APPNA’s Programs Continue to Gather Steam
By Manzoor Tariq, MD
It has been a pleasure to serve as APPNA President for the year of 2011. Reflecting on this year, I am amazed to see the positive progress APPNA has made from the time of the Strategic Planning Meeting in February up until our most recent events, the inauguration of two APPNA villages, one in Munirabad and the other in Sindh, Pakistan. This year, we worked together as a team to take APPNA forward and uphold our promise to service with integrity and unity.
Central APPNA Affairs
Upon assuming my role as President at the beginning of 2011, I immediately took the task of centralizing and streamlining the Central APPNA Office and its affairs. The year started with a meeting at the APPNA Central Office on January 22, 2011 in which the new Executive Committee officers and the APPNA Central Office were introduced to one another and familiarized with the workings of the Central Office. It was a beneficial and productive meeting for all parties involved as this is vital to ensure both understanding and smooth functioning of all parties.
APPNA immediately regained its charitable status on February 17, 2011 from the Illinois Attorney General. A system was then established for APPNA to follow the regulatory requirements on a continuous basis, allowing the Association to comply with all rules and regulations. Following these guidelines, APPNA’s audits for the past five years, including 2010, were filed on time as required by law.
On May 8, 2011, APPNA unveiled its new website which was groundbreaking for the Association as it is under APPNA’s ownership. It also hosts interactive profiles for our members in which they keep in touch with each other and meet new friends and colleagues. We were happy to see many members update their profiles and use them to strengthen and unite our membership.
The APPNA Strategic Planning meeting was held in St. Louis on the weekend of February 5-6, 2011 The meeting was well attended by over 100 APPNA members, including several past Presidents. The meeting took on a brand new interactive format, led by a professional strategic planner. As a result of the meeting, the Strategic Planning Oversight and Implementation Ad Hoc Committee was formed. This Committee is composed of four subcommittees: the Transparency and Accountability Enhancement Committee, Leadership Development Committee, Office Administration Improvement Committee, and the Membership Increase and Retention Committee. Each committee was designed to address a specific goal of APPNA and did an excellent job in overseeing their jurisdictions and reaching their goals.
Developments in APPNA
Whilst APPNA has quarterly journals and an active e-list, I felt compelled to find a way to directly communicate with the membership on a regular basis. As President, it was my duty to update the members on what is occurring in APPNA to ensure transparency and accountability as well as keep our membership active. Therefore, I took the initiative to come out with the President’s Monthly Message. It turned out to be a dynamic way to update the members on what is relevant and encourage them to continue to monitor the website for other announcements. Each message was greeted by encouragement, suggestions for future projects and undertakings, and feedback on the happenings of APPNA. All of this was appreciated and helped me to take APPNA in the direction of its membership’s needs.
Membership growth and retention is essential for the existence of APPNA. In efforts to recruit new members and expand APPNA, we reduced both annual and lifetime membership fees in the beginning of May. The new Annual Membership Dues are $100 and the new Lifetime Membership Dues are $1500. A Lifetime Membership comes with a Membership Benefits Package which offers discounts on important expenditures such as car rentals, airfares, and malpractice insurance. The Membership Benefits Package is a project I initiated and have been working on from the beginning of my service as APPNA Treasurer in 2008. It was my honor to be able to present it to our deserving membership this year and I hope that you have had a chance to explore the package and take advantage of its benefits.
At the summer meeting, APPNA unveiled a Young Physician’s Directory. APPNA members volunteered and offered their support and advice to mentor and assist our graduates in gaining valuable US clinical experience. This effort is not just APPNAs initiative for young physicians but also an avenue to develop future human resource and assist the new generation of our alma maters. We invite all Pakistani physicians, both APPNA members and non-members, who are involved in academic as well as private practice medicine. I thank everyone who helped to put together the directory.
The APPNA Spring Meeting was held in Louisville, Kentucky on March 24-27, 2011. Attendance numbers were the highest ever for a Spring Meeting, with over 550 attendees at the main banquet on Saturday night and over 100 hotel rooms reserved. The Host Committee of Kentucky and the entire APPKI community did an excellent job of welcoming APPNA and ensuring that our function was a success. No item was overlooked as the Committee thoughtfully planned the meeting with great detail.
For the first time ever, APPNA held two international meetings in one year, both of which were registered to full capacity and memorable in their own ways. The first trip took place on April 16-24, 2011 with an extension trip to Peru until April 27, 2011. The trip began in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, continued in Iguazu Falls on the border of Brazil and Argentina, and concluded in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The extension trip took attendees to the pre-historic Inca remnants in Machu Picchu, Peru.
The second International Meeting took place on October 15-24, 2011 in Tanzania with an extension trip to Cape Town, South Africa on October 24-28, 2011. The trip began with everyone arriving at Ngurdoto Mountain Lodge in Kilimanjaro, Tanzania followed by a game drive at Lake Manyara. We visited and stayed at a lodge near the world’s largest crater, Ngorongoro Crater. We also had safari adventures in the world famous Serengeti National Park and a few days on the remote and relaxing island of Zanzibar. The trip concluded with a day of sightseeing and shopping in the city of Dar Es Salaam.
