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IMANE presidents share memories of group's rise

Wednesday, April 24, 2013 8:18 AM | Deleted user
IMANE presidents share memories of group's rise

By Martin Desmarais
The Indian Medical Association of New England has grown from a handful of doctors gathering together in unity over their profession to one of the most influential organizations in New England with about 400 members. The list of presidents who have led the group is impressive and contains leaders in their respective medical fields. The accomplishments and footprint the group has left can be seen on the medical community and on the Indian American community as a whole. Reflecting back on the start and growth of the group most share a pride in how the group has matured and for the important role it plays in the lives of its members.

Dr. Bhagwani Shahani was the first president of IMANE in 1979. Photo courtesy of IMANE
Early leaders speak about IMANE's start
In 2003, the Indian Medical Association of New England celebrated the 25th anniversary of the organization. Under the guidance of then president Dr. Sadhev Passey, the group held a 25th anniversary celebration at the Worcester Centrum Centre on Nov. 15, 2003. In addition, the organization put together a 25th anniversary guide that looked back at all the history of IMANE and include reflections from many of the past presidents and founding members. In addition, the anniversary guide collected quotes from some of the organization's founding members. Below are some of the responses.

"By and large, I think our objectives have been met, even though we have not done as much or gone as far as we would have hoped! For example the health fairs that were started 25 years ago, still persist today in other venues such as the IAGB India Day at the Hatch Shell. Our dialogue with AMA began in 1978 and resulted in a joint membership package. The AAPI-PAC also started in 1978 as a result of these discussions. As far as our lack of growth in recent years, the impact of managed care and the presence of other competing organizations may not be as severe in other regions of the country. Also, as the older members hand over the reins to the younger members, they tend to focus on issues of family and retirement." undefined Dr. Dinesh Patel, IMANE president in 1980.

"IMANE was the first Indian doctors association in the United States followed by MAPI and AAPI. The first AAPI convention in Washington D.C. had a large Boston and Gujarati doctor contingent and steadily grew in membership after the second convention hald in Boston, while Dr. K. Ramaswamy was IMANE president." undefined Dr. Narendra Shah, IMANE president in 1982.

"I think that the early years of IMANE had a lot of continuity in leadership, which served to guide and stabilize the organization. We had a system of rotating positions, so that there was connection between consecutive committees." undefined Dr. Maya Shahani, IMANE founding member.

"I think IMANE has served many useful purposes. We had lots of great social and educational functions over the years. We created an organization where we could participate on an equal education and intellectual basis. We did not know each other before and now we are all great friends and that is very important in a new country. Manorama Saini was our first woman president and since then we have had so many capable women presidents of IMANE. Trustees were started in her year since we had a little more money and felt we need continuity with more input and participation." undefined Dr. Teju Shah, IMANE founding member.

"Dinesh Patel was a vision. He felt we needed to speak up or else we would be overlooked. In Narendra Shah and Teju Shah, IMANE received two for the price of one! They did all of the work for the early organization. Some other early members I remember are Drs. K. Ramaswamy, Madhu Pathak, Sharad Chitre, Shankar Garg, Sanjiv Chopra and Niranjan Dudhani." undefined Dr. Yogeshwar Dayal, IMANE president in 1981.

"My best friends were made in IMANE. I can still close my eyes and drive to Howard Johnson in Burlington for our monthly meetings. The second meeting was in my house since the others were fed up of cooking and that was when the name Eemaan, i.e. imandari (an Urdu world meaning honesty and faith) was suggested. In fact, Virendra and I joined because we were social friends of the Shahani's and they asked us to join. We felt we would be well placed to help each other and introduce our children to their common cultural heritage." undefined Manorama Saini, IMANE president in 1983.
The first president of IMANE was Dr. Bhagwan Shahani, who led the group in 1979.

By most accounts, IMANE was started to address the social, cultural, educational and professional needs of physicians of Indian origin settled in New England with the early groundwork for the organization done by a handful of Indian physicians living in Massachusetts.

The general consensus of most reflecting back on the birth of IMANE, point to a group of five founders of the group undefined Dr. Shahni and Dr. Maya Shahani, Dr. Dinesh Patel, Dr. Narendra Shah and Dr. Teju Shah.

The genesis of IMANE can be traced back to meetings of the Middlesex South Medical Society in the mid-1970s, during which some of the founding members interacted with physicians of Greek origin and discussed problems that foreign-born physicians in the United States had, namely not having anyone to advance their common goals, a lack of an avenue for networking or others of a common background to socialize with. The Greek doctors had formed their own group, the Hellenic Medical Society, to address some of these problems and it the Indian American doctors thinking about starting a similar group.

