“I pledge to all AAPI members that we shall not rest on our laurels and become complacent,” says Dr. Ravi Kolli, who will assume charge as the President of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) during the historic 40th annual Convention on June 25th, 2022, in San Antonio, Texas. “I will work hard to keep AAPI focused on its core mission and conduct all of its activities and business beyond reproach in a transparent, accountable, and responsible manner.”
Dr. Ravi Kolli, a Board-Certified Psychiatrist with specializations in Addiction, Geriatrics, and Forensic Psychiatry, serving as the Psychiatric Medical Director of Southwestern Pennsylvania Human Services, was a Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh and West Virginia University. Dr. Kolli has over four decades of experience in the healthcare field. He graduated from Rangaraya Medical College, NTR University of Health Sciences Medical School in 1981. He is affiliated with medical facilities at the Washington Health System Greene and Washington Hospital.
Dr. Kolli’s association with AAPI began over two decades ago. “My good friends, Dr. Prabir Mullick and Dr. Krishna Kasi first introduced me to the local chapter of AAPI, and I became very involved.” Initially, he used his web designing skills to develop and maintain the website of the local chapter, their publications, and email blasts, which he continues to do. He was involved with his Alumni Chapter of Rangaraya Medical College, which boasts of over 500 active members, and became its President. Later, he was elected as the President of the Telugu Medical Graduates of USA and has done similar tasks besides leading them to greater heights.
“As I started attending AAPI national meetings and annual conventions in the past decade, I got to know the national AAPI national leadership teams and was impressed by their dedication and commitment. So, I got involved more and was later elected as the Regional Director, then as the national AAPI Secretary and eventually as the Vice President and now the President of the national AAPI.”
Dr. Kolli understands the importance of assuming charge as the President of AAPI, “a very prestigious, dedicated, and powerful organization, representing over 120,000 physicians of Indian origin, with an active membership of at least 14,000 life members and in addition to the members of the more than 120 local chapters, chapters of Alumni and Specialty associations across the nation. Being a leader of this organization is a great honor and responsibility,” Dr. Kolli says, “With great power comes to a greater responsibility as well” and believes that “To whomever much is given, of him will much be required; and to whom much was entrusted, of him more will be asked.”
“In my role as the President of AAPI, I will be working closely with my executive committee, BOT, leaders, and all the members of AAPI to make It a more dynamic and vibrant organization playing a meaningful and relevant part in advocating for health policies and practices that best serve the interests of all patients and promoting the physician’s role as the leaders of the team-based health care delivery,” Dr. Kolli says. “I will also be promoting the mission and vision of AAPI by working closely with AAPI’s 120 + patron Chapters to align all of our goals and activities and also bring in new Chapters into AAPI fold.”
Dr. Kolli has previously served as the Chair of the IT committee of AAPI, Convention AV Co-Chair, and a member of several Committees of AAPI including Endowment fundraising, Geriatric, IT, GME Liaison, South Asian CVD and Childhood obesity awareness and Obesity awareness programs and Adopt a Village Plan and more. As the Chair of the AAPI Membership Committee, Dr. Kolli worked diligently to recruit new members especially the younger physicians and recent graduates.
He had previously served as the Secretary, Vice President, and eventually as the President of Pittsburgh TAPI in 2012-13 and has been involved in organizing several annual meetings of the TAPI and AAPI-CF fundraiser dinners for over a decade.
Being a Psychiatrist by profession and among the many goals Dr. Kolli has set for himself and something that is very dear to him, is to “focus on battling the stigma of mental illness and access to quality mental health care broadly and widely. I will be forming liaisons with mental health professionals in India and globally and bring awareness of various biopsychosocial therapeutic options to promote wellness and recovery from mental illness and substance use disorders. We will also actively promote physician wellness and self-care to address the challenges of physician burnout and suicide.”
Empowering physicians as the leaders in the delivery of evidence-based health care by engaging with policymakers, governmental agencies at all levels and the private sector is a major area where Dr. Kolli wants to direct the efforts for AAPI. Some of the other areas, he wants AAPI to focus on under his leadership include: Connect with the next generation physicians for their participation in all areas of organizational leadership and activities; Advocate for expediting the GC Backlog for physicians through legislation; Promotion of mental health awareness, tackling mental illness, substance abuse and suicide devastating the nation; Planning International Medical Missions with our AAPI physicians to serve communities globally.
Realizing the early challenges and struggles faced by the pioneering leaders of AAPI, Dr. Kolli says, “We are eternally thankful to our senior AAPI leaders who fought hard to end discrimination against IMG and achieved parity of having the same USMLE for all medical graduates for state medical licensures as well as for residency training program requirements. Our senior AAPI leaders have been a great source of reliable support and encouragement and every conversation and interaction with them has been educational and inspirational. I pledge to build upon their legacy to keep AAPI relevant and in the forefront in fighting any semblance of discrimination, microaggressions, and inequity across all walks of health care and medical education opportunities.”
While acknowledging the contributions of the pioneers, who have started AAPI and made it a formidable organization, Dr. Kolli says, “my passion for service has been enhanced by my association with so several AAPI leaders who have dedicated their time and efforts and lives working for AAPI. I am really impressed by the past leaders and I take inspiration from them. I respect them, and I value their guidance.”
Having clarity of mind and purpose and very clear about what he wants to carry out as the President of this prestigious organization, Dr. Kolli says, “I have clear goals. I have a collaborative leadership style and have sustainable and sincere plans to make AAPI better and brighter.” He wants to work with teams, reaching out to leaders and members, from top to bottom and center to periphery of the organization, with open communication and inclusive leadership.
