Covid-19: Indian American father daughter duo hailed as ‘healthcare heroes’

Satyender Dev Khanna and Priya Khanna
Satyender Dev Khanna and Priya Khanna

Dr. Satyender Dev Khanna and Priya Khanna fell fighting the deadly disease in New Jersey.

An Indian American father daughter team of doctors, who lost their own lives treating coronavirus patients in New Jersey, has been hailed by Gov. Phil Murphy as “our healthcare heroes.”

“We remember two of our healthcare heroes, Dr. Satyender Dev Khanna and Dr. Priya Khanna,” he said at his coronavirus briefing on Thursday. “They were father and daughter. They both dedicated their lives to helping others and we lost both of them to covid-19.”

“The dad,” Murphy recalled, “was a surgeon who served both on staff and as the head of the surgical departments for multiple hospitals across our state for literally decades.”

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Khanna, 78, died at Clara Maass Medical Center in New Jersey on April 21 where he had worked for more than 35 years.  He graduated from Maulana Azad Medical College in New Delhi in 1964, according to WebMD.

“A pioneering doctor who was actually one of the first surgeons to perform laparoscopic surgery in our state,” Murphy said Khanna is being remembered by colleagues as, “A gentle and caring physician.”

“And for a doctor, I’m not one, but I would bet, I don’t think there could be a more fitting way to be remembered, or a nurse or a healthcare worker of any kind,” the governor said.

“Khanna also had a passion for bicycling, and he often found peace from the hustle of the hospital in biking along the Jersey Shore,” he said.

“His daughter, Dr. Priya Khanna was double board certified in both internal medicine and nephrology, who proudly did all of her medical training right here in New Jersey,” Murphy noted.

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Priya Khanna, 43, a nephrologist, received her medical degree from Kansas City School of Medicine in 2003. She was Chief of Residents at Union Hospital, now part of RWJ Barnabas Health, and then did her fellowship in nephrology in South Jersey with the Cooper Health System.

“And like her dad, she also worked at Clara Maass, where she passed,” on April 13, Murphy said. “She was Medical Director at two dialysis centers in Essex County and was a teaching attending, taking pride in teaching the next generation of doctors.”

“And it should be noted that the ICU physician who cared for her was trained and taught by her as well,” the governor said.

“Priya will be remembered as a caring and selfless person who put others first,” Murphy said. “And even while in the hospital, fighting her own battle, she continued to check up on her mom and dad and her family.”

“She loved swimming, spending time at the shore, beaches generally and traveling,” the governor said. “This is a family, by the way, dedicated to health and medicine.”

Murphy said that he had spoken on Thursday morning to Komlish Khanna, the wife of Satyender Khanna, to condole their deaths.

He said that two other daughters of Komlish and Satyender Khanna are also doctors. Sugandha Khanna is an emergency doctor, and Anisha Khanna is a paediatrician.

“Our words cannot amply express our condolences nor, I am sure, can they express the pain that the Khanna family is feeling,” Murphy said.

“But I hope that the fact that our entire state mourns with them is some small comfort,” the governor said. “And we mourn everyone we have lost. We commit in their memory to saving as many lives as we can.”

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