Indian-American urologist pens book on his life and experience

Book Cover: PHOTO: courtesy Dr. Navin Shah
Dr. Navin Shah during an exclusive interview with News India Times on May 22, 2023, in Silver Spring, Maryland. PHOTO: T. Vishnudatta Jayaraman, News India Times

In 2019, when Dr. Navin Shah, a top urologist and one of the founders of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), was interviewed for the Amazon Prime show, The Trailblazer, about his role in bringing parity for international doctors, little did he know he would soon be penning a book about it.

Dr. Shah wrote the book “Karma and the Destiny of an Indian American Surgeon” based on the recommendation of the program host, Former Executive Editor of India Abroad, Aziz Haniffa, and program producer, Publisher of The American Bazaar, Asif Ismail.

The book, published in 2022, documents among other aspects, the struggles endured by AAPI to achieve equality for international doctors with US-trained physicians, and its efforts to help enhance medical education and healthcare in India.

“In the 1980s, we were 40,000 Indian doctors and about 180,000 foreign doctors. We passed the US medical exams known as Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates, took the residency training, and passed the Boards. We were licensed to practice and deemed as Foreign Medical Graduate (FMGs). But FMGs were treated as second class doctors,” Dr. Shah, currently director of the Medical Education MidAtlantic Urology Associates, told News India Times,

Motivated by what they saw as an injustice, Dr. Shah, along with other Indian doctors, met with the American Medical Association (AMA) to address their grievances and seek equality and justice. Unfortunately, AMA failed “to address the blatant bias against FMGs.”

In 1984, as Vice-President of AAPI, Dr. Shah formed a coalition of doctors from other FMGs to coordinate advocacy efforts and find solutions. Eventually, in 1987, they managed to replace the word “Foreign” with “International” rebranding FMGs as International Medical Graduates (IMGs) in the battle against discrimination.

During a casual conversation Dr. Shah discovered that one of his patients, Kern Smith, was a lobbyist who specialized in healthcare issues in the US Congress. Smith connected Dr. Shah with US Senator Vance Hartke (D-IN), and together they discussed the injustices faced by FMGs. Dr. Shah documented in his book, “Both Hartke and Smith were shocked by the treatment meted out to FMGs and were keen and eager to represent IMGs. That casual exchange with Smith led me to recommend that the Alliance of FMGs hire him and Hartke as our lobbyists as of July 1987.”

On April 25, 1990, US Senator Paul Simon (D-IL) introduced The International Medical Graduates Anti-Discrimination Act (S.2515) to combat discrimination against IMGs particularly in licensing and reciprocity.  Two years later, after Simon’s introduction of the Bill, President George H.W. Bush signed the Health Professionals Reauthorization Act of 1992 into law, addressing many legitimate concerns of IMGs.

Haniffa, who has known Dr. Shah for more than three decades, and written about Indian-Americans for longer than that, said in his foreword to the book, that Shah’s story is “a beautiful and inspiring contribution to the growing anthology that continues to enhance the mosaic that is America.”

Dr. Shah, who completed his Urology residency in 1975 and has been practicing in the Washington DC metro area since then, reflected on his experience, saying, “This country is a country of law. There are avenues of justice, avenues against discrimination. You can go there, and hopefully you’ll get a victory. We got a victory after years of struggle.”

In his 274-page book comprising eight chapters, Dr. Shah discusses his early life and family, healthcare in India and the US, prostate cancer, and his hobby of collecting Indian coins.



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