively impact the costs of healthcare. Far too often, individuals throughout the world find themselves waiting to seek medical attention until they are much sicker, simply because they do not have the funds to afford basic preventive primary care or may struggle to stick with prescribed preventive health measures and lifestyle changes due to costs or social status.

While telemedicine does offer a way for physicians to connect with their patients in a cost-effective manner, there is something to be said for having a patient in front of you, where you can physically examine them. When a patient disagrees with their doctor, for instance, having a physical exam can give you data that informs the discussion and could be helpful in getting the patient on board with the treatment options available.

A patient who might be looking for antibiotics to treat a respiratory infection might feel better about not needing medication when they know that their lungs are clear, and their oxygen saturation levels are within normal range.

Telehealth does offer a means for doctors to understand the home environment of their patients and give them the opportunity to connect more frequently with their patients throughout the year. Virtual visits can also respect the patient’s time, as well as the doctor’s. Plus, technology is continuing to improve the ways available for doctors to collect physical data from their patients without physically having them in the office.

End stage renal diseases can be prevented by preventing or managing health conditions that cause kidney damage, such as diabetes and high blood pressure The costs for cancer treatments increase dramatically at later stages, as your medical team deals with the cancer and its side effects. Families often see any cancer diagnosis as a huge financial blow, meaning that they are also willing to make choices between treatment and caring for family needs. Annual physical exams, which include routine tests and screenings, could be a way to save individuals and their loved ones the financial and emotional costs of cancers and many other preventable diseases.

How can we make this happen in an affordable way using digital technology platforms like Telehealth? India being a leader in digital technology- this can be implemented more efficiently and make healthcare more accessible to common man especially in rural areas across the nation.

American Association of Physicians  of Indian Origin (AAPI), the largest ethnic physician organization in the United states, representing over 100,000 Indain American Physicians, has initiated preventive healthcare screenings in 75 villages to understand the concept of preventive screenings help to diagnose any silent diseases which are causing premature deaths from Coronary heart disease and cancers like Breast cancer, cervical cancer which are preventable if diagnosed early through these annual screenings as mentioned above.

During the annual Global Healthcare Summit AAPI has planned to organize in India at Hotel AVASA in Hyderabad from January 5th to 7th, 2022, physician leaders from the United States and India will have an opportunity to brainstorm and explore ways to focus on the theme, “Transformation of Healthcare through Telehealth and Technology usage during this post Covid Era” recommend possible ways to plan and implement preventive medicine that will save resources and precious human lives.

It’s our hope that Government of India will appoint an expert panel of nationally recognized experts in the disciplines of preventive medicine and primary care, including internal medicine, family medicine, geriatrics, pediatrics, preventive medicine, behavioral medicine, public health, obstetrics and gynecology, and nursing to create an Indian Preventive Task Force (IPTF) recommendations should be promoted and Implemented as part of the Free annual physical exam or telemedicine visit at Government Hospitals and Primary care centers. Private hospitals and Insurance companies should be encouraged to provide Annual Physical exam or Telehealth visit, following IPTF recommendations for free or at affordable cost. Many of the routine lab tests, vaccinations, blood pressure checks and some cancer screenings like self-breast examination can be done remotely and event at patient’s home with the help of Asha workers. The annual physical exam is a critical part of quality primary care and one that needs to be automatically covered as part of Indian healthcare system.

To shift our healthcare from being disease and treatment centered, we need to elevate the value of primary care, particularly the annual physical exam and recognize how critical this is to having a healthy nation and a healthier world.

With one of the largest populations in the World, India could lead the World in providing quality health care to all its citizens and the recent COVID-19 vaccination drive is a great example. The biggest democracy in the World needs urgent Investment in the health of all its citizens and reform the public healthcare system.

*Dr. Anupama Gotimukula is the President of American Association of Physicians  of Indian Origin (AAPI), resides in San Antonio, TX. A board certified Pediatric Anesthesiologist, practicing since 2007, Dr. Gotimukula is affiliated with Christus Santa Rosa, Baptist and Methodist Healthcare systems in San Antonio.

*Prof. (Dr.) Joseph M. Chalil is an Adjunct Professor & Chair of the Complex Health Systems advisory board at Nova Southeastern University’s School of Business; Chairman of the Indo-American Press Club and The Universal News Network publisher.

*He recently published a Best Seller Book – “Beyond the COVID-19 Pandemic: Envisioning a Better World by Transforming the Future of Healthcare.”

Biden-Harris Administration’s Efforts Addressing Addiction And Overdose

In its first-year drug policy priorities, the Biden-Harris Administration outlined a strategy that includes expanding access to evidence-based prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and recovery support services, as well reducing the supply of illicit drugs. Since January, the Office of National Drug Control Policy has worked with other agencies across the government to advance President Biden’s drug policy priorities. Among the actions taken in the first nine months of the Biden-Harris Administration are:

The American Rescue Plan invested nearly $4 billion to allow the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and Health Resources and Services Administration to expand access to vital mental health and substance use disorder services. The funding also included $30 million in supports for harm reduction services—a historic amount that will enhance interventions like syringe services programs.

HHS released the Practice Guidelines for the Administration of Buprenorphine for Treating Opioid Use Disorder, which exempt eligible health care providers from Federal certification requirements related to training, counseling and other ancillary services that are part of the process for obtaining a waiver to treat up to 30 patients with buprenorphine. This action expands access to evidence-based treatment by removing a critical barrier to buprenorphine prescribing.

DEA lifted a decade-long moratorium on opioid treatment programs that want to include a mobile component. This rule change will help provide treatment to rural and other underserved communities, including incarcerated individuals.

