The Deadliest Killer Remains Silent Too Long Among South Asians

Dr. Mandeep Bajaj opened the Metabolic Syndrome professional seminar at India House last Saturday, February 9 which he helped organize with Dr. Virendra K. Mathur  (left).

Dr. Mandeep Bajaj opened the Metabolic Syndrome professional seminar at India House last Saturday, February 9 which he helped organize with Dr. Virendra K. Mathur  (left).

By Jawahar Malhotra

HOUSTON: The cartoon graphic projected on the screen depicted a middle-aged South Asian man with a protruding stomach, showing the four types of fat that line his body. “That represents the fat topography which plays a key role in developing Type 2 diabetes,” declared Dr. Mandeep Bajaj as he warmed up to explaining the dangers of obesity in general, and the awful toll they take in South Asians in particular.

With the most recent data at their disposal, Baja and his group of five other presenters were able to zero in on the propensity of South Asians to develop a fatty liver “which results in a double whammy of insulin resistance and inadequate insulin production,” added Bajaj. The presenters included Dr. Ashok Balasubramanyam, Dr. Bincy Abraham, Dr. Vijay Nambi and Dr. Sridevi Devaraj all of the Baylor College of Medicine as well as the keynote speaker, Dr. Karmeen Kulkarni from Salt Lake City and the former president of the American Diabetes Association’s Healthcare Education program, who spoke about diet among South Asians.

Using statistical analysis and some in-depth research conducted by Dr. Ranjita Misra (who had conducted some trial studies in Houston some ten years ago while she was at Texas A&M University), the presenters were able to show that South Asians are genetically and hereditarily much more susceptible to developing all the symptoms that precede the emergence of Type 2 diabetes and gave suggestions on how diet and exercise could help retard or control it.

Dr. Joel Kneitz spoke to the public in a presentation about carbohydrates.

Dr. Joel Kneitz spoke to the public in a presentation about carbohydrates.

These scientific and medical presentations were geared for the medical community, allowing many physicians there to get CME credits for the afternoon long courses. The Metabolic Syndrome Symposium was held last Saturday, February 9 at India House in the main meeting room, while on the other side from the building, in a large classroom, a similar presentation was being made to the general public by Dr. Manish Rungta and other doctors and medical students from UT-Houston. Dr. Joel Kneitz, Dr. Nitin Kapur, Smitha G. Mallaiah and Cathy Chen and her students assisted with the lively presentation which saw many audience members rush to suggest ways to enhance their exercise and diet regimens.

The dual presentations were made possible by the efforts of Drs. Bajaj, Virendra K. Mathur and Durga Das Agarwal (the latter two are Trustees of India House). “We worked for over a year to bring this together,” explained Mathur, “and Dr. Agrawal’s office and staff were really instrumental in organizing the event and calling the people to attend.” Normally CME courses cost $100 or more to register, “but we were able to get the Texas Heart Institute to provide this all for free,” added a delighted Mathur.

Mathur and Agrawal have been keen on getting more usage out of the facilities at India House, and have been instrumental in forming the Medical Clinic on the premises and offering vision care through an outreach van from the University of Houston. The emphasis on Metabolic Syndrome is an outgrowth of educating the public and medical community on the dangers of what is known as the Silent Killer since it can lead to hypertension, kidney failure and heart disease.

Mathur revealed that within the coming few months, India House will be able to report that it will become a satellite clinic for the Harris County Hospital District. “This means that we can offer the same services as Ben Taub Hospital and the patient will pay according to their family income,” explained Mathur. “We have clearance from the County and State and are only waiting on the go ahead from Washington, DC.”

UT-Houston medical students watch as a participant in the symposium related how she worked out as Dr. Manish Rungta (left) amusedly looks on.     Photos: Jawahar Malhotra

UT-Houston medical students watch as a participant in the symposium related how she worked out as Dr. Manish Rungta (left) amusedly looks on.
Photos: Jawahar Malhotra

Also at hand that Saturday afternoon was Dr. Simon Bott, a professor of Chemistry and the Director of the newly formed 3/4 BSMD program at the University of Houston. He announced that UH will start offering the new program in partnership with UT-Houston and UTMB Galveston that would allow students to do three years of pre-medical work and then finish their final year in a medical college leading directly to medical school. The program will start in the Fall of 2013 and UH is actively recruiting for the ten student slots that would be available.

“This is a step in the right direction to keep healthcare costs down by training in a more cost effective manner,” said Agrawal, who has served for the past 3 years on the nine-member Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. “There are plans for UH to even offer a PhD program in Nursing to help in this direction by offloading physicians from their routine workloads.” The THECB oversees all 50 community colleges and approves new programs that are being offered.

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