Our largest meeting of the year, the Summer Meeting, took place on June 29-July 4, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri. It was a well-attended, vibrant, and diverse meeting with activities for the whole family. From one of the largest Chapter Nights ever to the main banquet with over 2600 guests and everything in between, I hope that all members and their guests had a fantastic time. APPNA Alliance organized an excellent dinner featuring a fashion show by Asim Jofa, SAYA and CAPPNA both had unique events including a reptile show which captured the audience’s attention. The Mushaira evening was grand and featured a multitude of poets from both North America and Pakistan and our entertainment was highly enjoyed, which included Ragaboyz and Shaan. Our speakers at the main banquet included the President of the Federation of State and Medical Boards, Dr. Humayun Chaudhry; Special Representative to Pakistan and Afghanistan, Ambassador Marc Grossman; Pennsylvania Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr., and CSO of PepsiCo and CEO of Global Nutrition Group, Dr. Mehmood Khan. They motivated our audience and inspired them to not only serve with integrity and unity but to always strive for the best and remember that no goal is too high. One of our most unique and innovative events at this year’s meeting was the Peace Walk in honor of innocent physicians and journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty. It was indeed a meeting to remember and I sincerely hope all attendees felt that way.
The APPNA Fall Meeting took place at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square New York on September 29-October 2, 2011. The APPNA Council Meeting on Saturday, October 1 was organized very smoothly. We were able to make several important decisions and address our entire agenda in one day. The crowd thoroughly enjoyed the vibrant cultural night featuring folk singer Arif Lohar.
On Saturday, November 19, 2011, APPNA sponsored its annual APPNA CARES Clinic Day to continue our tradition of annually giving back on a national basis. APPNA provided free health screening testing and administered free flu vaccines throughout the United States. I was overwhelmed by the enthusiastic participation of all Chapters and truly hope this event continues to grow each year as it is a great representation of APPNA’s mission. On this day, the Alabama Chapter also unveiled the newest APPNA Free Clinic. We appreciate their penchant for giving back, your charitable efforts, and their help in expanding the APPNA Free Clinic initiative. I hope to see many more APPNA Free Clinics established throughout North America and Pakistan in the near future.
The winter APPNA meeting of the year took place on December 21-23, 2011 at the Quaid-e-Azam Medical College in Bahawalpur, Pakistan. The entire city of Bahawalpur opened their homes to accommodate our members and their families. Our CME program was well-attended and covered a broad range of topics which engrossed our membership as well as the local physicians who were honored to take part in our CME program. The APPNA banquet took place at the lawn of the historical palace, Noor Mahal, and featured singer, Shehzad Roy. I thank all members who traveled to Pakistan to celebrate APPNA with us in Pakistan.
Charitable and Social Welfare Services
This year was filled with natural disasters across the globe as well as heightened awareness about growing epidemics. As a community, we came together and went above our call of duty to charity and giving back through our Social Welfare and Disaster Relief activities.
Last winter, APPNA’s awareness of the Hepatitis C epidemic in Pakistan was heightened and we were requested to help in this matter. We responded this year with the Hepatitis C Initiative which has been a fast paced and extremely beneficial project that has accomplished a lot in the past year alone. We have developed prevention literature and organized several activities across Pakistan to help educate the population about the risks of Hepatitis C and manners in which it can be contracted. We also participated in World Hepatitis Day on July 28, 2011 by sponsoring Hepatitis C awareness activities throughout Pakistan. This initiative has already helped to save hundreds of lives and I am optimistic that its continuation will help to prevent millions of innocent victims from contracting Hepatitis C.
APPNA launched a Bone Marrow Registry Drive this year in response to shortage of Pakistani and South Asian donors on February 25, 2011. We collaborated with other organizations to successfully create a Bone Marrow Registry for persons of South Asian descent. As a community we were also able to raise over $260,000.
The spring season this year was accompanied by a series of unfortunate storms and tornadoes that severely affected the city of Joplin, Missouri as well as many Southern states, including Alabama. Our APPNA community stood together and members traveled to the affected areas to provide immediate relief assistance and medical goods and services. Not just that, we raised significant sums of money to give to the affected areas. I am proud to say APPNA was able to purchase and donate a truck for the relief efforts in Alabama. The truck has since then helped numerous people to rebuild and reestablish themselves after such natural disasters.
APPNA remained committed to global causes by fundraising and providing relief equipment to those in need around the world, including those affected by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the famine in Somalia, and the earthquake in Turkey.
I am indebted to our membership for making all these accomplishments possible for APPNA because this would not have happened without their active participation and generous contributions. Let us always continue to give with open hearts when it comes to giving back through our profession and APPNA.
