Born in Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagada who takes over in July as President of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, AAPI, never thought he would be anything but a doctor.
Growing up, his father was a doctor teaching medicine at a college, and in his whole extended family there are at least 20 physicians!
He takes over from outgoing AAPI President Dr. Suresh Reddy this July.
Dr. Jonnalagada takes over the helm of this storied organization along with Dr. Sajani Shah, chair of AAPI’s Board of Trustees, and his executive team – President-Elect Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, Vice President Dr. Ravi Kolli, Secretary Dr. Amit Chakrabarty, and Treasurer of AAPI Dr. Satish Kathula.
Some of Dr. Jonnalagada’s closest friends in the medical profession have been quite ill during the COVID crisis, and he is determined to make sure his organization is geared to help where needed.
A liver transplant specialist and gastroenterologist, Dr. Jonnaladaga has studied and served in several countries. A graduate of Rangaraya Medical College in Kakinada, he went to work in Nigeria, West Africa, then did a diploma in surgery in Vienna, Austria, before coming to the U.S. in 1988. He did his residency in Internal Medicine in Pittsburgh.
Dr. Jonnalagada did a series of specialized studies, pursuing a liver fellowship in Miami, a liver transplant fellowship back in Pittsburgh, followed by a gastroenterology fellowship in Augusta, Georgia.
He then went to Hamburg, Germany for an advanced fellowship in endoscopy fellowship.
He then went into fulltime practice returning to Douglas, Georgia. Dr. Jonnalagada was also a clinical professor for ten years at Medical College, Georgia.
He was the president of the local Georgia chapter of American physicians of Indian origin, and went on to take up the regional directorship of AAPI.
Now as President of AAPI, Dr. Jonnalagada told Desi Talk, “We will continue our work through the pandemic to our country and those in need.” He harked back to the last four months of AAPI’s “very aggressive” action to educate the community and the country about various aspects of the pandemic, pushing for plasma donations and use of plasma to treat the deadly disease, even appealing to governors and the U.S. Congress, delivering personal protective equipment, PPEs to around 100 hospitals, and also donating some $20,000 through the AAPI Charitable Foundation to the Indian Prime Minister’s fund for COVID-19.
During his upcoming year in leading AAPI, Dr. Jonnalagada has several programs he wants to put in place – 1. Clinical Observerships that enable students looking for residency to get some experience in doctors’ offices; 2. providing twenty hours of free continuing medical education classes a year; 3. planning a project to help other minorities like Blacks and Latinos to educate people on hypertension and lifestyle changes; 4. planning for the Global Health Summit in Vishakapatnam, India Jan. 2 and 3, 2021; and of course, 5. and most important, the health of AAPI – which includes fundraising to make up for the lack of events during the last four months of COVID crisis, and ongoing future challenges posed by it.
Dr. Suresh Reddy, who hands over the gavel to Dr. Jonnalagada, told Desi Talk his year as leader of AAPI, had been “extremely satisfying.”
“It was way beyond my expectations,” especially as it was capped by the signature Virtual Summer Summit addressed for the first time by the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi, something that has never happened before over the 37 years of annual conventions that AAPI has hosted.
When he took over, Dr. Reddy said, “Our goal was two-pronged – bringing unity inside the organization, and linking AAPI with other organizations including mainstream ones.”
Both, he felt, had been achieved significantly. He reeled off a long list of events and good works that AAPI had been doing over the year, including obesity and CPR training.
“We covered all the seven continents, including the Antartic with both obesity awareness and CPR training,” he said. “And in India, with our partners, Indian Society of Anesthesiology and Resuscitation Council of India, we trained more than 500 people. We got some good feedback on that.”
The Global Health Summit held in Hyderabad last July was a success; the visits to Israel and Jordan for obesity and CPR training respectively; trips to South America or the same purposes; several lectures in India; medical student quizzes; Independence Day Parade in Chicago along with the Federation of Indian Associations; Legislative Day in Washington, D.C., were just some of those Dr. Reddy recounted.
When COVID-19 hit, AAPI rolled into action with awareness meetings and seminars, putting out educational materials, pushing for plasma collection, and calling for a lockdown. Online meetings were held with doctors from around the world to share experiences, treatments, results, and how to move forward; online spiritual and prayer ceremonies for those in need; a tribute to healthcare workers featuring Bollywood celebrities; sponsoring lunches for nurses nationwide; and so much more.
Dr. Reddy is from Kakatiya in Warangal, Andhra Pradesh; He is a graduate of Osmania Medical College, and also did medicien at State University of New York, Stony Brook.
He was a clinical fellow in Interventional Neuroradiology at Harvard Medical School and taught full-time Harvard Medical School for 13 years.
He is currently the Chairman of Radiology at Hines Medical Center in Chicago, IL.
He is also an Associate Professor of Radiology at Loyola Medical School, Chicago, IL; an adjunct professor in the faculty in the Department of Neurosurgery, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, MA.
Dr. Reddy received ing the Resident Research Award of the Radiological Society North America 2000.
He was awarded ‘Teacher of the year’ four times by residents and students of Harvard Medical School.
At AAPI, he rose through the ranks from Treasurer of the organization (2015 -16); Secretary (2016-17); Vice President (2017-18); and President Elect: 2018, before taking over as President in 2019.