Cardiologist Harendra Punatar, MD, FACC, gives back to the community through his volunteer work with the North Bay Indo-American Association (NBIAA). NBIAA is a non-profit organization founded in 1990 in the North Bay area by the local residents of Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park, Petaluma and Novato. Dr. Punatar’s brother, Suresh, was one of the original founding members. NBIAA’s mission is to “bring India to the North Bay” by organizing cultural, religious, and educational events that are of interest to the growing Indian community in the region.
Soon after its founding, the NBIAA grew in popularity and became a primary avenue for connecting Indian community members. Events became well-attended and information about upcoming events spread quickly via word-of-mouth. In the late 1990s, doctors began to notice a significantly higher propensity for heart disease and diabetes within the community. In fact, these diseases were almost twice as common in Indians in the North Bay than they were in other groups! Due to the disturbingly high prevalence of these diseases, Dr. Punatar began organizing free, annual NBIAA Health Fairs 15 years ago to spread awareness about disease prevention and treatment.
“The data on diabetes and heart disease made for a startling discovery. Members of the Indian community are on average more affluent than other groups in the area, and what we realized was that with that affluence came an increase of poor eating and exercise habits—both of which can be major health risks,” says Dr. Punatar.
He continues, “People in the community were worried and asking lots of questions about their health. The Health Fairs started as a way to meet the demand for health education. Originally, diabetes and heart disease have been the main topics of focus at the health fairs, but over the last five years we’ve really broadened the discussion to cover other prevalent health related subjects. The fairs have been extremely successful. We’ve come to expect about 100-2150 attendees every year!”
NBIAA Health Fairs are run entirely by volunteers with substantial support from NCMA and Medtronic. At the fairs, NCMA nurses and physicians offer free lipid health screenings with immediate results. In just a few minutes, these screenings reveal cholesterol and A1C hemoglobin levels in the bloodstream necessary to diagnose diabetes. During the health screenings, yoga and Tai Chi instructors offer free classes in other rooms to promote healthy exercise habits. At each fair, Dr. Punatar also arranges for two speakers to come and present for one hour each. Past presenters include NCMA Drs. Hopkins and Coleman and renowned physicians from all over the country.
The last NBIAA Health Fair took place on April 18th, 2015, at the Medtronic Cardiovascular at 3850 Brickway Blvd in Santa Rosa. The event focused on common food allergies, free lipid panel health screenings as well as yoga and Tai Chi classes.
Dr. Punatar obtained his medical doctorate at Miraj Medical College in Miraj India and went on to complete his residency and fellowship training in cardiovascular disease from Coney Island Hospital in Brooklyn, NY. He has been a valued member of NCMA’s team of expert cardiologists for over 23 years, and he regularly sees patients in Santa Rosa and Petaluma. Dr. Punatar is also the proud father of two bright young women—one who is currently completing her residency training at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland and the other is finishing her medical school at George Washington University in Washington, DC.
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Punatar, call 707-573-6199, and visit northbayindia.org for more information on the NBIAA and upcoming events.