Indian American women doctors lead the healthcare challenge

“Never has there ever been such a strong representation of women leaders in AAPI’s leadership positions”

Ajay Ghosh Aug 08, 2021
Indian American women doctors

“It’s been truly historic and a very proud moment for American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) to have a majority of the current leadership of this noble organization being held by women leaders,” Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, President of AAPI, declared Saturday.

“Never has there ever been such a strong representation of women leaders in AAPI’s leadership positions. It’s been a privilege and a challenge to be lead AAPI as AAPI celebrates 40 years of dedicated service to the United States, India and the world.”
Dr. Gotimukula, only the fourth woman president of AAPI - which represents the interests of an estimated 100,000 doctors and medical students of Indian origin in the US - in the 40-year old history of AAPI, has a strong and dynamic leadership of women leaders at AAPI for the year 2020-21. Dr. Kusum Punjabi serves as the Chair of AAPI Board of Trustees; Dr. Soumya Neravetla is the President of Young Physicians Section (YPS,) while Dr. Ayesha Singh is the President is the Medical Student/Residents & Fellows Section (MSRF.) Dr. Anjana Samadder, who serves as the Vice President of AAPI is in succession for the top AAPI leadership position in the year 2023-24.
A resident of San Antonio, Texas, Dr. Gotimukula is a board certified Pediatric Anesthesiologist, practicing since 2007, has been an active member and leader of AAPI over a decade. 

As a Healthcare Leader, Dr. Gotimukula recognizes that “AAPI has power. We have legitimate respect and trust of our communities in every corner of America. AAPI will leverage that power of our purpose and networks to help address specific challenges related to affordable healthcare delivery.” 
Dr. Kusum Punjabi, a very young and energetic leader of AAPI, assumed office as the Chair of Board of Trustees of AAPI on July 4th. The youngest to date to be holding this position in AAPI’s 40 years long history and the first person to go to medical school in the USA, Dr. Punjabi says, “My goal as Chair of the Board is to develop long lasting programs within AAPI that promote professionalism, unity, mentorship and inclusivity. I hope to clearly re-define AAPI’s mission of service, academic achievement and supporting Indian Physicians working in America through advocacy and leadership. I want patients to know the value of the care they receive from our ethnic group and our mission of promoting the safest and best healthcare practices for our patients.”
Dr. Anjana Samadder, Vice President of AAPI says, “My journey with AAPI in the past 20 years taught me lots of lessons, skills and molded me to take more responsibility in the organization. I will bring to the organization the level of commitment, hard work, experience and skill set needed to accomplish the various goals for AAPI and its members.”  Her vision for AAPI is “to help build an ethically strong, morally straight and fiscally responsible organization. It is also vitally important to bring much needed diversity to keep AAPI thriving.”
A second generation Indian American, born, raised and educated in the US, Dr. Soumya Neravetla, president of YPS, is a Cardiothoracic Surgeon actively engaged in the welfare of physicians of Indian Origin and the general public. She has extensive Trans catheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) experience including launching and directing TAVR programs.  She has also directed and spearheaded Robotic Thoracic Surgery and lung cancer related programs. In spite of her busy work schedule, she collaborates with her father, Dr. Surender Reddy Neravetla (author of Salt Kills), in his mission to spread awareness about prevention of cardiovascular disease, which disproportionately affects physicians and people of Indian Origin. She is a popular medical speaker and has given several talks to medical communities and the general public, including an invitation to personally speak to the Governor of Ohio and the Ohio Department of Health. 
By her example, Dr. Neravetla wants to motivate physicians of her generation to engage in their communities and AAPI. She has been an active member of AAPI, serving on many committees over the years with the hope of helping AAPI evolve into a meaningful organization for future generations. “Empowering Indian physicians and fostering career growth have been passions of mine,” says the multi-talented dynamic leader of AAPI. In her role, she hopes “to increase career networking and mentorship opportunities, and arm physicians and physicians in training with tools to better navigate their careers.  In addition, I am working to amplify AAPI’s virtual presence by enhancing website features and introducing an app.”  Understanding the current challenging situation due to the ongoing pandemic, Dr. Neravetla says, “We hope new activities like virtual job fairs, interactive chat functions and amplifying our social media presence will engage current and future generations.
Ayesha Singh, a fourth year medical student at the University of Louisville (Louisville, KY), had joined AAPI in 2017 and held her first leadership position on the MSRF board as Secretary in 2018. In 2019, she was elected as MSRF Vice President. She is passionate about her clinical research in atherosclerosis and spends most of her free time volunteering as Director of Patient Services for a free cardiovascular specialty clinic in the Louisville area. Ayesha is currently applying for Internal Medicine residency with plans to pursue a career in Interventional Cardiology.  Singh’s vision for MSRF is “to connect, inspire, and grow our community. I hope to further our reach to Indian American medical students by developing the mentorship program, providing research and academic opportunities, and hosting student-specific events on Step 1/2/3 prep, residency/fellowship applications, interview workshops and more.”