Looking back to his childhood about, what inspired him to become a physician Dr. Kolli says, “I come from a family of physicians,” “Among my five brothers, 3 of us are physicians and I was the youngest. My father’s two brothers were physicians as well as their spouses. We have a long tradition of being a family of physicians. Counting all together, we have about 40 physicians and counting, among our cousins, nieces, and nephews in my family of three generations. So, it was a natural course for me to be a physician as well” Dr. Kolli explains.
Growing up in a family where his dad was a state government official in the Andhra Pradesh state transportation department, Dr. Kolli and his family traveled from place to place every three years with the transfer of his dad, which was a huge challenge. However, “That gave me a wider and unique perspective on life, with the opportunity to meet new people, in new places and environments. It was an enriching experience in some ways and though we didn’t have any roots in one place, we had a wider network of friends and associates all around the state.”
Dr. Kolli and his siblings loved sports both indoor and outdoor, he explains, “All of us were very athletic. We played tennis and cricket and we were all good at it. We played for colleges, and universities, and one of my brothers played for the state. So, we were sought out to play for the local teams and clubs wherever we lived at.”
“Psychiatry was my passion from my medical college days. That was a profession by choice not by default. It was my chosen vocation.” says Dr. Kolli. “I had developed an interest in psychology, behavioral health, and medicine right from the medical school. There were not that many opportunities in India at that time for psychiatric training, which was my career goal.” And therefore, seeking educational and training opportunities, Dr. Kolli immigrated to the United States in 1983 following his elder brother Dr. Prasad Kolli, his earliest role model, who moved to the US in 1974.
Acknowledging that being the president of AAPI is a unique opportunity,” Dr. Kolli says, “My goals are to help the physicians find more balance in their career and fulfillment, and gain empowerment to overcome many of the challenges that they are facing with covid and post-covid and financial and personal strains they have gone through over the years.” I want to address physicians’ wellness and help them to be more autonomous and able to influence the policies and future direction of healthcare as well as our own careers. Many of our next generation children are going into medicine as well and we must make sure that the future generations of physicians have many more opportunities for their professional growth and leadership.”
“AAPI is very young, dynamic, and active,” Dr. Kolli says. “Every year nearly 500 -1000 new members are joining AAPI. My goal is to bring as many like-minded people as possible who are loyal and committed to AAPI goals and values, on one page, one theme, and on one track to solve the problems collectively. It is important for us not to stay apart and fall apart but come together and stand together and make AAPI strong.”
Dr. Kolli believes that AAPI should be able to “help solve public health issues, professional challenges, and provide members with a sense of accomplishment and a sense of belonging. The purpose is to bring everyone together. Being a psychiatrist, I think I have the right kind of temperament and the capability to communicate with emotional intelligence, calm attitude, and openness and empathy for me to be able to do that.”
Dr. Kolli understands the diversity of AAPI and its members. With a broader vision, inclusive ideology, and openness to people of varied views, backgrounds, and regions, Dr. Kolli is confident that he can collaborate well with members, who may have different views and perceptions, for the common good of AAPI and its growth. “We all come from diverse backgrounds and have different goals, but at the same time, we have to find some mutual interests and ideals and work towards realizing those common objectives based on our cherished values,” Dr. Kolli says.
Having played cricket and being a team captain, Dr. Kolli understands the importance of teamwork. “Being a team leader means we must help each other to realize our full potential and stand by each other during challenging times. You need to inspire other team members. You have to be the role model and the hardest-working member of the team. We must make everyone feel confident in their own abilities and have faith in you as a leader.”
Describing himself as “fairly calm, balanced, non-judgmental, kind, open-minded, respectful of other people,” Dr. Kolli says, “I believe in being empathic, I try to look at different points of view. I do not think one is always right and has all the answers and others are wrong and vice versa. There are different perspectives and ways of looking at any problem. Very often things are not black and white, and one size does not fit all. But if we all follow the same set of rules and norms, we are likely to have a more sustainable and successful outcome. So, it is essential to make sure ground rules are fair, clear, and consistent, follow them diligently, and help AAPI move forward smoothly.”
Despite his busy schedule, Dr. Kolli makes time available to play Rummy and socialize with three diverse groups of friends regularly for over a quarter-century. “We have a Kannada group of friends. I have a Telugu group of friends and a group of friends from all over India, from Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Telangana, and Karnataka as well as other regions with whom I play cards on some weekends, which is great opportunity to connect, belong, socialize and relax.”
Dr. Kolli earnestly believes “I am a positive person and I try not to look for ways to find fault and criticize other people just to score a point. I don’t make harsh judgments on others, because I believe, everyone is trying and working hard to make AAPI stronger and better. I am fully aware that it takes a lot of dedication and passion, often sacrificing personal, professional, and family times to work on the goals of AAPI. All of those who served and serving AAPI deserve respect and acknowledgment for their dedication and commitment.”
During his presidency, Dr. Kolli wants “to focus on physician well-being and breaking the barriers of mental health stigma, connect with Indian Diaspora here and back home and with the Indian professionals, students and to promote good learning experiences and opportunities and to make it better for the future generation in every way.” Dr. Kolli assures that “We will work together to promote our values of professionalism, collegiality, excellence in patient care and enhance AAPI’s reputation as a premier professional organization offering educational programs and advocacy.”