As the story has it, the founders of IMANE spent several years meeting on weekends and reaching out to other doctors of Indian origin to get an organization off the ground. The early mindset was that the group should encompass New England, which is what led to that region's inclusion in the name. It has also been explained that the acronym for the Indian Medical Association of New England, IMANE, was pronounced similar to "Eemaan" such as in "imandari," which is an Urdu word meaning honesty and faith. The founders felt this was a perfect name association behind the organization.

Bylaws from the Hellenic Medical Society were used to guide the bylaws for IMANE and the group was formally announced in 1977 and 1978 was the first year of the organization's existing with Dr. Shahani as its head. The early years consisted of a lot of outreach to Indian doctors to grow membership and establish the model of the organization going forward. Early meetings had a lot of educational talks, and IMANE also invited political figures to meetings.

A young IMANE reached out to well-established groups such as the Massachusetts Medical Society and the American Medical Association to open doors to those groups to its members.

In 1980s, IMANE held talks with the Michigan Association of Physicians of Indian Origin and this led to the formation of a national organization, the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin. Over the years, IMANE has a strong connection to the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin and hosted the national group's annual convention in 1982 and in 1996. Over the years, IMANE members have held leadership roles in AAPI, including Dr. S. Jayasanker as president and Dr. Chander Kapasi as chair of the board of trustees.

Today, IMANE describes itself as a "dynamic organization for medical professionals of Indian origin in the New England area" that "organizes and supports numerous professional and social activities for the benefit of our members and the communities they serve."

The organizations stated objectives are:
  • Advance the professions of medicine and dentistry
  • Support medical education
  • Sponsor charitable healthcare projects
  • Recognize the contributions and achievements of physicians of Indian origin
  • Provide opportunities for career building and professional development
  • Provide forums for networking and socializing
IMANE follows a leadership model that includes a president, executive committee, members at large, a board of trustees, a young physicians section representative, a nominating committee chair and American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin regional director. The organization provides professional resources, such as clinical rotations in internal medicine, pediatrics and anesthesia/surgery, as well as a career center.

It has alliances with numerous groups, from its main medical industry relation the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin to other medical groups such as the Association of Pakistani Physicians of New England to the Connecticut Association of Physicians of Indian Origin. It has worked with community groups such as the India Association of Greater Boston, the India Association of New Hampshire and the India Association of Rhode Island. IMANE has ties with professional groups such as the Boston chapter of the Indus Entrepreneurs and the Network of South Asian Professionals, as well as industry specific groups such as the South Asian Bar Association of Greater Boston. It now even has connected nonprofits such as Ekal Vidyalaya and the Indian Circle of Caring.

In addition to the professional and social benefits IMANE offers its members, the organization also offers specific benefits such as long term disability insurance, long term care insurance, auto insurance, home insurance and business insurance, all at discounted rates.

Also part of IMANE are the Young Physicians Society and the Women's Forum.

The organization launched a free health clinic in Waltham, Mass. in 2004, which provides free basic medical care to poor, undeserved, or uninsured patients from the surrounding communities. IMANE launched another free health clinic in 2005 in Shrewsbury, Mass. The organization currently has plans for several other clinics, with at least one in Woburn, Mass., set to open shortly.

The IMANE Charitable Foundation reflects the organization's commitment to service and provides an outlet for the group to promote the mental and physical health of underserved individuals in the United States and India.

Dr. Dinesh Patel, a founding member of IMANE and president in 1980, said that the early days of the organization provided a way to come together with doctors of Indian origin, which prior to its existence was difficult to do.

"Those times there were not too many doctors coming from India • and there was always this concern about licensing and the opportunity to get residency and a fellowship," said Patel, who is chief of arthroscopic knee surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. "We thought let's form an organization where we can talk about our common issues.

"The idea of forming this was to really look at your ability to heal the hurt and you cannot heal the hurt until you have a license to practice," he added.

According to him, IMANE in those early days was really focused on the simple things like helping doctors find jobs, get credentials and establish relationships with vendors. "In order to accomplish these goals we have to be part and parcel of a society," he said.

Patel believes that IMANE's early relationship with the Massachusetts Medical Society and the American Medical Association was key in its ability to support its members in their medical professions.

Reflecting on the maturity of IMANE since those first days, Patel said he is proud of what the group has become.

