The historic 40th annual convention organized by the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) concluded at the world-famous Riverwalk Henry B Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio in Texas on Saturday, June 25th, 2022 with a Gala Bollywood Nite, during which a new Leadership Team led by Dr. Ravi Kolli assumed charge of the four decades old premier Medical Organization, representing the strong and powerful 120,000 physicians of Indian heritage.
The four days long annual convention and scientific assembly, attended by over 10,000 AAPI delegates, while celebrating the achievements of the Indian American Physicians, focused on the theme, “Physician Heal Thyself” with several unique and first-of-a-kind opportunities to help AAPI members self-care, especially in the context of Covid related physicians burn out, paid tributes and celebrated freedom and democracy, honoring India and its 75 years of Independence Day celebrations- co-sponsored by the Embassy of India & the Consulate General of India (CGI) – Houston.
“AAPI’s strength is its numbers and members. Our Sakthi is in our Samkhya and our Sabhyas,” Dr. Ravi Kolli stated in his inaugural address immediately after he assumed charge as the 41st President of AAPI. “You are that powerful threads of this colorful and strong fabric, and your participation and contributions are essential for its continued success. So, thank you all,” Dr. Kolli told AAPI delegates and distinguished guests who had packed the Ball Room at the Henry Gonzalez Convention Center during the Presidential Gala.
Dr. Kolli will work with Dr. Anjana Sammadar, President-Elect; Dr. Satheesh Kathula, Vice President; Dr. Meherbala Medavaram, Secretary and Dr. Sumul Raval, Treasurer of AAPI for the year 2022-23. Dr. V. Ranga will serve as the Chair, AAPI Board of Trustees. Giving representation and strengthening the voice of young physicians of Indian origin, Dr. Pooja Kinkhabwala will serve as the President, AAPI Young Physicians Section (YPS) and Dr. Ammu Susheela is the President of AAPI- Medical Student/Residents & Fellows Section (MSRF). Dr. Anupama Gotimukula will serve as the Immediate Past President of AAPI.
Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, the Immediate Past President of AAPI said, “Our leadership team has worked diligently on so many wonderful projects and activities including educational, philanthropic, legislative, networking, and many more activities benefitting our members and communities. This has been possible because of the incredible work and support from the dedicated team of leaders, members, and our supporting office staff,” the only 4th woman President of AAPI in the four decades long history of AAPI, said.
“Our physician members have worked very hard during the covid 19 pandemic. The 2022 convention is a perfect time to heal the healers with a special focus on wellness,” said Dr. Jayesh Shah, Chair of AAPI Convention 2022. Dr. Shah praised the dedication and generosity of each member for giving their best, to make this Convention truly a memorable one for every participant.
Put together by a highly talented and dedicated team of Convention Committee members, the convention was filled with programs and activities that cater to the body, mind and soul. The Convention was a unique experience for everyone, Dr. Sathessh Kathula, Secretary of AAPI said.
During the BOT luncheon chaired by Dr. Kusum Punjabi, the youngest ever to hold the position, handed over the office to the new Chair, Dr. Vishweshwar R. Ranga. In her address, Dr. Punjabi highlighted the many initiatives under her leadership. She said, “The Board of Trustees this year has launched the AAPI Medical Project Grant (MPG). The purpose of this grant is to financially support AAPI medical students/residents/fellows/young physicians in various medical projects such as observerships, community service projects, entrepreneurships, innovation developments, etc.:
Dr. V. Ranga in his address he said, “My goal in the coming year is to formalize and create AAPI leadership academy working with executives from American College of Physicians for the development of leadership roles for all AAPI members. I want to work hard to engage young physicians and attract them to AAPI. They are the future of AAPI.”
Dr. Surender Purohit, Chair of AAPI’s Charitable Foundation provided a brief summary of the many initiatives AAPI has undertaken in recent years, especially benefitting the remotest villages in the country.
Welcoming AAPI delegates to San Antonio, Ron Nirenberg, Mayor of San Antonio, declared June 24th as AAPI Day and International Yoga Day in the City of San Antonio. While praising AAPI and its members for their contributions, Nirenberg said, “We are honored to host the largest gathering of Indian American physicians in our vibrant city, home to some of the best healthcare facilities in the nation.”