As you are all aware, areas all over Pakistan were affected by treacherous flooding in the summers of 2010 and 2011. In response to the 2010 flooding, APPNA adopted a flood affected village in Munirabad. Last year, I had the opportunity to visit the village where the innocent victims were sleeping in makeshift tents with blankets drenched overnight from dew and many of the children were barely clothed. We decided to sponsor this village by building homes and, thanks to your donations, we were able to build a total of 128 homes in the village. The Munirabad APPNA village was officially inaugurated on December 24, 2011. Revisiting the village after a year, it was amazing to see the world of difference APPNA made for the villagers. Everyone was residing comfortably in their homes, clothed warmly, and filled with nothing but prayers and love for APPNA. I thank everyone for collaborating on this project and making the dream of an APPNA village become a reality.
In September of this year, the Sindh province was hit by floods. As always, we rose to our call of duty and raised money for relief efforts in the local areas. We have also adopted a village in Sajawal, Sindh after seeing the success of and change made by the village in Munirabad. The village was officially inaugurated on December 30, 2011. I look forward to this being as successful of a project as the Munirabad Village, Insh’Allah.
The Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, hosted a USAID Global Diaspora Forum in Washington, DC on May 16-18, 2011 and I had the distinct pleasure of representing APPNA at the event. APPNA has partnered with USAID to provide global relief efforts and, in particular, aid to Pakistan and thus we were active participants at the forum. I shared the achievements, goals, and mission of APPNA with everyone at the forum and everyone was impressed with the accomplishments of APPNA and its tenets.
On July 20, 2011, several APPNA members and I traveled to Washington, DC to share a constructive conversation with key officials on how to best advance people-to-people relationships between the US and Pakistan. We met with several Senators, Congressmen, and Marc Grossman, United States Ambassador to Afghanistan and Pakistan. The most important item on our agenda was the hardships being faced by young physicians in obtaining visas which is an issue we have been actively addressing and tackling all year. We also briefly discussed the future of Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements. It was a promising and optimistic meeting in which we established friendly working relations with key officials involved in the US-Pakistan relations.
This year APPNA was a guest at the White House at the annual Iftar and Dinner on August 10, 2011. I had the opportunity to speak with the President at the event. President Obama knew all about APPNA and was very appreciative of what APPNA does. I updated him on our recent activities and charitable contributions throughout the world and, of course, Pakistan. I also told him about our ongoing fundraising efforts for Somalia, which was the subject of his Ramadan greetings speech this year. President Obama admired APPNA’s Free Clinic initiative and commended all our efforts. The event was a hallmark event for APPNA as it was the first time in APPNA’s history that the APPNA President was invited to the White House Iftar and Dinner. APPNA was a guest of honor for the President of the United States. Credit for this great leap is due to you, the membership, for bringing APPNA to this level through your contributions and participation. I congratulate everyone on this memorable moment for APPNA and encourage everyone to help expand our philanthropic, charitable, and educational organization and to take APPNA to new heights.
Near the end of this year, the American Medical Association Meeting took place in New Orleans, Louisiana on November 11-13, 2011. This year, APPNA joined the AMA’s SSS (Speciality and Service Society Caucus). This is indeed a great accomplishment for us and something of which we should all be proud. It was my honor to introduce the AMA to APPNA and present our society and its mission to the other components of the SSS. I encourage all of the APPNA membership to continue to be active members of the AMA as they are an excellent and beneficial organization to be part of as well as supporters of APPNA.
APPNA returned to Washington, DC on December 6, 2011 for a “Day on the Hill.” The issue of particular concern that we focused on that day was critical residency training visa issues for young Pakistani physicians. We aimed to gain the support of Congressmen and Senators to help us resolve this issue. Several APPNA members and myself spent the day meeting with key officials, such as Tim Linderkin, Director of Pakistan Affairs at the State Department, two of his associates, Department of Homeland Security staff, Thomas Frye and Chris Walker. We were given several recommendations and suggestions to curb the issue, such as guidelines for paperwork, submitting proper supporting documents, and other advice. We were also able to get a promise from them that the current lengthy visa clearance waiting time will hopefully be reduced significantly. It was indeed a worthwhile event and we received hope that the application process will soon become more fair and expedited. I have since then maintained contact with the US Ambassador in Islamabad and the Consular Chief of Nonimmigrant visas there. I reminded them about the pressing young physician visa issue. They reassured APPNA that both the US Embassy and the Consulate General in Karachi will pay special attention to this issue and are working to ensure timely issuance of visas. APPNA will continue to maintain a friendly working relationship with these parties as well as the US State Department and the Department of Homeland Security.
All of this positive feedback and progress in our national affairs is something we can all take ownership of, we must continue to be proud of our APPNA and the global difference APPNA has made and will continue to make.
I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to the APPNA membership for allowing me to serve you as President this year. It was truly a once in a lifetime and honorable experience during which I learned a lot. I hope you are satisfied with my service. I truly could not have accomplished anything this year without your support and participation. I would be remiss to not thank the APPNA Executive Committee, the Committee Chairpersons, Committee Members, Alumni Associations, and Chapters. While the year may be coming to an end, our commitment, dedication, and loyalty to APPNA shall forever continue. Let us continue to work together to see APPNA reach new heights.