BY JYOTHSNA HEGDE
Atlanta, GA, May 6, 2021: Officers of AAPI (American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin) including Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda, President, Dr. Ravi Kolli, Vice President, Dr. Satheesh Kathula, Treasurer, Dr. Malti Mehta, Regional Director, South, Dr. Sreeni Gangasani, Chair, AAPI Convention in Atlanta, past Board of Trustees, AAPI, GAPI, and Dr. Chandana Prabhudev, President, GAPI addressed a press meet to shed light on the catastrophic surge of the pandemic in India and the various initiatives from AAPI towards helping India heal. Praveen Puram, of Puram Media Creations facilitated the press meet.
One of the largest physician organizations in the US, second only to AMA, AAPI represents the interests of approximately 100,000 physicians in the US. AAPI is also the largest ethnic largest physician organizations in the US.
AAPI leaders underscored their initiatives including procuring, shipping, and distribution of essential equipment to India. AAPI leaders have planned meetings with Indian government ministries to understand the needs, and with US officials to forge support. Offering teleconsultations online for covid patients is also part of their initiative. AAPI shipped 1000 units of O2 concentrators, which will be distributed in India by Sewa International.
“In less than a week we (AAPI) were able to raise $2 million dollars which will be used to support India,” said Dr. Jonnalagadda, adding that AAPI had procured oxygen concentrations, which will be shipped through UPS, and distributed through several international partners.
Dr. Jonnalagadda requested the Biden Administration to support India with raw materials for vaccinations, medications, PPE and more during its crisis. He said the AAPI leadership will be in Washington D.C in the coming week to meet with lawmakers and VP Kamala Harris, in particular. The meeting, Dr. Jonnalagadda said, will focus on the need of the hour, supplying oxygenators, BiPAP, CPAP, ventilators, pulse oximeters, and mainly, shipping them to India. He added that AAPI leadership will be in a virtual meeting with Indian Health Minister, Dr. Harsh Vardhan to understand what India really needs. Dr. Jonnalagadda said AAPI will request that India implement lockdown, to slow down the infection spread.
“We are using Sewa International to help distribute whatever is sent, once it reaches India,” stated Dr. Jonnalagadda. He said Sewa, which works at grassroot levels, will initially service “isolated areas”, and then the government hospitals.
“Sewa was also able to quickly procure and get it manufactured to the specifications in India,” noted Dr. Kolli. “Thousands of Indian-American doctors are willing to help. But they just want some clearance to help without hindrance. If we can get that assurance from the government of India, we will make a big impact,” he noted.
“Astra Zeneca vaccines that are in plenty here can be sent to India and we will urging US politicians to do so,” said Dr. Kolli
“The crisis is not over here, either,” stated Dr. Kolli, especially when the mutant virus is here, urging everyone to follow CDC guidelines and get vaccinated. “Unless everyone is vaccinated, no one is safe.”
Addressing the under 16 age group not vaccinated, Dr. Kolli said it is best to be cautious and have teachers vaccinated, maintain social distancing and sanitize.
“Prevention is better than cure,” quoted Dr. Jonnalagadda, stressing upon the importance of getting vaccinated, wearing masks, and being cautious of the variant reaching the US, which he noted will collapse the system here also.
“We appreciate all contributions from AAPI members, and even non-members who trusted us with their contributions. We are proud of that,” said Dr. Kathula. “We are willing to help both patients and doctors in India.”
“There is no live virus involved in the vaccines. It actually increases immunity,” Dr. Kathula said.
“Every sixth patient is being treated by an Indian doctor in the United States,” cited Dr. Gangasani, adding that AAPI physicians are on the forefront for treating these COVID pandemic in the past one year. He commended AAPI’s efforts in organizing informational webinars to exchange and learn from each other’s experiences. “We have we have three telehealth platforms we are working with,” said Dr. Gangasani, adding, in its efforts to serve as a physician on humanitarian grounds to help patients in India, AAPI has identified and teleconsulting facilitates through http://Mdtok.com/dr/Covid and www.eGlobalDoctors.com platforms. Owing to the urgency, he said they opened up consultations for Indian patients with physicians across the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand to work around the clock. “The goal is to reassure people so that they don’t to go to the hospital, if they don’t need to,” noted Gangasani with the goal to reduce unnecessary ER visits. The tele consults will be available from 8 EST to 11 pm. Dr. Gangasani also alluded to various protocols and licensing issues that come into across countries and said they plan to discuss that at their meeting with the health minister.
“The 39th AAPI Convention will be held at Omni in Atlanta between July 2nd to 5th with all CDC precautions and guidelines,” said Dr. Gangasani
“There is no reason for you not to take vaccine,” urged Dr. Mehta. She highlighted various vaccine drives in Charlotte she organized and contributions to hospitals in India. She also said they donated towards electric furnaces since cremation has been a rising challenges. “I made 150 masks,” she said.
Dr. Prabhudeva initiated the discussion about mental health issues and the panel agreed that while it is easy to get carried away by emotions, it is important to be smart about health issues and get adequate rest.
AAPI will continue its efforts to raise funds to support India. Those who wish to contribute may use aapiusa.org.
India broke another record this weekend with more than 400,000 daily new cases, and its daily death toll doubled over the course of 10 days (April 19-29). Every aid seems like a drop in the ocean. But as Dr. Kathula rightly said, it is these small drops that make an ocean. As the physicians suggested, it is better to be safe than sorry. Get Vaccinated. Wear masks. Maintain social distancing. And sanitize. Follow CDC guidelines.
Thanks to Praveen Puram for sending NRI Pulse the recording.