By Anant Honkan
Few years back, when I was entering the decorated hall for Ganesh Festival event in Shakti Mandir, one young boy approached me and politely invited me to his booth to listen to what he and his young friends had to say. Being in the teaching world for many years now, I am always attracted by such young kids and their innovative minds. I started walking with him and listened to the information he and his friends were providing to the attendees. They were talking about bringing awareness to Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) and Pulmonary Embolism (PE) to the attendees. I noticed that in the process of talking with the guests, they were also learning communication skills and self-confidence by volunteering at this event. I was very much impressed by their convincing presentation. After thanking them for generating my interest and curiosity in their topics, I proceeded to enjoy the events of the day with our friends.
Few years passed by, and one day at a social event Dr. Laddu asked me if I would like to join their team at the Georgia Thrombosis Forum. My first very positive interaction with that young boy was sufficient for me to say yes without hesitation and now I am writing this article on the activities by these kids and their contribution to this mission of Dr. Laddu. I will attempt to bring only the salient features because of the limitations on the space in this magazine.
GTF stands for Georgia Thrombosis Forum (www.gtfonline.net) and was formed by Dr. Atul Laddu in 2012 to provide sufficient knowledge to our community and Georgia neighborhoods on two fatal conditions of PE and DVT. He turned one tragic incident in his family (his grandson a few years ago had suffered from not just one, but two, attacks of PE in both of his lungs) into this valuable all young volunteer group by putting countless hours, personal funds and resources in this noble effort of public service. With his rich experience in the medical research, he got the attention of North American Thrombosis Forum (NATF, www.natfonline.org) that conducts research via renowned institutions such as Harvard Medical School, Loyola University in Chicago, and Brigham Women’s Hospital in Boston. Through his continuous efforts and negotiations, GTF is now a proud and major affiliate of NATF.
a) Activities, outcomes, planning and execution
The main purpose of the entire initiative of GTF is multifold:
First, to create an awareness of thrombosis in the Georgia community, thereby saving countless precious lives.
Second, engage these young minds beyond their “boring” school homework and improve their communication and social skills. And
Third, to strengthen the bond with parents as they come forward, and get involved in supporting their child.
Members of the GTF Board take a structured approach to carefully go through, review and approve all proposed activities, majority of which are initiated by young volunteers from middle schools to high schools. It is interesting to note that sometimes a couple of young members come up with same or similar activities or events which strongly reflect on their curiosity and interest in the goals of GTF.
The GTF Board holds meetings to scrutinize each applicant and creates groups of students who then are assigned tasks to complete within a time frame flexible enough for these young kids to handle. Several practice sessions are then organized before the event is held. Dr. Laddu leads all sessions which require medical scrutiny to ensure accuracy in the presentation. The Board also is very dynamic in making many adjustments to accommodate variations in the activities which take many forms such as:
- Writing research papers, articles and creating posters to emphasize importance of awareness in people about the condition of thrombosis and immediate need for medical care/help,
- Conducting interviews of leading medical professionals in the metropolitan area to build confidence, and at the same time gain basic knowledge,
- Conduct interviews of patients who had were the unfortunate victims of thrombotic conditions to seek their input to address authenticity and accuracy in spreading the information,
- Meet patient support groups. These meetings are in the form of a conference call, and are held every few months. A typical meeting is chaired by an expert physician in thrombotic conditions, and patients who have had thrombotic conditions in the past join the conference call. The patients are free to discuss any topic on thrombosis in their mind, including their own condition, or that of their loved ones. The physician expert responds to the questions. Other patients who had suffered from thrombosis often get a valuable information from this call,
- Participate in summer internships at Harvard, Loyola, NATF, and University of North Georgia in particular,
- Making presentations in front of Harvard University Faculty.
b) Performance/Results of activities:
As the saying goes “proof of the pudding…” all young members of GTF produced results in just last couple of years which can only be described as unbelievable.
Here is a partial list of their success:
- Proclamations by many cities, counties and by the state of Georgia within the short period operation.
