While watching the message of Dr Naheed Usmani, President of the Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent in North America (APPNA), one gets pleasantly surprised; “18,000 Pakistani-descent physicians in US and Canada are on the frontline and taking care of patients every day. They continue to work to save lives in spite of a shortage of Personal Protective Equipment in hotspots like New York and New Jersey. Many of them are falling sick with the virus. They deserve tremendous credit and our gratitude. We cannot thank them enough. All our prayers for their continued good health and wellbeing.”

Dr Naheed goes on to describe the humanitarian work done by APPNA; APPNA’s COVID-19 taskforce under the leadership of Dr Sajid Chaudhry, since its inception on March 20, has been busy. Much has been achieved in just 2 weeks.

The Social Welfare and Disaster Relief Committee, under Dr Aisha Zafar’s leadership, has already raised $150K and has another wonderful commitment from a very generous Silicon Valley donor of an additional $300K for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for the US and Pakistan. Emergency help in US/Canada included: 200 KN95 masks and 500 surgical masks supplied to Elmhurst hospital New York last week, another 4000 N95 masks are to be given to 3 different New York City hospitals in coming week, over $35,000 for food pantries in partnership with ICNA is being distributed in New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Seattle, Dallas, New Orleans and Minnesota.

Emergency help in Pakistan has also spanned PPE and food assistance: Over $55000 has already been sent to Pakistan for food distribution in partnership with different organisations (Saylani, Akhuwat, Al-Khidmat and Kindle foundations). Food is being distributed in Quetta, Gilgit/Baltistan, Karachi, Lahore, KPK, Bahawalpur and Rawalpindi/Islamabad as well as far flung areas in Balochistan and KP. 2000 N95 and 1000 KN95 masks have been sent to Pakistan. Another 10,000 N95 masks will be sent in another week. Almost 2000 kits for COVID-19 testing have been provided to Nishtar Hospital, Multan by Nishtar alumni; 400 gowns have been provided to Jinnah Hospital, Lahore.

Dr Shahnaz Khan, a senior APPNA lifetime member, is volunteering on the ground in Pakistan and personally handling the distribution of PPE to hospitals and clinics.

APPNA’s philanthropic work is nothing new, it has a glorious history of 43 years and the system has evolved over a period of decades of service. While compiling data for APPNA’s work we have extracted important portions from the APPNA website and their past annual reports.

One of their major projects, the APPNA National Food Pantry was a concrete step in that direction because it is a meaningful way to give back to society. APPNA chapters were encouraged to raise funds for the project while APPNA arranged matching funds of $40,560 through its sponsors and preferred tickets sales during the summer meeting in Orlando, Florida. 15 chapters and alumni associations collected $55,256, thus bringing the grand total to nearly 100,000 in the first year.

Coming back to APPNA’s fight against COVID-19, its website is regularly updated and the Pakistani American community as well as the general public in North America is kept informed about COVID-19. It includes graphic description of APPNA’s efforts in US and Pakistan. The APPNA webinar is a creative effort to reach out to the Pakistani medical community to share ideas and research; it has established a bridge or physicians collaborative between APPNA MERIT and Pakistani institutions to discuss updates and lessons learned daily for treatment of acute care or inpatient management of hospitalised patients with coronavirus infections.

As described by Dr Naheed, under the leadership of Dr Shahid Rafiq, and co-chair Dr Danish Bhatti, APPNA MERIT has been holding daily live webinars to institutions and medical centres in Pakistan, at 8am Pakistan time, to share the latest from US experts on management of COVID-19 patients. US experts have included infectious disease specialists, intensivists, cardiologists, primary care physicians and many others. There have been extensive live Q&A discussions and the recorded webinars are now available on www.appnamerit.com.

We recommend that the government of Pakistan, our medical fraternity and Pakistani media get in touch with these angels of North America and enhance positive cooperation and collaboration so that Pakistan’s national effort to fight COVID-19 is augmented by the vast experience of APPNA.

The APPNA story is also a breath of fresh air in the quasi-critical media; there is a need to tell this story to the Pakistani public so that our youth and general public can appreciate the good work done by the Pakistani diaspora serving humanity across the globe.

Adeela Naureen and Umar Waqar

The writers are freelance journalists. They can be reached at adeelanaureen