AAPI delegates had a rare glimpse to the rich cultural heritage of India through a video presentation depicting the unique diversity of India and a variety of mesmerizing performances of Indian/Mexican Fusion Dances, ranging from Bharatnatyam, folk dances, and the traditional Indian dances in sync with Mexican pop dances, which were a treat to the hearts and souls of everyone. National Spieling Bee Champion 2022 Harini Logan was recognized during the convention Gala.
In his keynote address, Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu lauded the several initiatves of AAPI over the past four decades and said, “Over the past four decades, AAPI has been doing an outstanding job in advocacy and health education. You play an important role, especially during the Covid Pandemic/” Speaking at length on the growing Indo-US relationship, the veteran diplomat said, “Over the last two decades, India and the United States have overcome the hesitations of history and fashioned a remarkable partnership, built on a bipartisan consensus in the U.S. and cross-party support in India.” Elaborating on the collaboration between India and the US, he said, “From the provision of active pharmaceutical ingredients to generic medicines that have lowered drug prices and created jobs and investments, India has demonstrated its reliability as a supply chain partner, especially as de-risking from single country supplies has become a priority.”
Aseem Mahajan, Consul General of India in Houston, referred to the significance of “India and the United States, the two most vibrant democracies, representing two great multicultural societies with shared values, who are natural partners” working together in several areas of interest to both the nations.
Dr. Jack Resneck, President of American Medical Association praised the contributions and achievements of Indian American physicians, who serve and provide best healthcare to every 7th patient in the United States. “It’s time our nation renews our commitment to you for the incredible services you provide to our nation,” he said. During a Plenary session, he provided a detailed description of the many steps AMA has been undertaking to root out the causes for physician burn out and enhance healthcare delivery in the nation through education and advocacy at the state and national levels.
Keynote speaker, Little Master Sunil Gavaskar was introduced by Venky Adivi, Chief Executive Officer of the Convention. Gavaskar, a record holder of numerous international Cricket matches, in his address said, “Yours is the greatest of all professions in the world. You have put your lives at risk during the Pandemic to save the lives of others. Yours is the noble profession that I have admired always.”
Dr. Rahul Gupta, the nation’s “drug czar” and top drug policy official, while conveying the greetings from President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris praised the contributions of Indian American Physicians. “The role of the Drug Czar has never been as critical as it’s today,” he told the AAPI delegates, who have been advocating for prize control of drugs to contain overall healthcare costs. “AS physicians of Indian Origin, we have learnt to find simple solutions to complex problems. We need 21st century solutions to 21st century problems.” And he encouraged his colleagues to think and find ways to make a difference in the healthcare delivery in the country.
Others who addressed the Convention included Dr. Bobby Mukamala, Chair of BOT at American Medical Association, Congressman Joaquin Castro from Texas, and Peter Jay Hortez,, who was part of the plenart session on “Covid Vaccination Globally and Vaccine Hesitancy.”
In her spiritual discourse, Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, PhD, Spiritual leader, teacher and author, while pointing to how we are creating a vicious negative health through fear, stress and anxiety in this country, her message today was to focus on the Synonym for HEALTH: Health, Embrace, Allow, Love, Time for yourself, and Help others.
In his live video message, Paramaguru Sharath Jois, Lineage holder of Ashtanga Yoga, told AAPI leaders as to how “each of you have sacrificed your life. I congratulate the organizers for focusing on heal the healers and using Yoga our traditional method to help us in our daily lives.” Referring to the 7th anniversary of India’s Independence he said, “It must help us transcend all that divide us on the basis of caste, creed and status.”
The much anticipated wellness package in collaboration with all the 10 City Council Districts of San Antonio, TX and Mayor Ron Nirenberg and iDoYoga San Antonio organized its flagship Free Yoga Classes and Education on the benefits and ways to make yoga a part of one’s daily life during the course of the entire convention. The convention was focused 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.
Led by internationally famed yoga gurus, including Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, PhD, Spiritual leader, teacher and author; Paramaguru Sharath Jois, Lineage holder of Ashtanga Yoga; and, Eddie Stern, Yoga teacher, speaker and author, the highly anticipated and popular Yoga on the famous Riverwalk was part of the global celebration of the 8th International Day of Yoga (IDY).
Some of the major themes at the convention included: 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. Yoga gurus and experts 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.
Dr. Anjana Sammadar, President-Elect , pointed out: “There was a sense of joy and relief on the faces of the over 1,000 physicians who have come together to celebrate their achievements, contributions, and to network and deepen their relationship even as the Covid Pandemic is waning and people are able to mingle freely and interact with one another cautiously.”
