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July 8, 1999
'The future belongs to us'
When Ritu Bapat declares that the "future belongs to us", Dr Satya Ahuja feels proud. For Dr Bapat is one of the most active members of the new generation in the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin. And with peers like Dr Ruchi Gupta, she has been contacting Indian American medical students and new doctors to join AAPI -- and building on the foundation laid by the likes of Dr Ahuja.
Speaking about her generation, Dr Bapat says eloquently that it not only wants to get involved in AAPI but also with the mainstream; much more than the older generation.
She points out that one medical freshman out of 10 in most American universities is of Indian origin. While there are about 26,000 doctors of Indian origin among 600,000 doctors across America, 10 per cent of the 17,000 doctors graduating this year alone.
"Though we are not that worried about issues such as discrimination that haunted the previous generation," she says, "We feel we should belong to AAPI because we can utilize the experiences of the elders, and build our own network on their foundation."
She also wants the newer generation to be more socially conscious.
"The older generation got involved in many charity programs back in India and here," she says, echoing the sentiments of many of her peers. "We ought to do more not only in the poorer pockets in America but also in South America -- and, of course, India.
"Ours is a more privileged generation. We did not have to go through the often scary process of uprooting ourselves from India and coming over here. Except for our color and our heritage, we are Americans."
Her thoughts were echoed by many other members of the Medical Students/Residents section of AAPI.
At the AAPI convention this year at least 18 per cent of the 1,100 participants belonged to its MSR chapter. MSR is the fastest growing chapter of AAPI.
"This is a generation to watch out," says Dr Navin Shah, a former AAPI president and currently a AAPI trustee, whose son is also a physician.
"This generation can teach us a lot. Many of them are more committed to India than ourselves. For when they want to help out in or for India by working as a volunteer or raise funds for a clinic, they do not do it out of a sense of guilt, as some of us do because we had left Mother India behind. They do so because they are compelled by humanitarian concerns."
There is more than humanitarian concern involved, Dr Bapat and her peers say.
"While we are helping India or Indian Americans here who have no health care insurance, we are paying tribute to our parents and grandparents who sacrificed a lot for us," says Dr Ruchi Gupta who has served as the president of the MSR section.
The MSR wing is also engaging in community and medical activities along with such Indian professional organizations like NetSAP. They also want to play a role in the American Medical Association, a task that was difficult for the older generation of doctors.
Dr Majid Basit, AAPI-MSR vice president, says his organization fought for and succeeded in getting the delegate status at the AMA Medical Student Section this year. Among the issues discussed were the AMA policies on international medical graduates and complaints of discriminations against foreign and non-American residents.
The younger generation gladly acknowledges that MSR would not have made progress but for the interest shown by AAPI leaders such as Dr Kalpalatha Guntapalli, the past president of AAPI, and Dr Satya Ahuja.
It was at Dr Guntapalli's urging that an entire issue of the quarterly AAPI Journal was devoted to MSR, with most of the articles written by the new generation.
"The old and new generations are learning a lot from each other," says Dr Bapat.
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