Written June 20, 2015
APPNA was founded as a professional organization but has morphed into more than that, most of it unintended, reminiscent somewhat of a rudderless ship.
Along the way, and in some areas, we have achieved a great deal. From a few hundred members we now are in the thousands. But our potential is huge and largely untapped.
At the risk of dating myself I will report that time was that when you rounded at a hospital, you were pretty much the only Pakistani/Muslim on at least five floors of the hospital. Now, rounding on even one patient has you run into at least four Muslim doctors, half of them Pakistani.
Many mornings I awaken to National Public Radio talking about a particular medical subject and many a time the physicians interviewed are Pakistani-American. How do I know? Some names are unequivocally Pakistani, even if some accents are second-generation.
Many Pakistani-American physicians are not APPNA members. While it is great fun to see friends at the summer meeting and enjoy the mushaira, the banquet and lately Pakistan Day celebrations, we need to change the culture of APPNA and make it relevant and attractive to more physicians. It is estimated that there are more than 15,000 physicians of Pakistani descent practicing in the United States; APPNA’s membership usually stays at around 3000. So less than a third of Pakistani-American physicians are APPNA members.
There may be efforts within APPNA to increase its membership, I just don’t know of them nor see the same old figure of 3000 members increasing. APPNA has a reputation of being the bhangra-Bentley-boasting club and while that holds appeal to a certain segment of Pakistani-American physicians, it has gotten old very quickly to very many.
Perhaps if we change APPNA’s course just a bit, we can achieve much at many levels. If APPNA can become a professional organization concentrating on medical issues and charitable projects here in the United States we can get our Pakistani-American colleagues to jump on our bandwagon. And celebrate the fraternity and commonality of purpose.
APPNA clinics all across the nation, catering to the poor and uninsured, would create a legacy that numerous physicians would want to be a part of. Some free clinics in the United States, run by Pakistani-American physicians are superbly organized and with creation of a business plan, these clinics can be templated and exported to many US cities. With the broad spectrum of physician specialties among Pakistani-American physicians, staffing these clinics should not be a problem. A core of primary care with specialty representation and small pharmacies within the clinics is a totally viable model.
APPNA homeless shelters dotting the nation are another project we can create, sponsor and run. APPNA women’s shelters for victims of violence can be easily planned as well. With retiring Pakistani-American physicians, APPNA senior living communities should be actively worked on.
I am a first-generation Pakistani-American and one of those whose hearts are stuck in Pakistan, and who cry and bleed in sync with it. We are however not as effective in Pakistan as we are and must be here.
I have proposed the Qatra Fund before, based on the saying qatra qatra dary ban jaata hai: drops coalesce to form a river. If all 3000 APPNA members contributed $100 per month to APPNA we would have $3.6 million every year. Dinner at a fancy restaurant for a family of four easily costs $100. And the wonderful foodies that we are, we eat out more than once a month. So the $100 is entirely affordable. If not all the membership and just half contributed $100 to the Qatra Fund, we would have $1.8 million every year. And the millions are cumulative through the years. And with our American projects we would attract more physician members as well.
I have talked to many presidential candidates over the years about this. Some don’t get it. Others want to but while you can see the wheels turning, you hear “it’s really difficult, people don’t even want to pay annual membership”. Which may well be true, we are, after all, a people that have fought over mithai at annual banquets.
We need to vote in executive committee members that want to eliminate the status quo and then help them start and sustain the arduous, but achievable, process of making APPNA a financial powerhouse. And a remarkable, relevant and revered organization.