Lives Devoted to Helping the Ill are Appreciated by Their Peers

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Dr. K.T. Shah with, from left, KC Mehta, Gopal Rana, and Dr. Suresh Moonat.

By Jawahar Malhotra

STAFFORD:  So much time has passed by since they started their selfless deeds that many of the original people who were there by their side have passed on or moved along and cannot tell their part of the story.

But a few still remain. And they aimed to make sure that the impact of the dedicated and visionary work of the doctors who worked to cure people because they saw no other choice to ease their consciences – and the people who stood beside them – was not forgotten in the sands of Time. Kishore C. Mehta – KC to most – wanted to ensure that, once again, people understood the humble beginnings and huge impact that the Indian Doctors Charity Clinic has had on the needy and uninsured people of the Bayou City.

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Drs. Suresh and Sunita Moonat receive a plaque from Dr. Satish Jhingran.

“We see people from every country – Ethiopia, Congo, Mexico, India, Pakistan – you name it. It doesn’t matter to us,” exclaimed Dr. Kirti T. Shah (known affectionately as KT) from the wheelchair to which he has been confined for almost a year due to the progressive effects of Parkinson’s Disease.

Each Saturday, for four hours, the Clinic located across from Bellaire General Hospital near Chimney Rock and South Rice in Bellaire opens to a long line that snakes through the corridor, people sitting on the floor or portable chairs they bring in, first come, first served. About 40 people are lucky enough to see an Indian doctor for no cost. If they need more diagnostics, they are referred to the diagnostic clinic run by Dr. Lucky Chopra, also for free.

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Dr. K.T. Shah with standing from left, KC Mehta, Nanda Vura, President-Elect IACF and Dr. Manish Gandhi, President-Elect IDA

Most Saturdays for the past ten years, they have been seen by Dr. Shah, who, despite his reduced mobility, still goes to work at the clinic. He is man molded from the old tradition of disciplinarians who came out of an India that built that trait into your character. He minces no words or modulates his tone with patients and friends alike, but he has always been focused on serving the public. “When I see my patients, I forge all my difficulties,” Shah said with a smile and a matter-of-fact look on his face.

Shah was simply following the legacy that Drs. Sunita and Suresh Moonat – a husband and wife team – had started off in 1997 when they no longer could bear to see people being without treatment because of no insurance or lack of money. It touched them so much that they reached out to the Boards of the groups they belonged to – the Indian Doctors Club and the Indo American Charity Foundation – to help with financing the start of an absolutely free health clinic.

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Dr. Kiran Gandhi (left) receives a bouquet

It was located off Bellaire and Tarnef in Southwest Houston, in a small office that was virtually rent free. With the help of Dr. Satish Jhingran and Gopal Rana, a marketing executive in an oil and gas company, they cajoled drug companies and other doctors for free samples of medicine and supplies and what they couldn’t get, they managed to raise money amongst themselves and others who believed in them, to buy and give away. The Moonats drove each Saturday from their homes in The Woodlands and Rana and Jhingran came from Sugar Land.

Since then, the clinic has moved to its present location and it has survived on two fundraisers and a couple of letter-writing campaigns by Dr. Shah. It has brought forward some generous donors, like Raju and Anjali Patel who donate $5,000 each year.

But as Time flies by, the need of donations and volunteer doctors to assist – and eventually take over from – Dr. Shah have become acute. Drs. Kiran Gandhi and Manish Gandhi has stepped forward to volunteer each Saturday and the IDCC Board – Mehta, Gandhi (President-Elect of the Indian Doctors Association), Dr. Subodh Chauhan (Past-President of IDA), Dr. Jay Raman, the Moonats, Jhnigran and Kiran Gandhi – is developing a plan for the future.

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Generous donors Raju and Anjali Patel with Dr. Shah

But on this rainy Sunday afternoon, on December 13, at the VIP Dining room of the BAPS Swaminarayan Temple, Mehta and others organizers brought together community leaders, the media and other supporters to make sure that they remembered the pioneers and workers, especially Dr. Shah, who characteristically did not seek the praise or glow. The Moonats spoke about their efforts to start the Clinic and Rana was surprised but delighted at the recognition. After the satisfying vegetarian Indian lunch that the Temple volunteers had made and served, Shah, the Moonats, Jhingran and Rana got the praise anyway, with proclamations, bouquets and a chance to speak their vision and express their dedication.

And they also got a chance to smile broadly – Rana, Moonats, Dr. Raman (who volunteers at the clinic), the Patels and Drs. Gandhi – as they accepted the plaques from the IDA (and one from the IACF that helped launch them) – for their role in making the Bayou City feel the generosity of no-cost Indian medical care.