Prominent Psychiatrist to lead body of American Physicians of Indian origin


Nearly 40 years after he moved to the United States, psychiatrist Dr Ravi Kolli is all set to assume the leadership of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) at its 40th convention in San Antonio, Texas on June 25.

Coming from a family of physicians for three generations now in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, Dr Kolli, who specializes in addiction, geriatrics and forensic psychiatry, is currently at the Southwestern Pennsylvania Human Services as psychiatric medical director. He is also affiliated with medical facilities at the Washington Health System Greene and Washington Hospital.

“I pledge to all AAPI members that we shall not rest on our laurels and become complacent,” says Dr. Kolli. “I will work hard to keep AAPI focused on its core mission and conduct all of its activities and business beyond reproach in a transparent, accountable and responsible manner.”

The AAPI represents over 120,000 physicians of Indian origin working in the United States with around 14,000 life members and members at the more than 120 local chapters, alumni chapters and specialty associations throughout the United States and adds 500 to 1,000 new members every year.

“My goal is to bring like-minded people who are committed to the AAPI’s values and goals, are on the same page and are dedicated to resolving issues collectively,” says Dr. Kolli. A keen cricketer in his younger days, the psychiatrist recognizes the role of teamwork.

“It is important for us to bring our act together and make the AAPI stronger,” he says.

The areas that Dr. Kolli believes the association should focus on are public health issues and emerging challenges in the medical profession.

“Being a psychiatrist, I think I have the right kind of temperament and the capability to communicate with emotional intelligence, calm attitude, openness and empathy for me to be able to do that.”

An association which caters to people from a country as diverse as India residing in the United States, the historical “melting pot,” Dr. Kolli is aware of the fault lines that can develop.

“The idea is to find our mutual interests and work for the common good in accordance with our value system,” he says.

Back home in Andhra Pradesh, Dr. Kolli’s father was employed with the state transport department, while his uncles and aunts were physicians and served as early role models.

“We are five siblings, three of us (he is the youngest) are doctors. Taking our family and extended family there are around 40 doctors,” he says.

His father’s job required moving to a new place every three years. Despite the encumbrances, Dr. Kolli says the experience helped him adapt to new environs, a trait that came handy when he moved to the United States in 1983, nine years after his elder brother, Dr. Prasad Kolli.

He graduated from Rangaraya Medical College, NTR University of Health Sciences Medical School in 1981.

“I had developed an interest in psychology, behavioral health, and medicine right from the medical school. There weren’t that many opportunities in India at that time for psychiatric training, which was my career goal,” says Dr. Kolli.

In his nearly four decades in the United States, Dr. Kolli was a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh and West Virginia University.

His association with the AAPI has been for around two decades now, where he was introduced by his friends, Dr. Prabir Mullick and Dr. Krishna Kasi. In the initial phase, Dr. Kolli used his web designing skills to develop and maintain the local chapter’s website, publication and sending out and replying to emails. He was also associated with his college alumni association and became its president and later went on to head the Telugu Medical Graduates of USA.

His early association helped create a bond with the national AAPI leadership and went on to be the regional director, national secretary and vice-president of AAPI, before his next elevation at the top post.

“I would like to ensure that the AAPI plays a meaningful role in advocating health policies and practices that serve the best interests of the patients and the physicians and also look at expanding AAPI to other cities and towns of the US,” says Dr. Kolli.

Dr. Kolli has previously served as the Chair of the IT committee of AAPI, Convention AV Co-Chair, and a member of several Committees of AAPI including Endowment fundraising, Geriatric, IT, GME Liaison, South Asian CVD and Childhood obesity awareness and Obesity awareness programs and Adopt a Village Plan and more.

He had previously served as the Secretary, Vice President, and eventually as the President of Pittsburgh TAPI in 2012-13 and has been involved in organizing several annual meetings of the TAPI and AAPI-CF fundraiser dinners for over a decade.

Being a psychiatrist, Dr. Kolli hopes in his new role he could work towards removing the stigma associated with mental illness and provide access to quality mental health care by bringing together mental health professionals in India and abroad to create awareness of various biopsychosocial therapeutic options available.

Empowering physicians as the leaders in the delivery of evidence-based health care by engaging with policymakers, governmental agencies at all levels and the private sector is a major area where Dr. Kolli wants to direct the efforts of AAPI. Some of the other areas are: connect with the next generation physicians for their participation in all areas of organizational leadership and activities; advocate for expediting the GC Backlog for physicians through legislation; promotion of mental health awareness, tackling mental illness, substance abuse and suicide; planning International Medical Missions with AAPI physicians to serve communities globally.