The Healthy Convention

The Healthy Convention

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American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) hosted the 29th convention at New York City and showered all the healthy ingredients to make it a successful event, reports Mritunjay Kumar.

The Big Apple witnessed more than 2000 physicians and their families across North America in the 29th convention of American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI). The annual convention kickstarted from June 22 at the Hilton Hotel with the promise of providing education, entertainment and entrepreneurship opportunities to attendees over the course of five days and thereafter in afternoon a bus tour of the New York City followed by a performance by Charanjeet and his band.

The convention and exhibition was formally inaugurated June 23 by former Indian President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. The AAPI board of directors and trustees joined Kalam for the traditional lamp-lighting, followed by an address from outgoing AAPI President from Southern California, Dr. Ajeet Singhvi. He said the main aim of the convention is to provide a platform for members to “learn, enjoy, network and reminisce with old friends.”

Appreciating Kalam for gracing the convention and describing him as the “People’s President” and “Missile Man of India,” Singhvi said Kalam is one of those rare individuals that represent the highest form of human spirit.

While addressing hundreds of physicians, Kalam talked about several important events in his life that were responsible for shaping his views and ideology and touched upon various subjects like events in his life and mission youngsters should follow to achieve success. He spoke of tasks that had given him happiness and bliss through the years.

The former president, who has received honorary doctorates from more than 30 institutions worldwide, urged AAPI members to “think big” and said the results will follow. Citing examples from his career as a scientist, he said it is very important for physicians and engineers to work together to come up with cost-effective solutions for society.

He said that along with striving for success and perfection, it is also very important to manage failure. “No problem should be so big that it defeats you,” Kalam told the gathering. “You should be the captain of the problem and defeat it.”

He concluded his speech with a question: “What is the one action that will make you great?” and encouraged the audience to give vision to their ambition. Kalam was presented with a plaque as a token of appreciation and unveiled two books – the AAPI journal and another AAPI publication.

Event also attracted dignitaries from India as well as prominent politicians and community leaders.

Attendees included cricket great Kapil Dev; United States Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J.; Indian Ambassador Meera Shankar, Indian Minister of Commerce & Industry Anand Sharma and Minister of State for Science, Technology and Earth Sciences Ashwini Kumar.

All the sessions were really insightful and worth listening. Appealing to various age groups and interest areas, the organizing committee members had lined up seminars and discussions covering a wide range of topics like “Improving Global Health,” “Emerging Opportunities in Indian Health care Sector” and “Emerging Role of Minority Physicians.” Health seminars like-continuing medical education (CME) covered everything from LASIK surgery updates to heart health and stem cell research, hematology, psychiatry, aging, osteoporosis, robotics, drug abuse and addiction, sleep medicine, dermatology and hepatitis.

Other highlights included yoga sessions and award sessions recognizing community leaders, physicians and elected officials. Apart from education and networking, the convention also offered some stellar entertainment.

Every participant was treated to a fashion show June 23 by Sheetal boutique’s artistic designer Hemant Trivedi.

Titled “Anushthaan,” the fashion show featured 20 top models from India who displayed the latest trends in ethnic- and party-wear.

Trivedi’s lineup of dresses included a segment for each state in India and festivals like Ganesha Chaturthi, Holi, Ramadan, Vaisakhi, Christmas and Diwali. The fashion show was followed by a concert by Mika Singh, who made everyone hit the dance floor. While the young attendees grooved to fast-paced Bollywood music, classical music lovers were treated to Pandit Jasraj’s mesmerizing performance of Raag Megh Malhaar. The evening included a mandolin concert by child prodigy U. Srinivas and his brother U. Rajesh with Bikram Ghosh on the tabla.

The following day, June 24, saw several sessions and presentations including Anwar Feroz of Johnson & Johnson on the difference in health care in minority communities and a talk by Nobel laureate Dr. James Watson, of the Watson and Crick duo that discovered the double-helix formation of DNA.

One of the interesting presentations was-Watson’s presentations titled “Curing Incurable Cancers” and discussed covalent histone modification. The women’s forum held June 24 featured high-profile speakers like Reena Agarwal, the Robert E. McDonough Professor of Business Administration and professor of finance at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business; Barkha Dutt, group editor with NDTV in India; Ruchira Gupta, a social worker and founder of Apne Aap; and Chhavi Rajawat, the youngest sarpanch from Soda village in Rajasthan.

Established in 2002, Apne Aap is a movement to end sex slavery in India and has reached out to over ten thousand women since it started, Gupta said. She supported her talk with a slideshow and talked about the plight of girls as young as 10 years.

Aggarwal encouraged women to become better role models and to “take the lead,” while Dutt spoke about hypocrisy in India. She noted that while many of India’s most significant politicians are women, their representation in parliament is less than 10 percent. Rajawat spoke about the hardships her village faces, including a lack of job opportunities, steady electricity and drinkable water.

The gala dinner was held June 25, and outgoing president Dr. Ajeet Singhvi handed over the gavel to Dr. Sunita Kanumury signaling the change in leadership. Other officers elected for the incoming year are Dr. Narendra Kumar, president-elect; Dr. Jayesh Shah, vice president; Dr. Ravi Jahagirdar, secretary, Dr. Seema Jain, treasurer and Dr. Satish Anand, chair of board of trustees.

In her acceptance speech, Kanumury said, “The presence of many Indian-American physicians inspired me as we are about to embark on a journey that will take us beyond the map, a journey that will require us to embrace change, new ways of thinking and acting.”

Her agenda for the coming year will stay true to the slogan of “AAPI connects,” she said, adding her focus areas will include health care reform, political visibility and more member involvement.

In this year, AAPI will host two legislative meetings in Washington so physicians can meet with members of Congress and their staff to tell them ideas and concrete suggestions for a completely different way of thinking about health delivery systems, she said. The organization will also partner with the American Medical Association and state and county medical organizations to lobby for those issues that are very pertinent to medical profession.

Other speakers for the evening included Narain Naidu, a Nobel Prize nominee; Dr. Robert Wong, who has been named one of the most influential physicians in the United States and is a representative of the American Medical Association; Ambassador Meera Shankar, who spoke on the role played by AAPI and the contribution of Indian-American physicians; and Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.

The gala night ended with an electrifying performance by Bollywood playback singer Sunidhi Chauhan and ghazal maestro Ghulam Ali Khan. By making a promise to meet again in 30th convention with loads of new information and research, AAPI convention signed off happily.

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Somanjana Chatterjee

Somanjan Chatterjee is San Francisco based consulting editor