CDC and SAMHSA announced that Federal funding may now be used to purchase fentanyl test strips in an effort to help curb the dramatic spike in drug overdose deaths.

ONDCP designated six new counties as part of its High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program. These counties, located in states like California, Illinois, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania, will receive support for regional law enforcement efforts to disrupt and dismantle drug trafficking organizations.

ONDCP provided funding for the nationwide expansion of the HIDTA Overdose Response Strategy to all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia. The Strategy brings together drug intelligence officers and public health analysts at the local and regional level to share information and develop evidence-based intervention and support services that reduce overdoses.

ONDCP provided funding to support the establishment of state-level model legislation that advances efforts to expand access to harm reduction services, as well as promote equity in access to treatment and drug enforcement efforts for underserved communities.

ONDCP hosted more than 300 State, local, and Tribal leaders from all 50 States, Washington, D.C., American Samoa, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Northern Mariana Islands for a virtual convening entitled “Opioid Litigation Settlement: Using Evidence to Lead Action.”

At the convening, government officials, researchers, and experts discussed how State, local, and Tribal governments can use evidence and data to guide decisions about how funds from opioid litigation can be spent to address addiction and the overdose epidemic, while advancing equity.

ONDCP, HHS, and DOJ presented to Congress the Biden-Harris Administration’s recommendations for a long-term, consensus approach to reduce the supply and availability of illicitly manufactured fentanyl-related substances (FRS), while protecting civil rights and reducing barriers to scientific research for all Schedule I substances.

ONDCP announced $13.2 million in grants for 106 Drug-Free Communities (DFC) Support Programs across the country working to prevent youth substance use, including prescription drugs, marijuana, tobacco, and alcohol. In June, ONDCP announced $3.2 million for 65 communities nationwide for its Community-Based Coalition Enhancement Grants to Address Local Drug Crisis Program to reduce youth substance use.

ONDCP announced the release of a model law for state legislatures that would help ensure opioid litigation settlement funds are directed to addressing addiction and the overdose epidemic in impacted communities and with public accountability.

ONDCP released a new, holistic U.S.-Colombia counternarcotics strategy developed by the Counternarcotics Working Group between the United States and Colombian governments that broadens focus to include specific actions on rural security and development, environmental protection, and supply reduction.

HHS announcement of the new HHS Overdose Prevention Strategy, which focuses on expanding primary prevention, harm reduction, evidence-based treatment, and recovery support services for all Americans. The HHS Overdose Prevention Strategy builds on the Biden-Harris Administration’s year one drug policy priorities and actions taken by the Administration to address addiction and the overdose epidemic since January.

In addition to these actions, the President’s FY22 budget request calls for a $41.0 billion investment for national drug program agencies, a $669.9 million increase over the FY 2021 enacted level. The largest increases in funding are for critical public health interventions to expand research, prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and recovery support services, with targeted investments to meet the needs of populations at greatest risk for overdose and substance use disorder. The FY22 budget request also includes significant investments in reducing the supply of illicit substances.

Drug Overdose Deaths In US Hit Record High Amid Pandemic

More than 100,000 Americans have died from drug overdoses in the yearlong period ending in April amid the raging Covid-19 pandemic, a media report said citing provisional figures from the National Center for Health Statistics.

It is for the first time the number of overdose deaths in the US has surpassed 100,000 a year after increasing almost 30 per cent from the 78,000 fatalities in the prior year, Xinhua news agency quoted The New York Times report as saying.

Overdose deaths have more than doubled since 2015, said the report, adding that it resulted from losing access to treatment, rising mental health problems and wider availability of dangerously potent street drugs.

The fatalities have lasting repercussions, since most of them occurred among people aged 25 to 55, in the prime of life, Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse was quoted as saying.

According to experts, overdoses increased in all but four of the 50 US states. The number of deaths from drugs has now surpassed those from guns, car crashes and the flu.

The highest increase in overdose deaths was recorded in Vermont, where the number of fatalities rose 70 per cent to 209. Vermont was followed by West Virginia (62 per cent) and Kentucky (55 per cent). (IANS)

US COVID-19 Deaths In 2021 Is More Than 2020

The United States passed yet another sobering milestone in the COVID-19 pandemic as the number of 2021 coronavirus deaths surpassed the 2020 total.

According to the latest available data from Johns Hopkins University, the U.S. has reached at least 770,691 COVID-19 deaths over the full course fo the pandemic.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that the total number of deaths involving COVID-19 in 2020 was 385,343.

That means that at least 385,348 COVID-19 deaths — 15 more than the 2020 total —have so far been recorded in 2021, and that number will only rise in the days and weeks to come.

In June, a Wall Street Journal analysis found that global COVID-19 deaths in 2021 had already surpassed 2020 numbers. The newspaper reported at the time that 1.883 people had died in connection with COVID-19 at that point in 2021, surpassing the global death toll of 1.88 million from 2020.

The grim U.S. milestone comes despite the fact that three COVID-19 vaccines have been authorized in the country, most recently for children as young as 5 years old.

About 69 percent of the U.S. population are at least partially vaccinated, while 59 percent are fully vaccinated, according to CDC data.

Among that group, Americans aged 65 years and older boast impressively high vaccination rates. Nearly 100 percent of people in that age range are at least partially vaccinated, while 86 percent are fully vaccinated, per CDC data.

While the U.S. started to celebrate a decline of COVID-19 cases in September, those numbers have steadily started trending upward again. Last week, 29 states saw higher COVID-19 counts than the week prior.

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