AAPI delegates attended a multidisciplinary CME conference that allowed specialists and primary care physicians to interact in an academic forum. World-renowned speakers discussed gaps between current and best practice of wide-ranging topics at the CME sessions.
Dr. Satheesh Kathula, Vice President of AAPI said, as many as CME credit hours have been provided by outstanding speakers all year and provided cutting edge CMEs to members. He thanked the Chicago Medical Society, Dr. Vemuri Murthy, Dr. Amit Chakraborty, CME Chair and Dr. Sagar Galvankar, & Co-Chair for their diligent efforts all the prominent speakers who shared their expertise with AAPI delegates.
Dr. Meherbala Medavaram said, some of the major events at the convention included: Workshops and hands-on sessions on well-being, 10-12 hours of CMEs, Women’s Forum, CEOs Forum, AAPI Got Talent, Mehfil, Bollywood Nite, Fashion Show, Medical Jeopardy, Poster/Research Contest, Alumni and Young Physicians events and Exhibition and Sale of Jewelry, Clothing, Medical Equipment, Pharma, Finance and many more.
According to Dr. Sumul Raval, the convention offered a venue for Physicians and healthcare professionals from across the country and internationally to convene and participate in the scholarly exchange of medical advances, to develop health policy agendas, and to encourage legislative priorities in the coming year.
The panelists at the prestigious Women’s Forum included: Dr. Juby A. Jacob-Nara, a Public Health Physician, Vice President and Head of Global Medical Respiratory Allergy & Gastroenterology (Sanofi-Genzyme); Dr. Kalpalatha Guntupalli, Endowed Professor for Pulmonary Disorders, Baylor College of Medicine; Dr. Sowjanya Mohan, Group Chief Medical Officer, Texas Group/Tenet Health; and, Ms. Rosemary Hickman, Semmes Foundation Education Manager at the Mcnay Art Museum.
The CEOs Forum moderated by Dr. Joseph Chalil had a panel of Industry Leaders including: Dr. Juby A Jacob-Nara, Vice President, Head of Global Medical- Sanofi-Genzyme; Robert Mattchione, from NOVA; Dr. Monika Kapur; Ms. Rebecca Seidel. Medtronix; and Mario Ball. A pioneering AAPI Medical Leadership Council is being formed to collaborate with Industry leaders and to be the voice of healthcare providers, said Dr. Chalil.
Mehfil gave AAPI members to showcase their skills. Dr. Satheesh Kathula in the incoming Vice President of API was declared the winner of the contest. During the popular Fashion Parade presented by world renowned fashion designer Archana Kochar had beautiful and handsome young men and women wearing handmade colorful apparel made by villagers in Madhya Pradesh, cat walked on the ramp.
Dozens of local children from ages 8 to 16, trained by Yoga Masters in San Antonio by presenting and demonstrating multiple Yoga Aasanas to the tune of Vande Mataram provided valuable education on Yoga and its importance in life. Every evening the popular AAPI Got Talent and each day of the convention had a specific theme. On Thursday, the theme chosen is “Unity in Diversity” and the delegates showcased one’s own state dress code. Heritage India was the theme for Friday honoring and celebrating India’s rich culture and diversity. On Saturday, the focus was on the much loved Bollywood with special performance by popular Bollywood singer Shaan, The cuisine served each will day match the theme chosen for each day.
Dr. Jagan Ailinani was honored with Life Time Achievement Award. The Distinguished Physician Award was given to Dr. Vijay Yeldandi and AAPI’s Most Distinguished Award was given to Dr. Ravindra Nathan. AAPI’s Most Distinguished YPS Award was given to Dr. Sejal Hathi and the AAPI’s Most Distinguished MSRF Award was given to Aaiswariya Gulani. r. Gotimukula honored Dr. Udaya Shivangi, Dr. Sujeeth Punnam, Dr. Dwarkanath Reddy and AAPI’s Legal Advisor with Presidential Awards for their dedication and support during her presidency.
“Welcome to Philadelphia for the 41st annual convention which will provide you all with extensive academic presentations, recognition of achievements and achievers, and professional networking at the al and evening social events,” Dr. Ravi Kolli announced. For more details, please visit: www.aapiconvention.org and www.aapiusa.org
By, Ajay Ghosh