Interview with the Uniformed Services University professor, who is one of the 38 Carnegie Great Immigrant honorees this year.
As Fourth of July brings along patriotic fervor, it is also a time to recognize and ponder upon the many contributions made by the countless immigrants in the United States. Immigrants, who often come here with little or no possessions, make this country their home and create an extraordinary difference in the lives of many Americans and people around the globe.
Keeping this spirit to appreciate and acknowledge, every year on Fourth of July, Carnegie Corporation celebrates the commendable achievements of immigrants that enrich the society, add to the economy and diversify the fabric of American society by bestowing Great Immigrants award.
This year, 38 extraordinary individuals from different walks of life and different countries have been selected for the honor. They include CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer, who was born in Germany, and Yankee great Mariano Rivera, who is from Panama.
Bethesda, MD,-based Dr. Rahul M. Jindal, known for his immense contribution in the field of kidney transplants and surgery, is the only Indian American honoree this year. The Delhi-born physician is currently a staff transplant surgeon and a professor of surgery and global health at Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences in Bethesda. Dr. Jindal, 64, has received many awards, including the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, in 2013, and the Outstanding American by Choice Award from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Previous Indian American Great Immigrants honorees include Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen, former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, journalist Hari Sreenivasan, McKinsey & Company’s Vikram Malhotra, the late author Bharati Mukherjee, and Carnegie Mellon President Subra Suresh.
He has also served as the commissioner of the Governor’s Office on Service and Volunteerism in Maryland and as a commissioner to the Montgomery County (Maryland) Human Rights Commission.
RELATED: Dr. Rahul Jindal to be given Outstanding American by Choice Award (November 11, 2013 )
On the eve of July fourth, Dr. Jindal spoke to the American Bazaar on the honor of being included in the Great Immigrant list and the responsibility that comes along with it.
Many Congratulations on the award. This Fourth of July must indeed be special for you. How do you plan to celebrate the day?
Well, every July fourth is special, not just for me, but for every American whether they are born here or are naturalized. Yes, indeed I am honored by the award. It means a lot to be chosen to represent India, a country of a billion people. As for how I plan to celebrate the day, I am looking forward to catch the morning parade near my home. Relax with family in the noon. Evening is again going to be hectic, as I have to catch a flight to the UK to deliver a lecture at the Oxford University, where I also serve as a visiting professor.
When did you get to know that you are among the 2019 Great Immigrant honorees? How was the feeling?
I actually got to know about it two weeks ago. The Carnegie Corporation does not announce beforehand. I got to know as they were doing an internal write-up. And yes, the news came as a pleasant surprise. I feel humbled to be included in the list which honors achievers such as Wolf Blitzer of CNN and Marc Tessier-Levigne, who is a neuroscientist and president of Stanford University. I see this honor as one that is emblematic of a great responsibility toward India, as well as America.
Let’s talk about your early years as an immigrant. Were there any challenges?
I come from Ahmedabad in Gujarat. After completing my medical studies in India, I went to the UK for further studies. I was training for NHS (National Health Service) and also doing research at the University of Oxford. After about six years in UK, I came to the US for better prospects and future. I did training in Boston initially and lived at many places in the US, including Brooklyn, NY, before settling down in Maryland, where I have now lived for over 11 years.
You have been part of several philanthropic activities across the globe. Tell us a bit about them?
We have been working on various projects in India. One such project is “Sevak,” where we train high school students to become community health workers. Back in 2007, we started a very ambitious kidney transplant project in Guyana, where patients were dying as there were no transplant facilities. I had met a prominent property developer in New York, who was from Guyana originally and wanted to give back to his country. When we learnt the dire need of medical assistance there, we launched this project, and since then I have traveled to Guyana 28 times. I am happy to inform that we initiated dialysis and kidney transplant and also cornea transplant in Guyana. Today the program has become self-sustainable as the local doctors who trained with us are carrying on these life-saving procedures on their own.
You are also initiating a similar project in Surinam. Tell us more.
About a year ago, Surinam invited us to see if we can replicate the work we are doing in Guyana. We undertook several missions to the country and in August I am leaving for Surinam to conduct the first kidney transplant surgery over there. There are over 700 patients in need of a transplant there and kidney diseases have taken epidemic proportions. We intend to create a similar model there, so that people do not suffer for lack of medical services.
As an immigrant, what would you say about the opportunities the country gave you?
I came to the US in the ’90s and while many would say that it was also a time for opportunities in America, I think that country has always offered opportunities to people. It is about being at the right time at the right place and taking advantage of what comes your way. US is a place that is open to new ideas and new energies. It is also a melting pot and does not make you feel like an outsider. It is a place for hardworking diligent people who believe in themselves.