APPNA Fall Meeting Marks Milestones in the Alamo City
By Nazli Siddiqui
“It is possible!” This was thematic emphasis during the 2016 Fall Meeting of the Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America (APPNA) that highlighted the organization’s mission: Prevent, Heal and Empower . The event was held in San Antonio, Texas, from October 20 th and 23 rd and was attended by about 500 physician delegates from all over the United States, Canada and Pakistan, besides donors, sponsors, community supporters and volunteers. The pivotal location was Hyatt Regency, Riverwalk.
The convention was made possible due to the untiring efforts of DrLubnaNaeem, President, South Central Texas Chapter (Host Chapter), DrAamir Ehsan, Chair Host Committee Fall Meeting, and members of the Host Committee, Dr Muhammad Naeem, Dr Fahad Inam, Dr Huma Siddiqui, Dr Syed J. Umer, Dr Mehmood Khan, Dr Fozia Ali, Dr Sadia Atif, Dr Ayesha Zaheer, Dr Rashid Sharaf, Dr Naushad Zafar, Dr M. HanifPathan, and Dr Adeel Ansari. Also inducted into the host committee were nine medical schools who had worked tirelessly for past 18 months to make it a success.
President of APPNA, DrNasar Qureshi, Executive Council, Board of Trustees, host committee, APPNA members, chapter and alumni presidents, the San Antonio community, donors/sponsors and volunteers were welcomed by DrNaeem and Dr Ehsan on behalf of the Host Committee.
The Friday proceedings began with a highly informative continued medical educational session presented by renowned physicians from all over the United States. It was followed by Breast Cancer Walkathon to Travis Park in the heart of Downtown, attended by a multitude of breast cancer survivors, physicians, families and representatives of Baptist Breast Cancer Center, South Texas Veterans Health Care System and APPNA President. Walkathon was celebrated with pink colors and rally was lead by a famous Pakistani “Dhol” (drum) player from New York. DrLubnaNaeem has been organizing this Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign for several years. The campaign holds dozens of events nationwide for awareness, emphasizing the availability of screening services specially to minorities and the under-privileged communities, utilizing community platforms of faith-based organizations, fashion shows, town hall meetings and professional healthcare seminars. The emphasis is to achieve a near perfect screening rate of catching all breast cancers before they get difficult to manage and take toll on precious lives.
APPNA also runs a multitude of support programs for young medical physicians of Pakistani descent seeking post-graduate training in the United States. APPNA does lobbying to bring legislation to ensure this great cause following the precedence of other nations who benefit from such laws, providing security clearance and smooth visa processing. Disaster relief program of APPNA has been helping communities around the globe for 40 years. Hurricane Katrina, earthquakes in Nepal, Pakistan and floods in Pakistan are examples of relief efforts financed, funded and manned by APPNA. Childhood Obesity Prevention and Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign organized by DrLubnaNaeem has put Pakistan on the world map of the outstanding preventive health missions. President Obama’s Congressional Award of excellence and Surgeon Generals Accolade are some of the recognitions these programs have won. She is forging ahead with even more vigor and continues to recruit physicians from all over the United States for this great cause. These programs and efforts were summarized during the Fall Meeting.
Friday evening reflected a magnificent colorful line up of the events one after the other. Guests reached the venue at the Briscoe Western Art Museum on beautifully decorated horse carriages to experience the spectacular cultural extravaganza. Attendees were greeted by Mexican dancers in bright colors of rainbow and Mariachi band. Energetic Punjabi Dhol and Bhangra followed, all while the gathering enjoyed ethnic appetizers, chaat, gol-guppa, and drinks. Electrifying Pakistani provincial folk dances from Atlanta (Sanam Studios) were the highlight of the evening.
The keynote speaker was Gordon Hartman, founder of Morgan Wonderland, the theme park of children with special needs, who took the audience on a journey of great courage and hope inspired by his daughter, highlighting the theme “It is Possible.” President of APPNA Dr Nasser Qureshi, DrLubnaNaeem and DrAamir Ehsan addressed the gathering and presented reports. DrNaeem emphasized on collaboration, innovation and coming together to help improve the lives of the underprivileged and to participate in the legislative processes to overcome the challenges of current medical care. The program was moderated by Samiya Habib, BS/MD student at University of Texas health Science Center at San Antonio.
On Saturday the daytime APPNA Council Meeting presented committee reports for important legislation, including invoking new committees, financial report, educational programs, scholarships and constitutional amendment proposals. The Social Forum had outstanding speakers discussing new Liver Transplant Program in Pakistan; Social Media Perils; Purpose: for Youth; and Hope: the APPNA organization for the welfare of women.
As an important component of the Fall Council Meeting, results for next year’s office positions were announced and elected officials congratulated. They included:
President APPNA 2017- Dr Sajid Chouhdry; President Elect 2018 - Dr Iqbal Zafar Hamid; Secretary 2017- Dr M. Rizwan Khalid; Treasurer 2017- DrSohail Khan.
Saturday night banquet program was the culmination of the high energy event. Keynote speaker Mr Graham Reeves, CEO and President of Baptist Health Systems, discussed challenges faced by practicing physicians and offered solutions to offer affordable healthcare to indigent and minority populations. Chad Harthan, an 18 years leukemia survivor, who won the “Man of the Year” award from Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, captivated the hearts of the audience. He told his story of raising more than $290,000 in 10 weeks in a very competitive fundraising effort. Dignitaries like Honorable Consul General of Pakistan Ms Aisha Farooqui and Congressman Joaquin Castro were also in attendance. The program was moderated by Sara and
Asra Waliuddin, recently graduated young doctors.
The entertainment program included a classy fashion show presenting latest styles by famous designers from the United States and Pakistan. This was organized by Dr Ayesha Zaheer. Comedy Queen, Bushra Ansari of Pakistan Television fame amused the audience in her typical comic satire and ghazals. Shujaat Ali Khan a well-known singer, captivated the audience till the early hours of the morning. Pakistani and international celebrity Masarrat Misbah was also in attendance.
Classy ambiance, professional presentations and grassroots support of community was appreciated by the attending physician delegates and dignitaries from across the United States. The hallmark of this historic meeting was the raising of $100,000 by APPNA through sponsorships first-time ever. The check was presented to APPNA President DrNasar Qureshi by Dr LubnaNaeem and Dr Aamir Ehsan.
Dedication and passion of the host committee that resulted into engagement of a diverse participation by medical professionals, youth, philanthropists, entrepreneurs, and community at large was greatly appreciated throughout the event.