By Ken Datzman
COCOA VILLAGE — Many charitable organizations around the nation are just getting by in a slow–rebounding economy that has forced businesses to thin their ranks and make tough decisions to help ensure their future. The once–booming nonprofit sector has felt the impact of these cutbacks. It has even caused a growing number of charitable entities to close their doors altogether after years of service in their communities.
But there are success stories as well in today’s highly competitive nonprofit and association arena. And one of them is locally based Brevard Indo–American Medical and Dental Association, or BIMDA. It is one of 1,500 charitable organizations of all sizes in Brevard.
The 15–year–old nonprofit association continues to grow its membership and to have a wide impact in charitable giving not only in Brevard but also regionally, nationally, and internationally. “Our goal is to continue to expand so we can reach out and help more people,” said Dr. Prakash Reddy, president of the organization and chairman of it’s ninth annual BIMDA Medical Expo and Symposium, set for April 30 at the Hilton Melbourne Rialto Place. “BIMDA has a long track record and we’re proud of our accomplishments. We’re well–positioned for the future.”
BIMDA committee members, many of whom are small–business operators, recently gathered at a restaurant here to plan for their Medical Expo and Symposium, one of two events the organization puts on yearly. BIMDA’s support for these events has been consistently solid, year after year, attracting medical professionals, businesses, hospitals, and other interested parties. “We are doing well in this tough economy, and I think we will continue to do well in the years ahead,” said Dr. Ashok Shah, who has been one of the core leaders of BIMDA and is an internist affiliated with Parrish Medical Center in Titusville. “This is a great organization to be part of. I have seen it grow.”
|Dr. Shah is the sponsorship chairman for the 2011 Expo. He said BIMDA through the years has been able to expand and diversify its event–sponsorship base, “where we do not have to solely depend on one particular vendorsegment. That’s a sign of a maturing organization.”
BIMDA, said MIMA’s Dr. Reddy, “was one of the first organizations of its kind in the state of Florida.” He added, “We have really evolved and today BIMDA’s agenda also includes supporting and working with area educational organizations, including Brevard Community College and the Florida Institute of Technology, as well as the Brevard Symphony Orchestra and United Way.”
BIMDA is comprised of about 200 members, of whom 150 are lifetime members. Many of the doctors are of Indian origin, “but we have welcomed other physicians and dentists to join the group and it has helped us in many ways to better organize and come under one roof as we pursue our mission,” said Dr. Abdul Karim, a Rockledge cardiologist and a former BIMDA president. Internal–medicine practitioner Dr. Sue Mitra, who was BIMDA’s president in 2009, said she thinks the association has the “potential to double in size because it has truly grown by leaps and bounds. The growth curve has been pretty impressive, so a doubling in membership is certainly possible in the future. I think BIMDA is a very promising organization.”
She recently opened her practice at a new location at Imperial Plaza on North Wickham Road in Suntree. Palm Bay dentist Subhash Rege said BIMDA is “growing faster than it had expected. We’re poised for future growth.”
BIMDA has come a long way since its founding, added Dr. Rao Kopuri, an orthodontist with offices in Melbourne and Merritt Island. “It started with about 10 members. Now, look where we are. I see a very bright future for the organization. We intend to do a lot of charity work.” Longtime area ophthalmologist Dr. Mukesh Aggarwal says BIMDA “is a role model for other such groups in the state. In the future, we want to be a much larger organization. We are inviting doctors of all ethnic backgrounds and cultures to join us as we embark on charitable missions.”
A past president of BIMDA, Dr. Aggarwal was one of the early physicians on the Space Coast to journey overseas on medical missions. Recently, from Dec. 25 to Dec. 29, he was in northern India running a medical– surgical camp.
Dr. Aggarwal said he worked alongside two other ophthalmologists at a hospital there when north India was experiencing a severe cold wave. “We saw about 600 patients for eye problems and did 71 surgeries. It was a big success, a lot of work in just fourdays,” said Dr. Aggarwal. He says he has performed 2,000 cataract surgeries in various countries on his medical missions over the years. Eleven years ago, he and other volunteers started a small clinic in a church in northern India. Today, their humble venture has grown into a 150–bed hospital staffed by six full–time doctors and about 100 health–care professionals. The facility includes a 24–hour emergency room, Dr. Aggarwal said.
