JRMC Captures the Spirit of India
By Caitlin Davis
Aug 31, 2012, 16:03
John Randolph Medical Center celebrated the diversity that exists not only in the hospital, but in the surrounding community at the first annual “Spirit of India” event last week.
Guests were greeted with traditional Indian dishes and the word ‘Namaste’ on the projector screen, a traditional salutation used in India.
“When you see it, you need to smile,” said Dr. Vykuntapathi Thota, the Director of Summer School and Winter Session at Virginia State University and the keynote speaker for the event, as he explained the importance of the word.
Dia Nichols, CEO of JRMC, said he was excited to partake in the celebration, noting JRMC is an organization that supports diversity.
Robin Chenail, who works in Human Resources Administration, said JRMC celebrates diversity and respects and honors different cultures.
During his keynote speech, Thota focused on the past, present and future of India.
He said India is the seventh largest country by land area and one of the oldest civilizations in the world.
Thota interspersed the history of his country of origin with his own personal history. He met Martin Luther King, Jr. while studying at Michigan State in the 1960s and was the only Indian student in the room at King’s speech.
Thota also explained that he had an arranged marriage. He met his future wife when he was a child in India and even named her, Ratnagirikumari Thota.
“How many people get to name their would-be wife? Yes, one in a million, that’s me,” Thota said.
Although Thota and his wife only have three children, Thota came from a family of 10 children.
“I’m number 10, but I’m not spoiled,” he said.
Thota left India in 1961 and came to America to continue his education and pursue a career. In the 51 years he has been in the United States, he has seen tremendous change.
“When I left India in the 1960s, India and China were the poorest countries,” Thota said.
Now Thota is one of 3.22 million Indians living in the United States. Of those 3.22 million, 38 percent are medical doctors and six percent are university and college professors.
Thota envisions a future in which the relationship between India and America will continue to grow stronger, noting that each country plays a vital role in the other’s economy as part of a global marketplace.
As guests dined on the traditional Indian dishes, Thota continued to reflect on the culture of India its effects on those in the United States.
“When I came, 50 years back, there were only two Indians [at Michigan State] ... now, when I last visited, there were more than 2,000,” Thota said.
One of Thota’s children, Padma Thota, the food service coordinator for JRMC, was in the audience and said she has never seen her father “in action” before, although the narrative wasn’t completely unfamiliar.
“The personal stories about his education and family I have heard since I was born,” Padma said.
Padma was not born in India and said she learned a lot about the landscape and current affairs of the country during her father’s speech. She also sees the collaboration between the two countries growing stronger in the future.
“I definitely think there is a global expansion going on from India to America,” Padma said. “It is going to make an impact. I am really excited about the future collaboration going on.”
Hitesh Patel, M.D. with JRMC said the presentation was a good introduction to India. Patel has been in America for 12 years. Like Thota, he came to America to continue his education and to find a job.
“There is a lot of understanding and a lot of things available here,” Patel said, describing the climate he has encountered in the United States.
He thinks India and America will identify the similarities that tie the two nations together as the relationship between them continues to expand.
“Science and technology wise, there are a lot of common things between India and America,” Patel said.
Steve Benham,with Hopewell Redevelopment and Housing Authority, said the presentation was very informative and provided him with information he did not know.
Benham said this was the third diversity celebration he had attended at the hospital, which, he said, spoke volumes for JRMC.
“It really sort of demonstrates their commitment to diversity,” Benham said. “It is an opportunity to learn about different cultures. They really do embrace diversity.”