NAU physical therapy professor raising funds to support fight against COVID-19 in his home country of India

Health care workers in PPE

A health policy expert and epidemiology professor in the Department of Physical Therapy Athletic Training at NAU’s Phoenix Biomedical Campus is asking for help in raising money to help health care providers in India treat patients as the country’s COVID-19 cases surge.

Assistant professor Amit Kumar is from India, and many of his family and friends still live there. He has watched in horror as India has reported 350,000 to 400,000 new COVID-19 cases a day over the last weeks with 3,500 to 4,000 deaths per day—numbers that likely are underreporting the actual counts. Hospitals don’t have enough oxygen, medical supplies or PPE, and people are dying after being turned away from hospitals because there aren’t enough beds. As a health care professional, he considered returning to offer care, but that isn’t practical. Instead, he and other Indians who live in the United States are joining together to raise money that will fund health care equipment.

“The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is showing no signs of slowing down, and India has become the epicenter of the pandemic,” he said. “Watching horrific pictures on social media and TV has been heart-breaking and draining. Almost all of us living in the U.S. have lost one or more members of our family and friends. Indians living here are in deep grief and feel helpless, and many of us feel a sense of survivor guilt.”

Kumar is working with his friend, Dr. Amit Vashist, a practicing hospitalist physician and the Chief Clinical Officer at Ballad Health, a 21-hospital health system in Tennessee and Virginia, to raise money for the American India Foundation (AIF). AIF is providing medical oxygen and funding for more hospital beds so people with severe COVID-19 cases can receive life-saving treatment. People interested in donating to the American India Foundation can do so via Kumar’s Facebook page or via Vashist’s GoFundMe page.

Learn more about AIF’s COVID-19 relief effort.

Kumar also is a member of InSPIRE Swades, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization that connects rehabilitation and health care sciences professionals of Indian origin. The organization is raising $200,000 for Sewa International to procure medical equipment and other essential supplies to hospitals, institutions and other organizations treating COVID-19 patients. Those who want to donate to Sewa International USA can do so via InSPIRE’s Facebook.

All of the funds raised will help provide care on the ground in India. At the moment, it’s the most Kumar can do, much as he wants to do more.

“Several of my family friends have died, and several others are sick and struggling in ICUs,” he said. “In the middle of the night, I receive calls for help, calls to send medicine. I feel bad telling them that I can’t send medicines without a prescription.”

While the COVID-19 vaccination rate in India is slowly increasing and several nations, including the United States, have pledged vaccine doses to India, that effort takes time, and the more critical need is keeping patients alive now. Kumar encouraged people to donate whatever they can.

“This is a global pandemic, and it needs a global effort to fight against it,” he said. “Dr. Vashist and I would like to thank all our American friends for their overwhelming support for this cause. India and all Indians are supremely grateful for this gesture.”

Kumar is also working with the Phoenix-based Indo-American Cultural and Religious Foundation to find a way to channelize their fundraising to mitigate the pandemic crisis in India. The organization is working with other Indian cultural and religious organizations throughout Arizona and has already raised $50,000, plus an organization match of $25,000.

Kumar, who studies health care disparities in patients with multiple comorbidities, has published research examining patterns of COVID-19 mortality by race and ethnicity and the impact of the pandemic on older adults in Mexico.

NAU Communications