AIA-NY honors 5 ‘extraordinary’ individuals at annual gala, Sen. Schumer praises Indian Americans

US Senator Chuck Schumer address the gathering at the June 2, 2024, AIA-NY gala. Seen in photo, from left, Meena Gupta, Dr. Gupta, Senator Chuck Schumer, Honorees Naveen Shah, Dr. Raman Sharma, Prof. S.N. Sridhar, Dr. Vishal Kapur and Dr. Rekha Bhandari. PHOTOS: Courtesy AIA-NY

The New York Chapter of the Association of Indians in America (AIA), considered one of the oldest organizations serving Indian immigrants in this country, held its Annual Gala June 2, 2024, to raise funds for the 37th Deepavali Fest slated for October 6, 2024. The gala was also meant to generate funds for ‘AIA-Educational Project,’ to help Indian-American students in need.

The Gala was attended by 200 members of the community, including past presidents and members of the Advisory Board of Trustees of AIA. The event was held at the Crystal Ballroom of Leonard’s Palazzo Banquet Hall in Great Neck.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was the Chief Guest.   In his remarks, he highlighted his visit to India, the importance of strong India-US ties, and praised Indian leaders, culture, traditions, and the community’s contributions to education and healthcare. He emphasized the strong maritime defense ties between the two countries in the Indian Ocean. He also applauded Indian physicians and parents for their commitment to education, drawing parallels with the Jewish community. His remarks received multiple rounds of applause and ended with a standing ovation.

Dr. Sumita Sengupta (Gala Co-chair), Assemblyman David Weprin, Dr. Raman Sharma, President Dr. Jagdish Gupta, and Chairman of Board Dr. Samin Sharma.

New York State Assemblyman David Weprin from District 24 was an honored guest. He has been a staunch supporter of the AIA-NY, helping to secure Alternate Day Parking suspension on Diwali each year and advocating for Diwali as a school holiday in New York City, a press release from AIA said. He expressed his pride in supporting the Indian community and emphasized the importance of cultural recognition in fostering a diverse and inclusive society.

In keeping with the theme of Women’s Empowerment, Dr. Rekha Bhandari, Chief Medical Officer for the MedElite Group/Allure Group/Vis-à-vis Health, was honored with the ‘Excellence in Healthcare Award’ for her innovative contributions to healthcare. “I am humbled and honored to receive this award from one of the oldest ethnic organizations. I hope my journey serves as a trailblazer for other women to follow and get inspired in the healthcare field,” she said.

Naveen C. Shah, CEO of Navika Group of Companies and Blue-Sky Hospitality Solutions, received the ‘Entrepreneur Par Excellence Award’ for his success in building a multibillion-dollar conglomerate and his philanthropic efforts supporting numerous nonprofit organizations. In his speech, Shah paid tribute to all the AIA founders, and officeholders past and present for their dedication and relentless efforts in supporting Indians in America. “Our unity and support has been pivotal in promoting Indian culture and heritage in the USA,” he said.

Senator Schumer and Honorees – Dr. Vishal Kapur with his family, Dr. Raman Sharma & Clara Sharma, Naveen Shah & Rajshree Shah

Distinguished Professor of Linguistics and India Studies at Stony Brook University, S.N. Sridhar, PhD, was recognized for ‘Excellence in Literature, Linguistics & founding India Studies at Stony Brook University.’  He shared insights into his research and its impact on promoting cultural understanding.

Dr. Vishal Kapur and Dr. Raman Sharma from Mount Sinai Health System were also honored. Dr. Kapur received the ‘Excellence in Cardiology-Vascular & Endovascular Medicine’ award, while Dr. Sharma was presented with the ‘Special Young Physician Award for Excellence in Endovascular Intervention’. Dr. Kapur spoke about the advancements in endovascular treatments at Mount Sinai and the importance of innovation in patient care. Dr. Sharma highlighted the significance of his work in saving limbs from ischemia in diabetics and preventing strokes in patients with carotid artery blockages.

The evening began with a social networking hour featuring cocktails and Indian hors d’oeuvres, followed by entertainment including live performances by Tanmayee Mohapatra and Jagabattula Maheshwari. Vice President and Gala Chair, Beena Kothari, welcomed guests and introduced Dr. Jagdish Gupta, president of AIA who spoke about the significance of Deepavali Celebrations and the importance of supporting educational excellence in the Indian-American community.

Dr. Samin Sharma, Chairman of the AIA Board of Trustees, highlighted the achievements of Indian Americans in healthcare and corporate America.

Citations for AIA-NY  and the honorees were received from various dignitaries, including the Indian Consulate, Congressman Tom Suozzi, Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman and New York State Senator Kevin Thomas.

Dr. Gupta thanked all the sponsors and partners, including Fareportal – CheapOair, Mount Sinai Hospital, Northwell Health System, Mattoo Center for India Studies, Brooklyn Hospital Center, Navika Group of Companies, Blue-Sky Hospitality Solutions, Parker Jewish Institute, CenterLight Healthcare, and media partners.

The event concluded with a dinner, dancing, and entertainment.



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