History of NASMDA
Sikh physicians started immigrating to USA in late 60s and early 70s, to start a new life in this country. While, most of us came from Punjab, some came from other states in India as well as other countries. Need to associate with others in the same profession and same cultural background was fulfilled by joining their respective alumni associations. Some institutions had established alumni associations, such as Amritsar and Patiala medical college Alumni. It was easy for their Graduates to join these alumni organizations. Sikh graduates from other Indian, and other overseas institutes did not have that option and neither did the graduates of US and Canadian Institutes. There was need to form an organization where all these physicians could get together to fulfill there academic and social needs in an environment that was congenial and comfortable for the physicians and their growing families.
Events in the Genesis:
In 1985 I wrote a letter to 50 Sikh physicians whom I personally knew and had their mailing addresses. I stressed to them the need to form a Sikhs organization to fulfill the need of the time. I was waiting for their response but was surprised by a total lack of interest from any one of them. Only one person had the courtesy to call me back, appreciating my thought process but discouraged me from proceeding with the plan. Disheartened, I temporarily laid the plan to rest.
In the following 5 years the the discussions continued. I jotted down a few aims and objectives for this organization and discussed them with my friend in California, Dr. Arjinderpal Singh Sekhon. He gave me a positive feed back and promised to discuss this matter with a few other Sikh physicians on the west coast. Dr. Ajitpal Singh Sandhu from Freemont, California indicated his interest and revealed that there were others that he knew who were interested in forming an association on the similar basis. The first meeting was arranged at his residence in 1991 and he was requested to invite all who were interested. This meeting was attended by Dr. Tejpal Singh Dhillon, Arjinderpal Singh Sekhon, Ajitpal Singh Sandhu and their spouses and Dr. Dhanna Singh Malhi. We discussed the need for the proposed organization and its aims and objectives and it was agreed that we should proceed with the process of organizing. I took upon myself to write down the constitution and bylaws of the proposed organization named North American Sikh Medical Association (NASMA). Dr. Ajitpal Singh was requested to register this association in California. About 4 weeks later and to our surprise he informed us that the name NASMA had been already taken up by another group who had registered an organization in California.
We decided to proceed with the registration of the association in North Carolina. The legal formalities of registration with the state and federal authorities were carried out by attorney Dicky Walia from Raleigh NC. We decided to call for the first meeting of the association at Crystal City in the outskirts of Washington, DC in 1992. The site was selected because of fair numbers of Sikh physicians in the area whom we thought we will be able to attract. The agenda was to formally adopt the Constitution and Bylaws and set the ball rolling. For the formal meeting to adopt the bylaws we were able to attract a small group of physicians mostly from NC, CA, NY and VA. The initial membership of the association was 13-14 only although we had a good gathering at the social event in the evening. Dr. Ajitpal Singh Sandhu presided as the first president and Dr. Tejpal Singh Dhillon as the secretary. The ball was set rolling and the rest is history. The major task at hand was to enroll members by convincing the fellow Sikh physicians about the need for this association. At the third meeting of the association in Orlando, FL. dentists were added to the association and the name changed to NASMDA.
The association has progressed under the able leadership and hard work of those who willingly donated their time and ability. Each one put 5 years of their time and effort and the association is indebted to them. Dr. Ajitpal Singh Sandhu, Dr. Tejpal Singh Dhillon, Dr. Amarjit Singh, NY, Dr. Ujagar Singh Dhillon, Fresno, CA, Dr. Daljit Singh Caberwal, NC, Avtar Singh, NY, Dr. Gurmeet Chilana, NJ, Dr. Baljit Singh Sidhu, Virginia, Dr. Harcharan Singh Chann, CA., Dr. Mohandeep Singh Dhillon, NY., Dr. Amarjot Singh Narula, NJ, Dr. Kulwant Singh Modi, MD. The annual conventions of the associations were held in different locations all over the USA. Starting with first meeting at Washinghton, DC, we held the meetings at different sites scattered all over the USA.
NASMDA Meeting Details
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Some memorable events during these years come to mind. At the Orlando meeting in 1995 we added dentists to the organization and the name changed from NASMA to NASMDA. The meeting at Manhattan in 2003 we held a combined meeting with Sikh Lawyers with the prospect of continuing this association in the future. However, this could not be repeated in the future. In 2003 we decided to adopt Guru Nanak Mission Medical and education Trust (GNMMET) at Dhahan Kaleran, District Nawanshahar, Punjab as our sister institution. Since then some of our members have been doing volunteer work to help patients and train the local doctors there. At the meeting in Chicago in 2005 veterinarians were invited to attend the meeting as they had expressed the desire to join our organization. Our organization decided not to add any more groups to the organization.
Achievements and Challenges:
At 20 years, the baby has grown to be an adult. During these growth years we have faced many challenges and overcome many obstacles. It is a matter of great achievement that we are the only International or National Sikh medical organization in the world today. We have achieved a steady yet slow growth in our membership. We have provided a perfect platform for our young and old physicians and dentists, where they and their families can meet, interact and form long term friendships. The program provides a stage for delivery of top class continuing medical education and cultural programs for the participants. We have accumulated a sizeable endowment which will help us in the future to promote more for our community in the medical and Dental fields.
The outstanding challenge that we have faced is in the growth of the organization. We have failed in attracting a sizeable number of Sikh physicians and dentists to join our organizations. We have at the best reached about 10% of our targeted audience. We need to make more effort in this regard. We also need to add some more programs and activities to make the organization more effective and attractive. Focus needs to be on the new graduates from medical and dental institutes in the USA and Canada. We should imbibe the spirit of volunteer service amongst the members and encourage and promote this to the focus area of Punjab.
It has been a great privilege and fortune for me and many others who followed me to have been involved in the growing stages of NASMDA. I look forward to the coming years to see this great organization grow and progress and reach its final potential. Thanks to all those who have helped me in my limited ability, in the service to this cause. Needless to say my wife Parminder has been the pillar that stood solid all these years and continues to serve this organization.
Tejpal Singh Dhillon,