Leaders and members of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin April 12 were heard by U.S. lawmakers on Capitol Hill regarding the future of healthcare policies and programs throughout the nation.
The AAPI pushed its agenda during its 2018 Legislative Day, which included expressing its support for "The South Asian Heart Health Awareness and Research Act of 2017," which provides for research and grants to improve the cardiovascular healthcare of South Asian Americans.
Additionally, the association formally announced its support for several other issues, many of which branch outside healthcare.
“What really drives all of you is that you want to be able to carry out your profession in a noble way. At the same time, you want that respect which you deserve. More importantly, you want to save people’s lives, make the human condition better. That is incredibly admirable, something that is given short shrift,” U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley, D-N.Y.
Several other members of Congress, including Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, spoke at the hearing, expressing the importance between India and the U.S., as well as Indian Americans’ contributions to the country.
“The H-1B visa issue is one of the biggest challenges facing the community,” Gabbard, the Democratic co-chair of the House India Caucus, said, adding that a lot of people don’t understand the consequences of the backlog and continued effort to limit H-1B visas.
“In Hawaii, we have a drastic shortage of physicians and it’s always difficult to get and retain doctors who can provide that care. Your presence and your advocacy is very helpful as we try to construct substantive policy that best serves the American people,” she said.
Pramila Jayapal, the first ever Indian American woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, who had introduced the heart health awareness act with Republican Joe Wilson of South Carolina, 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.”
“I am going to continue to lift up health care for everyone,” she added.
California’s 17th Congressional District Rep. Ro Khanna noted that he has seen “Dr. Shivangi, Ramesh Kapur, Dr. Shah, Dr. Bharat Barai, knocking the halls of Congress before it was popular. Now, it is very trendy to be Indian American. You get invited everywhere. Everyone wants to meet with you. That was not the case earlier. These folks have dedicated their lives to being a voice for our community. They have dedicated their skill at it.”
Added U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois’ 8th Congressional District: “There is only one reason that I was elected to the United States Congress and that reason is you. You are a success in the greatest country the world has ever known: the United States. And you are the pride of one of the greatest civilizations the world has ever known: India.”
Among other attendees at the AAPI event were Republican Congressmen Phil Roe of Tennessee, Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania and Andy Barr of Kentucky; Maryland Delegate and congressional candidate Aruna Miller; and Dr. Naseem Shekhani, president-elect of the Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America, among others.
“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,” Dr. Vinod Shah, AAPI’s legislative committee chairman, said. “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.”
Legislative co-chair Dr. Sampat Shivangi said, “There are many issues affecting our community and the physicians across the nation. Now is the time to ensure our voices are heard on these vital issues.”
AAPI represents the interests of over 60,000 Indian American physicians and 25,000 medical students and residents.