Pakistani-American doctors spur quake response
■ Physicians with ties to Pakistan are raising donations, volunteering and supporting the relief efforts.
By Myrle Croasdale — Posted Nov. 21, 2005
After seeing images of the Oct. 8 Pakistan earthquake on the news, family physician Ayaz Samadani, MD, one of thousands of Pakistani-American physicians practicing in the United States, was moved to do what he could to help survivors.
"This is a matter of urgency," said Dr. Samadani, a past president of the Wisconsin Medical Society and chair of the Wisconsin Dept. of Health and Family Services' public health council. "As the days go by, there are more victims falling into desperate conditions due to the lack of proper care."
Dr. Samadani is one of many physicians with ties to the area who have responded to the 7.6 magnitude quake in northwest Pakistan and parts of Kashmir that killed more than 73,000 people, severely injured 70,000 residents and destroyed 3.3 million homes. Physicians from the United States have organized fundraisers, sent medical supplies and equipment and traveled into the devastated areas to provide medical care.
The Islamic Medical Assn. of North America and the Assn. of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America are the central organizations sending teams of volunteer physicians into Pakistan from the United States. To date, 100 physicians have volunteered through IMANA, and $400,000 has been raised, said Shiraz Malik, IMANA's executive director. Also, enough medical supplies and equipment have been donated to fill a 747 cargo plane.
While the need for trauma surgeons has passed, IMANA is still seeking anesthesiologists, plastic surgeons, orthopedic surgeons and pediatricians, Malik said. Family physicians also are needed as the relief efforts move from acute trauma to the longer-term health issues of a displaced population.
Working with the Pakistan Medical Assn. and nongovernmental organizations in the country, IMANA and APPNA volunteers are helping staff five field hospitals and are contributing to the creation of a rehab center in Islamabad, Malik said.
In Dr. Samadani's case, reaching out to victims of the earthquake was a natural outgrowth of earlier efforts in his native Pakistan.
Ten years ago, he created the nonprofit Family Health Organization, which has sponsored exchange programs between medical faculty and students in Pakistan and the United States. The organization also has sponsored events to promote better health care.
When Dr. Samadani heard about the earthquake, he immediately tapped personal funds in Pakistan to ship 50,000 blankets to the homeless. Since then he has raised donations and encouraged others to do the same. Doctors have responded. For example, a Milwaukee colleague raised $125,000 through an area mosque, and the money was used to buy x-ray machines and operating tables.
Dr. Samadani also has sent blood analyzers, sutures and cast materials. He plans to purchase sleeping bags and socks for the disaster victims, as winter settles over the region.
In addition, he's met with Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, inviting him to visit Pakistan in the next month when Dr. Samadani will go to lay the groundwork for a rehabilitation clinic and bring a physical therapist to teach Pakistani health workers how to help amputees. Doyle's office confirmed he had met with Dr. Samadani, but no trip had been scheduled.