A dream which became a glorified reality
By Almas Akhtar, TMO
File: Dr. Zaheer Ahmed
APPNA, which stands for the Association of Physicians of Pakistani descent from North America is perhaps the largest Pakistani organization in USA.
It is also one of the largest ethnic medical societies in North America. APPNA was started by a group of physicians in the summer of 1976 in the state of Michigan. Dr Zaheer Ahmed, a physician from King Edward Medical College, was and still is a dedicated community leader.
He came to the United States in the early 1970s and received his medical training in the United States. It was he who presented the vision for APPNA; an Association of Pakistani Americans which would foster scientific development and education in the field of medicine, it would support medical research, and facilitate better understanding and relations among Pakistani physicians and US physicians and local people living in North America.
Dr. Zaheer Ahmed was kind enough to sit down with me to talk about the initial concept of APPNA and the idea behind the creation of this remarkable organization 35 years back.
â€œUntil the end of fifth decade of the twentieth century most of the medical graduates from Pakistan used to seek post graduate education in the United Kingdom. By the early sixties this trend started changing and Pakistani graduates recognized the availability of better training facilities in the United States. These young graduates started coming to the United States and later on became very successful medical practitioners,â€ he explained.
It was this group of Pakistani Physicians which Dr Zaheer Ahmed was able to convince to create an organization for Physicians of Pakistani descent. Most of the early meetings were held at the house of Dr. Ahmed and his wife Mussarat, in West Bloomfield, MI.
The first official meeting of APPNA was held at the Hyatt Regency Dearborn, in Michigan.The dedicated group of physicians who helped launch APPNA were: the late Dr Malik Mirza, Dr Ahsan ul Haq, Dr Khalid Latif, Dr. Sattar Choudhry, the late Dr. Aurangzeb Sheikh, Dr. Rauf Sheikh, Drs. Tariq and Rehana Siddiqui, the late Chaudhry Mohammed Idris, the late Dr Zafar Mahmud, Dr Basharat Ahmad, and Dr Zeenat Anwar.
The most difficult task for the new organization was to write its constitution–which took almost one year to be completed and was presented at the first official meeting at the Hyatt Dearborn.
Dr Zaheer Ahmed was selected itâ€™s first pro-term president and Dr Malik Mirza itâ€™s first pro-term Secretary-tresurar. APPNA was registered in 1977 as a medical-based organization of Pakistani Physicians with IRS section 501(c)(3) non-profit status.
It was in the year 1978 when a combined national dinner meeting was held for the members of APPNA and also another group of Pakistani Physicians who were graduates of King Edward Medical College, Lahore. This group used to meet as a group every year during the annual meeting of American Medical Association. It was also attended by Pakistani Ambassador Sahabzada Yaqub Khan, who was invited as the cheif guest. A large number of Pakistani Canadian Physicians also attended this meeting.All these physicians acknowledged the concept of APPNA.
The first national symposium called â€œHealth Care in Pakistanâ€was sponsored by APPNA in 1979 at Detroit Plaza Hotel-Renaissance Centre. It was inaugrated by Pakistani Ambassador Sultan Mohammed Khan. Guest Speakers included Dr Paul White M.D (public health department of Johns Hopkins University) and Dr. Jason Finkle M.D. (director of population planning at University of Michigan).
The first international medical conference on â€œHealth Care and Advances in Medicine and Surgeryâ€ organized by APPNA was held at the Intercontinental Hotel, Karachi and was inaugurated by then President General Zia-ul-Haq. A medical symposium was held during this conference which provided a detailed workshop on endoscopic equipment. This equipment was transported to Pakistan from USA through the efforts of Ambassador Sultan Mohammed Khan. At the conclusion of this meeting in Karachi physicians proceeded to their respective medical institutions to deliver lectures and participate in seminars arranged by their Alma Mater. This became APPNAâ€™s tradition and thus alumni associations of various medical colleges from Pakistan were created.
Chicago, IL was selected as the permanent headquarters of the organization in 1986. APPNA SEHAT, a primary health care project to serve rural areas in Pakistan, was launched in 1988.
CAPPNA (Children of Association of Pakistani Physicians of North America) and Pak Pac a political arm of APPNA, were created in 1989. SAYA (Society for APPNAâ€™s Young Adults) was created in 1993. The spouses of physicians and female physicians launched APPNA Auxiliary which was later called in APPNA Alliance in 1995. APPNA,Society of International Help and Noor Foundation co-sponsored the Human Development Foundation of North America.The mission of HDFNA was to launch a non-profit social movement and community empowerment through literacy and through improving the quality of education,in 1997. The APPNA Cytogenetic Laboratory was established in 2004 in collaboration with Pakistan Children Cancer Society.APPNA Dental was launched as a component of APPNA in 2008.
In 2009 two international CMEâ€™s were organized in Alaska and Australia/New Zealand along with the summer meeting in California. There are close to 34 regional chapters of APPNA which has representation of physicians from various parts of the US and Canada. All major medical colleges in Pakistan have established their alumni associations through APPNA. King Edward Medical College, Lahore and Dow Medical College, Karachi being the two largest. APPNA helped Tsunami victims in 2004 and victims of Hurricane Katrina as well. APPNA raised donations for victims of the earthquake in Pakistan in 2005.
In a short span of 35 years and with the help of many more dedicated people, APPNA has established itself as a well reputed professional organization in the USA. Its members participate in medical relief, educational programs and charitable activities not only in Pakistan and the United States but also in many under-served parts of the world. The organization, which was launched by a small group of physicians in 1977, is now a very big organization with a large number of members. The summer and fall meetings are attended by a huge number of physicians and their families every year in various cities in the United States and abroad.