The young and aspiring Medical Professional is grateful to AAPI as “AAPI has enriched my life professionally, socially, and personally. I’ve found mentors, role models, and friends that share my heritage, passion for medicine and commitment to community service. I believe aggressive outreach that highlights AAPI’s vast network, resources, and benefits will inspire membership among young professionals and future leaders that will be dedicated to preserving the legacy of this organization.”

Other leaders who constitute the current executive committee include: Dr. Ravi Kolli, President-Elect, who will be the President of AAPI in 2022-23; Dr. Satheesh Kathula, Secretary and Dr. Krishan Kumar, Treasurer of AAPI.
Dr. Ravi Kolli is a Board Certified Psychiatrist with additional qualifications in Addiction, Geriatric and Forensic Psychiatry, and serves as Psychiatric Medical Director of Southwestern Pennsylvania Human Services. Dr. Satheesh Kathula is a clinical professor of medicine at Wright State University- Boonshoft School of medicine, Dayton, Ohio. Dr. Krishan Kumar is a pediatric emergency medicine physician in East Meadow, New York and is affiliated with multiple hospitals in the New York region.
“While in the 176 years of American Medical Association (AMA) there have been only five women Presidents,” Dr. Ravi Kolli noted. “AAPI, now only in its 40th year, has the 4th female president. Dr. Anupama Gotimukula and a galaxy of women leaders are leading all the sections of AAPI, including BOT, YPS and MSRF. This is a proud moment for AAPI and a testimony of AAAPI ‘s commitment to diversity and equality in all aspects of its functioning.” 

Dr. Kolli pointed out that in the United States, women physicians comprise of nearly 37.8 % of all practicing physicians (390,202 of 1,058,628) and their numbers are rising fast. The proportion of female physicians under the age of 35 in the US is 60.6% and in the age group of 35-44, it is 51.5%. So, there will be a welcome sea change in the leadership of Health Care in the USA going forward. The good news is that patients hospitalized under the care of female physicians had better outcome and lower re-hospitalization rate according to a 2016 Harvard study (December 19, 2016, in JAMA Internal Medicine). Dr. Kolli said, “American Health care and its leadership is in safe hands, and I am so proud to support them in any way in my capacity as the President-Elect of AAPI.”

Serving 1 in every 7 patients in the US, AAPI members care for millions of patients every day, while several of them have risen to hold high flying jobs, shaping the policies and programs and inventions that shape the landscape of healthcare in the US and around the  world.
“Fortunate to be leading AAPI with this amazing group of dedicated women leaders,” says Dr. Gotimukula. “We at AAPI have so much more room to grow and serve. I challenge myself, my Executive Committee to rise up to the task of building on our accomplishments and successes over the last several decades. My team, along with the dynamic group of women leaders has defined several goals for this year to further AAPI’s mission.”  

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(The writer is Chief Editor and Media Coordinator, American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin)

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