By JUDY OTTO
Attendees at the December 3 Winter Gala event hosted by the Central Florida Association of Physicians from the Indian Subcontinent (CAPI) left with much to think about: Newly-installed CAPI president Vijay Patange, MD, a 15-year partner in the Medical Center Radiology Group, and Chief of Radiology at Clermont's South Lake Hospital, assumed his role by reminding members of how much the organization needs to accomplish in the year ahead, and sharing an ambitious 2017 agenda rich in outreach, education and mentorship--strongly focused on service to the Central Florida community. Keynote speakers from Orlando Regional Medical Center and the University of Central Florida delivered fascinating firsthand perspectives on events and discoveries with far-reaching impacts not only on our community, but society as a whole:
Sandeep Mukerjee, M.D., Chief of Anesthesiology at Dr. Phillips Hospital and Quality Director of Anesthesiology at ORMC spoke with simple and moving eloquence of his experiences in serving the wounded in the wake of the Pulse Nightclub shooting, for which he received the 2016 Harold S. Strasberg, M.D. Humanitarian Award from the Florida Medical Association. Accustomed to daily surgeries dealing with trauma and major illnesses, Mukerjee was nonetheless shocked to find himself facing, in the early morning of Sunday, June 12th, the bloody results of the United States' deadliest mass shooting, with 49 murdered and 53 injured.
"I had never dealt with anything of this scope or magnitude. The victims came up to the OR's, mostly still in their street clothes," Mukerjee recalled. "Most were in shock, in pain and confusion, some crying for their mothers. I rapidly triaged the patients, identifying the most critically injured."
Five OR's were in use, with five different trauma surgeons at work on 41 cases. Mukerjee moved from OR to OR to help resuscitating patients and administering CPR as needed.
"I will always remember one haunting aspect of that night - the urgent, persistent ringing of cell phones in the discarded clothing of these patients in the OR's, as families and friends tried desperately to reach their loved ones to see if they were okay," he said.
This testament to medicine under pressure had a profound impact on caregivers. "I have never been so focused, engaged, and energized in my life as I was that night," Mukerjee reflected. "Sadly, this was the apex of my professional career."
Seetha Raghavan, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of Central Florida (UCF), shared an inspiring glimpse of a future where groundbreaking partnerships between UCF's College of Engineering and Computer Science and College of Medicine continue to explore exciting possibilities.
Raghavan cited UCF's new Biomedical Engineering Degree program, which "has inspired some really unique research focus areas that pair up UCF faculty with physicians - for example, fluid flow models that simulate outcomes of surgical procedures; developing new materials for synthetic tissues; creating new robotic surgical techniques, and understanding the interaction of neuroscience and biomechanics for more effective gait rehabilitation therapies."
She pointed with pride to Albert Manero, a graduate student she has mentored. Manero, who received his PhD in Aerospace Engineering in December, founded UCF-based Limbitless Solutions, a nonprofit devoted to bringing 3-D printed bionic arms and hands to children at no cost to their families. The multidisciplinary team of engineering students he brought together not only created an affordable prosthetic solution; the Limbitless team has now developed new bionic arm designs for 20 children as far away as Brazil and New Zealand, and is pursuing a patent for its bionic wheelchair controlled by facial gestures - the first of its kind in the world. Here's proof that collaboration between engineering and medicine can change lives - and the world impacted by their improved circumstances.
President Patange rounded out the program by defining his priorities for CAPI in 2017. In keeping with the organization's stated mission, he emphasized the need to continue building stronger alliances with area hospitals and local physicians' groups. He also stressed increasing membership recruitment efforts, especially among the younger generation of rising physicians, and creating a youth forum to provide mentorship for local high school and college students as they shadow CAPI physicians. Additional areas of focus include improving the web site and media awareness of the group and its mission of making a difference in the community it serves.