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Glitz, Glamour, Entertainment & More at GAPI Annual Banquet

NRI Pulse Staff Report
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Atlanta, GA: The 27th annual convention and banquet of Georgia Association of Physicians of Indian Heritage (GAPI) was held on Saturday, May 2 at Crowne Plaza Hotel in Perimeter North, Atlanta.

The day-long event included the GAPI board meeting followed by the well attended medical education sessions, and ended with the banquet, which was attended by over 400 physicians and guests.  Grand décor, elegant lighting, soothing music, spectacular entertainment, inspired speeches and presentation of awards were the highlights of the evening. Secretary of State Brian Kemp, Insurance commissioner Ralph Hudgens, Assistant Insurance commissioner Jay Florence, Acting Consul General of India, R. Srinivasan, President of Medical Association of Georgia Dr. Manoj Shah, and CEOs of Gwinnett Clinic Ltd, Drs. Meena and JJ Shah graced the event.

The emcee for the evening, Rina Gupta, kept the audience captivated with her wit and enthusiasm. The program began with the Indian and US national anthems sung by Emory University students Tejal Pandharpurkar and Arooj Khalid.

An enthralling dance performance by the disciples of Uma Pulendran of Natya Dhaara followed. The first of the two beautifully choreographed fusion pieces was a prayer for Lord Ganesha, the remover of obstacles and the other was on Lord Nadarajah. Both were highly commended by the audience.

The entertainment for the evening also included popular songs by two winners of the IACA Atlanta Indian Idols 2015. Junior Champion Koyal Ansingkar and Senior finalist Sandeep Gowtha kept the audience mesmerized with their melodious rendition of popular Bollywood hits.

The grand finale of the entertainment segment was the fashion show by Bollywood Closet, Atlanta which presented an elegant collection of Sabyasachi creations. Fusion music, exquisite lighting and professionally choreographed sequences showcased the lovely models in beautiful saris and lehengas.

Sprinkled through the evening’s proceedings was the interactive pop quiz conducted by Rina Gupta that tested the audience’s knowledge on the history of GAPI. Correct answers were awarded with prizes.

In his brief keynote address, chief guest, Secretary of state Brian Kemp thanked GAPI for its admirable community involvement and said, the services provided by GAPI not only make Georgia a better place, but truly have a global impact. Kemp also spoke about his initiative called the ‘SEC primary’ for 2016. Kemp is banding with his counterparts in Tennessee,Alabama,Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas to have the presidential primary on March 1, 2016. The SEC initiative would make sure the presidential candidates, both Republican and Democratic, would come to Georgia and participate in the electoral process, and make the time to learn about the state, rather than merely attend fundraisers, he said.

Guest of honor, Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens spoke about recent developments his office has made regarding the unfair physician contracting practices of several of Georgia’s largest health insurance companies.

Dr. Manoj Shah, the first Indian descent president of Medical Association of Georgia (MAG) said that MAG is involved in many activities like advocacy in legislation at state level and also at federal level, in courts, and in governor’s office.

Professor Sagar Lonial, executive vice chair  of Emory Winship Cancer Institute said his parents brought him as a child to US and instilled Indian values of hard work and helping others which paved the way to finding success in his career. He proudly informed the attendees that Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University is the only NCI-Designated Cancer Institute in Georgia serving Georgians through education, research, prevention and cancer care with over 250 active clinical trials seeking out new ways to defeat cancer.

GAPI announced and distributed many awards during the latter part of evening. NRI Pulse editor Veena Rao received the media award recognizing her exemplary contribution to the society through journalism. The recipients of student scholarships were Arora Sahil, Banergee Anurag, Mylarapu Namratha and Patel Sagar based on their academic and overall excellence.

This year’s humanitarian award recipients were Stephen Daniels and Basnet Manikala. Daniels is one of the founders of Meals by Grace, a nonprofit organization which feeds many underprivileged school children who otherwise go hungry except for the food they get at school. Manikala is a tireless volunteer for Bhutani refugees’ welfare.  Acting Indian Consul General, R.. Srinivasan presented the certificates and monetary award of $1,000 for each winner and congratulated the awardees.

GAPI president Dr. Indrakrishnan thanked the organizations which worked with GAPI in conducting many successful social and fundraising events over the last one year. This includes APPNA, IACA, Third eye dancers, Soldiers’ angels, Tapestry, BAPS and  India Cultural Exchange of Emory University (ICE). He specially appreciated the office of the Consul General of India inAtlantafor their kindness in working closely with GAPI in their many official events including visits of Prime minister Narendra Modi, Health minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Indian foreign secretary Jaishankar and Indian foreign ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup. Dr Indrakrishnan appreciated the help and guidance from the GAPI executive committee, Board of trustees, Board of Directors, local media  and other well wishers  in making his tenure a memorable one for GAPI and the community.

He also thanked the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, the grand sponsor of the event, and all other sponsors for supporting this grand event.  He then introduced the new GAPI executive team for 2015 -16 which consists of Dr. Sudha Tata (President), Dr. Vijay Maurya (President- elect), Dr Raghu Lolabhattu (secretary) and Dr. Syamala Erramilli (treasurer).

Even in the midst of an incredible evening of enjoyment, the pain and suffering of people ofNepalstruck by earth quake were not at all forgotten. Dr. Prashant Garimella made an elaborate presentation as to the plight of this community and initiated a fund raising campaign on the floor.  More than $3000 dollars was collected within few minutes as the seed money and the efforts  will continue with more philanthropic activities for long term rehabilitation.

The enchanting evening ended with a scrumptious dinner provided by Urban Spice followed by DJ & dance.  ByteGraphs provided the audio visual service and stunning lighting effects.  The grand decorations of the venue were elegantly done by Sterling Décor.

The banquet was preceded by the GAPI Board Meeting during the day followed by the well attended medical education sessions. The board meeting was chaired by the outgoing chairman of GAPI Board of trustees, Dr. Santanu Das. Among many important matters, the roles of standing committees, upgrading the website and elections by laws were discussed.

Dr Sreeni Gangasani was elected as the new chairman of GAPI board of Trustees.  The medical education sessions that followed was chaired by Dr P.K. Natrajan  and moderated by Dr. Hemant Yagnick.  Many diversified topics such as tele medicine for ruralIndia, cyber threat in medicine: risky bites, current trends in medical practice ownerships, familial hyperlipidemia and anemia work up for primary care physicians were the fascinating topics presented and discussed.

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