Indian Doctors Stand Tall in US, UK Fight Against Covid-19

While India has to a great extent contained the spread of the deadly Covid-19 and is likely to ease lockdown in many states, the pandemic is still active in the US, but both the countries have been bilaterally working together to fight it out. India has quickly shipped Hydroxychloroquine in bulk to the US, responding to its request. The battle against Covid-19 in the US has another aspect of India connection: The efforts of Indian-American doctors in treating Covid-19 patients and reporting on how to contain the coronavirus. It is not just in the US; even the British had applauded the role of doctors of Indian origin to combat Covid-19 in the UK.

In the fight against Covid-19 in the US and the UK, the physicians and health workers of Indian-origin are working under great stress and trauma, some of them staying away from their families and children. The physicians, nurses, scientists, researchers, and other healthcare workers of Indian origin, who form a substantial part of the US healthcare and medical system, have been contributing a lot to the US. On a random count, more than 100,000 physicians of Indian origin are working in various hospitals spread all over the country.

These physicians work in coordination with the Indian Embassy and the Indian Consulates-General. Amit Kumar, Consul General of India in Chicago, says: “India and the US have a strong ongoing scientific collaboration in health and medical sciences which can be critical in the fight against Covid-19. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US, and the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) are among the premier institutions in both countries collaborating on diagnostics and therapeutic aspects of the disease.” He says that the administrators and health professionals in both countries are exchanging information and learning from each other’s best practices in combating this pandemic.

Amit Kumar says that India is leveraging its significant capabilities in the healthcare sector, including affordable pharmaceuticals, telemedicine platforms, textile products, and is building some of the world’s most affordable ventilators. India is the largest global source for Hydroxychloroquine and has domestic sources for active pharmaceutical ingredients, and is working to make this drug available to markets including the US where it has proven useful.

In the UK too, there are 30,000 Indian-born physicians working hard along with the mainstream National Health Service (NHS) to contain the Covid-19. Dr. Chandra Kanneganti, chair of British International Doctors Association (BIDA) says: “Indian-origin workers constitute about 15 percent of the NHS, including doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals.” The UK is struggling with a shortage of medical professionals to contain the spread of the pandemic. At least 16 doctors from ethnic minorities had passed away in the UK, with at least two from India. Among the healthcare staff, this figure stands at eight. Several retired doctors of Indian origin have joined forces with the NHS to give a helping hand. “I retired three years ago but have now joined the NHS back,” says Dr. Ramesh Mehta, president of the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO).

The American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), a professional association of Indian-American physicians, alone has a membership of 80,000 physicians. Among them, many hold top positions in the American hospitals and medical schools. It is said that every seventh American patient of 330 million American population is treated by a physician of Indian origin. There is hardly any hospital, nursing home, or medical school in the US which does not have at least one physician of Indian origin. In fact, many Indian physicians occupy top specialty positions in the US. Thus they form “frontline fighters” who are playing an important role in the fight against the current Covid-19 pandemic in the country. In their fight some 200 Indian-American physicians have fallen sick, about 15 of them have been hospitalized, and at least three of them have sacrificed their lives.

Though there is a stringent three-step exam called USMLE for foreign medical students to qualify for residency positions in the US, many Indian medical students qualify every year. Ironically there were years in the past when the US was short of doctors, Indian medical students were recruited even before their house surgency in India. One classic example was that a whole batch of graduate students from Guntur Medical College had been recruited for jobs in the US hospitals. Notably, there are many graduates from medical schools in Kurnool, Baroda, and several other cities working in the US. A few Indian-American physicians are working in the US defense forces too. Though things have changed recently and the selection system has become tough, yet many Indian medical graduates fare high scores in USMLE and many US hospitals prefer to have them on their staff.

Professional excellence apart, Indian-American physicians are always in the forefront in the community service as also lobby in favor of the Indian concerns in the US Congress. Classic examples are several Indian-American physicians have lobbied for the issue of a US visa to Narendra Modi, the then Chief Minister of Gujarat, when he was branded as a violator of human rights; and also for the signing of the Indo-US strategic nuclear agreement by the then US President George W. Bush Jr. The Indian-American physicians are also known for their financial contribution and fundraising towards the campaign funds in the elections of prospective contenders as US Presidents, Congressmen and Senators.

The Indian-American physicians are politically active fighting for the issues concerning to India as well as the US. They also fight for the rights of Indian immigrants. There are many Indian-American physicians, who have given millions of dollars as building fund for leading universities, research institutions, establishing chairs or organizing memorial lectures. They have also contributed liberally to the hundreds of Hindu temples built across the US.

Many Indian-American physicians have been appointed for key governmental positions by both the Republican and the Democratic Presidents. One Indian-American physician was even held the post of the United States Surgeon General. Most medical boards at the federal and state levels have Indian-American physicians as members. They also donate liberally and extend their volunteering services whenever India or other countries face natural calamities like earthquakes, floods, cyclones and tsunamis.

The American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin runs several free clinics, helps new and uninsured immigrants settle down in the new environment. These physicians lead other associations and federations of people of Indian origin and in coordination with the Indian Embassy and the Indian Consulates-General.

– Contributed by Mr. J.V. Laskshmana Rao, a former National News Coordinator of Express News Service, New Delhi, and former Chief Editor of US-based India Tribune. He frequently travels between India and the US.

Picture: Leaders of AAPI with India’s Vice-president Mr. M. Venkaiah Naidu during his visit to the US in 2019 (Credits – Twitter/@the_unn)

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