“I am really proud of the fact BIMDA does a lot of charity work not only locally but also internationally. These are our roots,” he said. The BIMDA doctors are known for their philanthropy, in the community and elsewhere. For example, cardiologist Dr. Ravi Palaniyandi, a past president of BIMDA, and his wife Ambika donated $1 million to Wuesthoff Brevard Hospice and Palliative Care to build the Dr. Jey Pillai Center for Hospice Care at Wasdin Woods in Rockledge. “Their kindness and generosity is so typical of the BIMDA membership, who believe that to whom much is given, much is expected,” said Dr. Homi Cooper, who practices occupational medicine in Melbourne and is a longtime BIMDA member. The gift was given in memory of Dr. Palaniyandi’s late brother, Dr. Jey Pillai. The facility recently hosted a grand opening for the community.
BIMDA was founded by area pediatrician Mahesh Soni and Glad Kurian, a Florida Tech M.B.A. graduate who serves as its honorary executive director. The two visionaries, Dr. Soni and Kurian, and other members of the association, have worked hard to keep BIMDA on a constant path of evolution. “We started with just a few doctors who gathered informally to talk about educational activities and charitable activities, in the early 1990s,” said Dr. Soni, founding president. “Then we decided in 1996 to make it a formal organization. It has since become a very important tool for physicians and dentists in the county.” Kurian says BIMDA today “has emerged as a leading nonprofit organization not only in Brevard but also in Central Florida and the state of Florida. It successfully networks with other medical associations across the state, from Jacksonville to Orlando to Fort Lauderdale.”
Kurian, a senior investment consultant with Morgan Stanley’s Windermere office in greater Orlando, is the common executive director for a number of these groups. He once led five of them. “One of the things BIMDA does very successfully is collaborate with other medical associations,” Kurian said,“such as the American Black Cardiology Association. A few years back, we did a program with them and we are looking to team up with ABCA again in the future.”
Kurian said BIMDA has hosted dignitaries from the Florida Medical Association, the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, and other statewide and national organizations. BIMDA also works closely with the Brevard County Medical Society and the three hospital systems in the region, as well as the new Kindred Hospital in Melbourne. “We recently hosted an event and it was the first time we had representatives from all the hospitals in the county under one roof. We’re proud of that. It shows that BIMDA can unite the forces,” said Naren Shah, Expo co–chair of operations and president of Infinity Software Inc. in Satellite Beach. Shah is a SCORE volunteer in the community, too.
At BIMDA’s last annual meeting, the guest speaker was Dr. Navin Nanda, a nationally and internationally renowned cardiologist. “We were very pleased to have hosted Dr. Nanda. He was the speaker for BIMDA’s continuing medical education program, which is well– attended every year by area physicians,” said Dr. Jay Patel, immediate past president of BIMDA. Dr. Nanda is professor of medicine and director of the Heart Station/Echocardiography Laboratories at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He was selected by the American College of Cardiology to receive one of its distinguished honors, the 2010 International Service Award. The award is given “for outstanding contributions to cardiovascular medicine and science and for significantly enhancing cardiovascular care throughout the world.” “Dr. Nanda’s appearance for our CME meeting was a milestone for BIMDA,” said Dr. Gobivenkata Balaji, president–elect of BIMDA. “Continuing education for BIMDA members is a big focus of our organization.” Continuing medical–education units for physicians will be offered free of charge at the April 30 Expo. “We are in the process of getting commitments for various speakers for the Expo’s CME program,” said Dr. Bhasker Patel. “We always have a panel of excellent speakers.” The committee is also in the process of recruiting its featured speaker for the main event.
The conference is from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with registration set for 7:30 a.m. The event also includes a banquet following the conference. For more information on exhibitor space and sponsorship details for the ninth annual Medical Expo and Symposium, visit BIMDA.com.