News East West
TORONTO: Indian-Americans constitute less than 1% of the country’s population, but they account for nine percent of the American doctors and physicians.
As Forbes magazine aptly summed up in an issue in 2009, “The overrepresentation of Indians in these fields (engineering, IT and medicine) is striking – in practical terms, your doctor is nine times more likely to be an Indian-American than is a random passerby on the street.’’
But Dr Vandana Agarwal, president of the Indian Medical Association of Southern California (IMASC), goes even a step further when she talks about Indian American doctors.
“Indians dominate the medical profession in the US, and they will continue to excel in the future because those who are joining this profession are even more passionate about it,’’ insists the president of the oldest chapter of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) that boasts over 41,000 members.
And she doesn’t agree with those who say that there is now less craze among Indian-Americans for this profession.
“I don’t agree that this profession is any less popular among Indian-Americans. This is still a noble, respectable profession. It is very rewarding…we are in a service industry. In fact, the second generation of Indian-Americans is doing exceptionally well in this profession. Look at Dr Sanjay Gupta of CNN…see how much he has achieved. We are inviting him for our annual gala in October,’’ Agarwal, who is the founder & CEO of the New Hope Cancer and Research Institute in Pomona in Southern California, tells News East-West in an interview.
Lots of second-generation Indians hold important positions at major institutions such as Harvard and Johns Hopkins, she says in a telephone interview from her office in Pomona.
“This is because being American-born, our second generation begins with all the advantages and they get in the same pool as local Americans. But we of the first generation didn’t have these advantages because of the points system which counted things like which medical college you graduated from and where you did your residency. No premier institutions – Harvard or Johns Hopkins – won’t accept our applications,’’ narrates Agarwal who was one of the few women to take up private practice 24 years ago.
Another reason for the popularity of the medical profession among second Indian-Amercians, she says, is that they are passionate about medicine. “Only those who are passionate about medicine are now entering this profession. That’s why they are excelling. My daughter went to Stanford where her mentor advised her to go in for an MBA, but she chose medicine because she is passionate about this field,’’ says Agarwal who specializes in Hematology and Oncology.
The dominance of Indian-Americans in the medical profession, she says, can be gauged by the fact that AAPI is as big as – or even bigger than – the American Medical Association. “I don’t know about other ethnic groups, but AAPI is the largest doctors’ association in America.’’
Agarwal, who came to the University of North Dakota to join internship in Internal Medicine after her medical degree from Gandhi Medical College in Bhopal, says though health care has made big strides in India, Indian doctors still prefer to come to the US.
“America is America at the end of the day. It is the world leader in medical care and major breakthroughs in this field take place in this country. Personally, looking back, I am glad I came here. This country gave me a huge opportunity…the education and health care here tops the world. I have learnt a lot as my area (of interest) has evolved a lot over the years,’’ says Agarwal.
But despite all this, she says, Indian American doctors have not forgotten their ancestral land.
“Many Indian-American doctors are going back to open hospitals, medical schools, state-of-the-art laboratories and ambulance services. Dr Trehan went back from the US. Dr Ravi Patel of Bakersfield has opened cancer centres in India. Dr Kali Chaudhuri too has opened a medical school and hospital in India. So we are paying back to our country,’’ says the president of the Indian Medical Association of Southern California (IMASC).