Economic crisis hits upcoming convention of Indian doctors in US

By Lalit K. Jha, IANS,

Orlando (Florida : The affluent community of Indian American doctors too has started feeling the pinch of the current economic meltdown the US is facing.

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The financial crisis has thrown a big challenge to the leadership of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) to raise funds for their prestigious annual convention, slated to be held in Orlando, Florida next June.

With a membership of over 46,000 doctors and 15,000 medical students, AAPI is the apex body of Indian American physicians in the US. Raising funds, in excess of a million dollars, from sponsors for its annual convention has never worried the AAPI leaderships.

But it is not the case this time for the 27th Annual Convention of AAPI beginning June 10 at the prestigious Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort in Orlando. Unlike in the past, sponsors and big corporates this time are not willing to make the same level of commitment for making funds available for the convention, organisers say.

This has forced AAPI leadership to change its strategy to raise funds and also seriously have a relook at its expenses, including the possibilities of cost cutting.

“There is no question, the economic question is grim in some ways,” Ravi Jahagirdar, chair of AAPI 2009 Convention, told IANS. “We have changed our strategy. We have started to approach more (companies) at the retail level and get as many people broad based involved. Hopefully that is going to work,” he said.

Jahagirdar said the organisers have started “looking sharply” at the expenses of the convention and assessing if costs could be curtailed in any segment of the five-day mega meet in June. Entertainment, one of the key features of AAPI meet, is one sector that could be hit if the funds cannot be raised as budgeted.

However, Jahagirdar hoped that with better management practices and planning the convention would be at par, if not better, with the previous ones.

“It’s a tough call,” he conceded, adding: “We are taking steps like broadening our base from revenue standpoint.”

Besides enabling AAPI members to update their medical knowledge, with focus on recent advances, for improved healthcare delivery, Jahagirdar said one of the missions of the 27th edition of the convention is to allow representatives of the pharmaceutical industry, medical equipment and medical services Companies, and insurance/financial/electronic services to showcase their products directly to members.

The convention, as usual, would honour its eminent members and recognise community-based initiatives in the US and India. It will also provide a forum to interact with other medical organisations, and with legislative representatives, in the context of healthcare, he said.

One of the largest congregations of Indian American doctors in the US, the 27th annual convention of AAPI is expected to attract more than 2,000 participants for the meet. On an average 120 to 160 exhibits/companies attend the convention.

In view of the financial crisis, how many of them will participate would be known only at the time of the convention.