IAGB SPOTLIGHT on Dr. Sanjay Aurora

IAGB is pleased to shine this month’s SPOTLIGHT on Dr. Sanjay Aurora, Neonatologist, Mass General Brigham. Dr. Aurora is very active in community service and has been a champion in volunteering his services during these trying pandemic time both here locally and in helping organize sending help to India. Dr. Aurora also teaches Hindi and Social Studies at Shishu Bharati and with his wife Dr. Natasha Shah Aurora have been foster parents for many children in the community for the past three years.

IAGB: Welcome Dr. Aurora to IAGB SPOTLIGHT. Could you talk about your medical school training and career path that has brought you here to this point?

Dr. Aurora: I went to Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education & Research (JIPMER), Pondicherry for my Medical School. JIPMER is central government run medical school and is one of the premier medical training institutions in India. After graduation I went to United Kingdom to continue my Pediatric Training at University of Glasgow and then to Boston for my Neonatology subspeciality training. I attended Harvard Medical for my Fellowship in Neonatology and I also earned my master’s in public health at Harvard.  So simply put I am a pediatrician and then super specialized into Neonatology. I care for sick babies. Presently I am Associate Professor (faculty) at University of Massachusetts Medical school and my clinical role is through Mass General Brigham. I direct a Level 2 (secondary care) Neonatal unit and associate direct a Level 3 (Tertiary care) Neonatal unit for Mass General.

IAGB: What has been your prior volunteering experience as a Doctor?

Dr. Aurora: The field I have chosen is strongly tied in with service. We have done work in rural public health centers to assist with health care needs starting in medical school. More recently my volunteer services have been more in-line with pediatric care as that is my specialty. Both me and my wife, Natasha who is also a physician have sought out ways we could be of help to the community beyond our daily workload.

IAGB: During this current Covid crisis how has your volunteering taken shape?

Dr. Aurora: Covid crisis has impacted everyone all over the world. Initially we heard the ‘call for help’ when the vaccine trials began. We were alarmed by the negative and pessimistic stories coming out about the viability of vaccines, so my wife and I were able to sign up for the vaccine trials. Of course, at that time we were not aware if we were getting the vaccine or the placebo, but we were confident about the science and wanted to do our part to win this war against the virus. Additionally, I was in communication with other professionals in my field both here and in India and relayed my experience primarily to dispel the fears of vaccine hesitancy. Hopefully we were able to prevent some vaccine hesitancy. 

All through this pandemic, I tapped into my network of physicians whenever matters became alarming, the most recent Covid Wave in India for example. I stayed connected and supported various organizations here and in India and helped raise funds. These include excellent organizations like America India Foundation, Sewa Foundation, JIPMER one of my alma mater, Indian Medical Association of New England (IMANE), Arogyaseva of Ekal Foundation, American Association of Physicians of Indian American Origin (AAPI) to name a few. Each of these organizations has done tremendous work in helping India during its most severe crisis. In JIPMER the alumni have helped start a new 140 bed ICU Covid treatment unit, we donated ventilators, monitors and supplies for the unit. We have also raised funds for   200 oxygen concentrators to armed forces in India. Indian Armed forces are going into the rural centers of India to assist with covid relief. Separately through another organization we helped send 5,000 oxygen concentrators to India. Through Arogyaseva we could also directly donate help to specific families suffering from Covid in India. Of course, I was very happy to join IAGB in their Chale chalo fundraising effort for the same reason and help them with their vaccine camp that they partnered with IMANE. But frankly much more help is needed. What we are doing is just a drop in the bucket. So would like to call out to all your readers and members to do more in every and any way they can to help win this war over the pandemic. People can reach out to any of the organizations I mentioned above or more such like Indian Red Cross, Navya Foundation, Uday Foundation, Khalsa Aid, Desai Foundation, UNICEF to name a few.

IAGB: How did you join the ranks of volunteers who helped administer giving the vaccine shots post Emergency Use Authorization by FDA of vaccines in US?

Dr. Aurora: We first heard a call from EMT for help with administering the vaccine into the arms of people. Our first stint was in Haverhill. As we realized this help will be needed for some more time, I informed my Chief Medical Officer about my availability during my off hours and me and Natasha have been volunteering for this service for past few months, giving vaccine to all ages and backgrounds.. We have also done through IMANE which also has done tremendous work during this time along with IAGB.

IAGB: Do you have any connections with medical personnel in India and how has that helped in your efforts to send help?

Dr. Aurora: One of my cousins is the chief virologist for the State of Rajasthan. She runs the testing for the entire state. Plus, I have lots of friends from JIPMER who are now spread out across India and are doing lots of great work during these times. I call out a colleague of mine Dr. Naveen who is doing tremendous work running a charity hospital for COVID patients. The MLL hospital In Chittoor district, where Boeing and  Azim Premji donated  oxygen units to make their own local oxygen as they were running out of oxygen supplies faster than they were getting the replenishments. I am in touch with many of these doctors and assisting them as needed. 

IAGB: How and why did you choose to become foster parents? 

Dr. Aurora: It started about 2 – 3 years ago. We started noticing on a regular basis that because of various reasons the mothers or dads are not able to take care of their children. Most of the times because the parent(s) is (are) in the hospital and its not safe for the kids to go home by themselves. Presently this is a major crisis issue in MA, and it has become more severe during the covid crisis. The social services are not finding foster parents to take care of these kids. So, we volunteered to do this. We have had kids starting at age 3 days old to older kids. Kids stay with us sometimes for few days to a week till their family situation gets sorted out. During their stay we are their parents.

IAGB: If our readers are interested to become foster parents how do they go about it?

Dr. Aurora: I would be glad to talk to anyone and answer any questions if they are interested in pursuing this line of community service. If anyone is interested, you should contact your local department of Children, and Families (DCF). They are always looking for help. There will be a background check and some basic training is needed before you become foster parents. If you connect with me, I will gladly guide you through the steps.

IAGB: What can you share with us about your other teaching role at Shishu Bharati?

Dr. Aurora: Shishu Bharati is a way of having kids connect with their heritage plus I believe that learning a new language is always a good idea. I have been teaching Hindi and Social Studies at the Lexington branch of Shishu Bharati for last fifteen years. Kids from Kindergarten to 8th grade are part of the student body. They have three centers – in Norwood, Lexington, and Nashua. I am a pediatrician and an educator in my professional life, so I like to engage with kids and this was another way to give back to the community.

IAGB: What are your hobbies?

Dr. Aurora: Staying active is good for your mind and body. I enjoy many sports but particularly I love golfing, biking, tennis, skiing and snowboarding. Each of these sports has a different social construct and each has its own challenges. Most of the time I am competing against myself in trying to improve my fitness and skills. Of course, playing golf when the weather is good adds to my social interactions which I enjoy.  

– Sanjay Kudrimoti