Washington, DC – Members of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) – the largest ethnic medical organization in the United States -met with Democrat and Republican lawmakers at AAPI Agenda for its 2018 Legislative day in early April and provided feedback in shaping the healthcare policies and programs of the nation.
Expressing his sincere appreciation, Gautam Samadder, President of AAPI, thanked lawmakers of both parties, “for taking the time out to come and support AAPI’s agenda at the national level, in our efforts to make our voices heard in the corridors of power.”
As Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ed Royce stated he “has worked very diligently to improving US-India relations”. The California Republican called for liberalizing changes in policy that create economic opportunity for everyone. Republican Congressman Steve Chabot who represents Cincinnati, Ohio, said, “The relationship between India and the US is, I believe, one of our most important. We are natural allies. We have so much more in common than differences.”
Addressing a select audience of Indian-origin physicians in the Rayburn Building, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, the first Hindu lawmaker to serve on Capitol Hill and current Democratic co-chair of the House India Caucus, pointed to how the relationship between “our two countries has progressed. It has only continued to grow stronger and stronger.”
Democratic Congressman Joe Crowley of New York assured the audience that he was continuing “to work to increase the number of slots here in the United States” and spoke of the Graduate Medical Education(GME) Expansion Legislation which he introduced with Republican Congressman Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania, in 2017. The bill calls for an additional 3,000 residency positions for five consecutive years. “It is important that we increase the slots because we are going to need more doctors, more technicians, more physician assistants, not less”, Crowley said.
Republic Congressman Joe Wilson said, “I was not born in India, but I was born with an appreciation of the people of India, while Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal pledged “I am going to continue to lift up health care for everyone.” Wilson and Jaypal had jointly introduced the bill “The South Asian Heart Health Awareness and Research Act of 2017″ to improve the cardiovascular health care of South Asian Americans. Jayapal said, “It is a bill that can actually move, that helps educate our community because frankly, we can be a little flip about heart health.”
“We are blessed to have a great Indian-American community with physicians so well represented”, Republican Congresswoman Barbara Comstock of Virginia said. Referring to shortages in the whole medical field — doctors, physician assistants, nursing homes – the lawmaker said, “As we are an aging population, we are facing all kinds of shortages and I know you are on the front lines of that. If we could work together, I would be delighted to.”
Among other attendees were Republican Congressmen Peter Roskam, Phil Roe, Mike Kelly, Andy Barr and Maryland Delegate Aruna Miller (Democrat), currently running for Congress in the state’s sixth Congressional District, in addition to Jason Marino, Senior Assistant Director of Congressional Affairs at the American Medical Association; Naseem Shekhani, president-elect, Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America (APPNA); and Nuala Moore, Associate Director of Government Relations at the American Thoracic Society.
Summing up AAPI’s role, its Legislative Committee Chairman Vinod Shah said, “AAPI represents, the growing influence of doctors of Indian heritage is evident, as increasingly physicians of Indian origin hold critical positions in the healthcare, academic, research and administrative positions across the nation. With hard work, dedication, compassion, and skills, we have thus carved an enviable niche in the American medical community. AAPI’s role has come to be recognized as vital among members and among lawmakers.”
Incoming leadership of the AAPI, Naresh Parikh, President-Elect, explained, “AAPI is a non-political umbrella organization which has nearly 90 local chapters, specialty societies and alumni organizations. Almost 10%-12% of medical students entering US schools are of Indian origin. AAPI represents the interests of over 60,000 physicians and 25,000 medical students and residents of Indian heritage in the United States.”