- In January or February our members participate in Page program at the state capital. Aditya, Amey, Aneesh, Anjali, Anusha, Anushka, Aryana, Ayush, Atharva, Avanti, Manoj, Nimish, Nupur, Omkar, Rajath, Richa, Ritwik, Rohan, Rohil, Samarth, Sarang, Sarth, Sneha, Vaishnavi, Varun, Veeraj, and a few others participated.
- Georgia State Senator Renee Unterman became a strong supporter of GTF. She is the chair of the Health and Human Services in the State of Georgia and a nurse by profession. She also was a patient of DVT and is now helping to promote innovative projects of GTF members e.g. announcement at the Department of Driver Services (DDS) of the State of Georgia on their TV screens to bring awareness to those waiting to be served, a very novel project (see pictures) by Anushka Kadam.
- Creating and running a Thrombosis club at the Johns Creek High School by Avanti Upad, Varun and Veeraj Ranganekar.
- Presenting results of the research in patients with brain tumors in front of Harvard Faculty by Atharva Athalye.
- Presenting results of research data by Avanti Upad on 406 subjects.
- Internships: These really standout as an example of excellence in scholarship by our young members. As a result of working on research projects that were way beyond high school level, following volunteers succeeded in securing internships at highly recognized institutions.
Dr. Laddu negotiated a long term commitment from the members of NATF, Harvard, Loyola University and University of North Georgia to provide an opportunity to our young and enthusiastic GTF members.
i) The GTF young volunteers make annual presentations each September to the Harvard Faculty. Here is a list of those bright students:
2012 and 2013: Amey and Amruta Houde
2014: Ritwik Sathe and Sneha Divan
2015: Aditya and Anjali Bhave, Atharva Athalye, Rohan Rege, Vaishnavi Bavadekar
2016: Anushka Kadam, Avanti Upad, Atharva Athalye, Nimish Kadam, Sarang Pujari, Varun and Veeraj Rangnekar.
ii) Aditya, Anushka, Avanti, Vaishnavi have worked as Summer Interns at Brigham Women’s Hospital (Harvard Medical School) in Boston
iii) Amey, Omkar, Rajan and Rajath have worked as Summer Interns at NATF
iv) Aditya, Atharva, Rohan, Shriya, Vaishnavi and Varun at University of North Georgia. These students dissected cadavers, such an opportunity is only available to medical students.
- Aditya, Amruta, Rohan and Varun conducted research in thrombosis at the prestigious Thrombosis Research Department at Loyola University in Chicago.
- Independence Bank of Georgia / Redwood Wealth Management have been kind to sponsor scholarships to our young students and the recipients are:
2014: Aditya (First Prize), Omkar Waingankar (Second Prize), Varun Rangnekar (Third Prize)
2015: Varun Rangnekar (First Prize), Atharva Athalye (Second Prize), Aditya Bhave (Third Prize)
- The GTF logo, a unique artwork created by Aditya Bhave.
- Based on the work with GTF, on January 22, 2016, Dr. Laddu was awarded the highest award for doing community work for Georgia students by Georgia Governor Nathan Deal and the First Lady, Sandra Deal.
- As of to date, the GTF volunteers have written and published more than 25 articles in various media which is entirely because of the superb guidance by Dr. Laddu.
- Last, but not the least, Anusha Tembe, the youngest member of GTF, created with her own hands, a beautiful artwork for GTF.
c) Future work
As GTF and its members look ahead, they strive to expand and provide opportunities to more young and bright volunteers, efforts to substantially increase the awareness of thrombosis in state of Georgia and the related work will continue. Proclamation efforts in different cities and counties in Georgia will also be a part of these commitments. And finally providing additional internships every year and thus increasing the number of participants to provide support in research and presentations at NATF in Boston, MA would be on the top of agenda this year. GTF already set up a goal to have a total of 15 summer internships in 2017. I am sure with the leadership of Dr. Laddu and his team GTF will come through the high expectations of NATF as Samuel Goldhaber, MD, President of NATF said “The Youth is the future of GTF / NATF, and the future is here”