"Personally speaking it is sort of fun to see that [IMANE can now] really help people. We got people excited to get into the system so they can become good citizens," he said. "It is quite an impressive thing being done. To promote health care into a larger society it is quite impressive. • We feel pretty good about it.

"It is a nice idea that we started something 30 to 40 years ago and things are moving in very positive directions. • That kind of thing makes you really happy," he added. "It is like a little baby of yours and you see it grow up and go to college • You feel good about it to see people growing and working together."

Dr. Pankaj Shah, who joined IMANE in the 1980s and served as president in 1992, admitted to really feeling the community aspect of the organization when he first became involved.

"For me it was important because it was meeting people from the country that I came from. They had similar issues and similar hardships and I could freely among them. There was definitely a sense of security in it," said Shah, who is a doctor of obstetrics and gynecology at Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates in Wellesley and Quincy, Mass.

After serving as president in 1992, Shah continued to be involved at the leadership level in the group, chairing the committee that helped organize the hosting of the AAPI convention in 1996. "For a small organization I thought we did quite well," he said.

Shah said he has also always been struck about how IMANE members work together from the older members to the younger members and how the organization provides a lot of opportunity for involvement on the leadership level to all those interested. "I always thought it was a very, very fair organization. If you worked you could come up," he said.

Looking at IMANE today, Shah said he is very impressed with the younger generation of doctors and the work they are doing to breathe new life to the group by engaging peers. "They are getting these people involved," he said.

Shah also believes that IMANE's recent involvement with more Indian American groups is a good thing. "You feel better of being in New England when you get involved with other organizations."

As a senior member of IMANE, Shah said he has reached out informally to younger members of the organization and believes that the group's overall efforts to encourage older doctors, through formal mentorship programs and informally, are very important.

Dr. Ammani Dasari, who served as IMANE president in 1995, echoes Shah's sentiments that involving the younger generation of doctors is crucial for the organization's future. In fact, it was a message she preached from her early tenure with the group.

Dasari, who is a retired anesthesiologist and last worked at the Good Samaritan Hospital in Brockton, Mass., said she attended IMANE's annual meetings every year from the group's start, but was not actively involved until 1990, when she became a member at large. She threw her initial focus with the group into increasing the membership, in particular life members. "I felt in 1990s we should do something to improve the organization, increase the membership," she said. "My main interest at that time was also to involve the second generation.

"I felt it is my duty to help the foreign medical graduates who come from India to help them. • And we involved the medical students and the residents," she added. "That is how we wanted to build it and then we tried to maintain that level."

Dasari is thrilled to see the emergence of the Young Physicians Society and to see younger doctors step up as leaders of IMANE. "I feel now it is the time for the youngsters to take it over," she said.

And also like Shah, she believes that the senior doctors should be very actively involved with engaging the younger generation. "We should help them and we should guide them," she said.

According to Dasari, her favorite IMANE memory is the summer meeting in 1995 that was held at the Mount Washington Hotel in New Hampshire. She said this was a great experience that really emphasized the family nature and close-knit atmosphere of the organization. "It is like a family it is not just like a group of doctors together," she said. 

Dr. Sahdev Passey, who has a pediatrics practice in Worcester, Mass., and was IMANE president in 2003, joined the group in the mid-1990s. He said his early involvement with the group was focused on overcoming any residual discrimination against foreign medical graduates, which had been a big problem when the group was first formed. Now, though, he admits that problem has been eradicated. "In 2013, I don't see that barrier much any more. I think people have overcome that part of it," he said.

Passey has also been a long time member of IMANE's bylaws committee, something he said he has enjoyed greatly. "Somehow my clique is the bylaws. I like to conduct the meetings and keep people in line," he said. "That has been my passion." He also works with AAPI on the bylaws aspect.

When Passey was president in 2003, IMANE was celebrating its 25th anniversary and held an anniversary celebration at the Worcester Centrum Centre on Nov. 15, 2003. In addition, the organization put together a 25th anniversary guide that looked back at all the history of IMANE and include reflections from many of the past presidents and founding members. 

He is also a key organizer at the group's free medical clinic in Shrewsbury.

While IMANE was partially born out of a need to connect with other Indian doctors, including socializing, Passey said that is changing now as more and more of its members are born here. For them, he believes the group's efforts to provide continuing medical education may be more valuable.

"Our platform for medical education has really become a base now for the future generations," he said. "They are not looking for social interaction and support they are more looking for medical education and networking opportunities."

With many older members still actively involved in IMANE, Passey said that connecting the different generations is crucial and that the older members must help, support and encourage the new generations. "We are working to bring this organization together so there is some voice," he said. 

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