Dr Satheesh Kathula, who is vice-president of AAPI, spoke with The Sunday Guardian.

The just concluded Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) at Indore was a perfect showcase of Indian origin people’s immeasurable success and glory. When it comes to Indian Americans, their success and contribution to the American economy and the socio-political sphere is fast catching the attention of the global media. The role of Indian origin medical practitioners and healthcare experts is the most significant success story of the Indian American diaspora. The PBD hosted some of them.

The Sunday Guardian spoke to Dr Satheesh Kathula, who wears many hats of success representing the NRIs. Dr Kathula, who hails from Warangal in Telangana, is a renowned oncologist and clinical professor of medicine, and is vice-president of American Association of Physicians of Indian origin (AAPI), a top platform for Asians in the United States. Dr Kathula spoke at length about his experience at the PBD, the possible role young global Indians can play in Pravasi events, and the role India and the US can play to ensure a healthy world. He, however, was frank in saying that India needs local remedies to its local health problems…NRIs can only help with expertise and more research. Excerpts:

Q: The Pravasi Bharatiya Divas is a celebration of success of global Indians. How do you see this umbilical cord between the NRIs and their homeland?

A: It was a wonderful experience attending the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD), which is a celebration of the success of Indian diaspora all over the world. It’s really important to recognise the contributions of NRIs across the globe and it was certainly reassuring that the Government of India has recognised the efforts of NRIs. There was an ample opportunity to network and get to know people from various countries. Discussion on “India’s healthcare ecosystem and role of Indian Diaspora” was a great learning experience and it may open up the doors for further improvement of healthcare in India.

Q: How can the future Pravasi events attract young global Indians who are getting in the big league too?

A: It is a great idea to include and involve young global Indians in PBD and other activities related to the growth of India. Obviously, the second generation Indian diaspora does not have as much a strong connection as the older generation. Naturally, they relate more to the country they are born and raised in. It is very important to engage them to strengthen their roots. Probably some incentives like having them on key committees and dedicating a day to NRI youth can have have more younger generation presence. Contributions of young NRIs to India will strengthen the connect and open new opportunities for collaborations.

Q: The medical fraternity in the US is a key professional group not only for the Indian American diaspora, but also for the entire American population. How is the Indian American doctor community engaged and contributing to India?

A: An organization like the American Association of Physicians of Indian origin (AAPI) has grown to be one of the most reputed and influential organizations both in the US and in India. It serves as a great connection between the two countries in many ways. The way AAPI reacted to the need of oxygen and other equipment during the Covid-19 pandemic was remarkable. AAPI-Adopt a Village program has been screening rural Indian population for non-communicable diseases and has done it in more than 60 villages so far. AAPI is also working constantly on improving the Indian medical education system and we are exploring more opportunities to collaborate for consistent exchanging of research and healthcare technology that can benefit India, particularly rural health.

Q: The list of Indian doctors in high profile posts is growing—Dr Ashish Jha and Dr Vivek Murthy in the Biden administration, you as a lead in AAPI, Ram Reddy, etc. Is this the recognition of Indian medical professionals’ expertise?

A: The Indian American doctor community is highly regarded. Though we are only 1% of the total US population, we have many academicians, researchers, executives, entrepreneurs, policymakers, etc. This is just the beginning and we will see more and more in future. AAPI serves as a great platform to connect these high achievers with the ones who are aspiring.

Q: The Covid-19 pandemic brought India and the US closer. That was an opportunity for India to strengthen the relationship when the US severed its ties with China. What was the view in America on how the two countries helped each other in the first and second phases?

A: Not only Indian Americans but the local Americans applauded the efforts of AAPI during the pandemic. Even political leaders are aware of what Indian Americans have done for India. Everyone appreciated the impact of frontline workers during the Covid-19 pandemic. The contribution made by Indian origin professionals and US-based platforms for their motherland was highly appreciated across America. Similarly, India’s efforts to help the US in the first phase was highly appreciated and strengthened the relationship between the two countries.

Q: How can India and the US strengthen their health diplomacy for a healthy Asia?

A: Innovation in America and mass production of generic drug manufacturing in India have been game changers in healthcare not only in Southeast Asia but in the entire world. There is a lot more to be done such as in cancer prevention, and treatment, heart health, maternal and fetal health, infectious diseases such Covid-19. Cutting edge research such as stem cell research or 3D printing has been sluggish for political reasons in the US, but we can take advantage of the regulations in India.

Q: What are the big takeaways from the Pravasi Divas?

A: Networking opportunities, knowing what India needs and how NRIs can help. Different perspectives of people from various parts of world and how they are helping the motherland.

Finding local solutions for local problems may be more prudent than reproducing from the West. India has a tremendous potential and NRIs can contribute in a meaningful way to augment the growth not only in healthcare but in many sectors.