I was inspired by people’s ability to social distance, wash hands with sanitizer, and wear masks which are all public health preventive measures that usually are applied during a 1 in 100 years pandemic. Also the rapid adaptability of most Americans to work from home and frontline workers such as health professionals, fire, police, paramedics who mobilized with protective gear and managed this pandemic from further spread. Unfortunately, there have been thousands of deaths and sacrifices made by adults as well as children for the greater good of society. Universal understanding of the necessity to close large gatherings, sporting events, restaurants, college graduations and large entertainment events. When there is a majority of good behavior there is also the presence of poor behavior and this was what I found most disappointing. Certain groups of people were involved in mask shaming, not adherent to social distancing or challenging other public preventive health measures such as the vaccination efforts with false claims and misconceptions based on hearsay. When we are in a crisis in America, it usually brings us all together such as the national emergency terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001 where we stood united against the forces of darkness. Unforeseen and unexpected was the rapidity that this silent enemy known as the “viral pandemic” polarized the country and as a consequence the United States suffered with more than 595,000 deaths.
. . .
As part of my series about people who stepped up to make a difference during the COVID19 Pandemic, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Praveen Buddiga.
Dr. Praveen Buddiga has dedicated his life to understanding, evaluating and treating the most complex allergy, asthma, immune and skin conditions.
Caring by nature, Dr. Buddiga’s nurturing and empathetic approach immediately puts you at ease, ensuring your safety and comfort. After all, you and your family’s health and safety is his primary objective. It’s rare to find a physician who genuinely takes time to listen, and who uses an evidence-based approach to immunity and wellness in diagnostics.
In 2014, The California Medical Association recognized him with the Ethnic Physician Leadership Award — stating “His passion for service to all individuals regardless of ethnicity, status or wealth makes Dr. Buddiga extremely deserving of this prestigious award.”
This is why thousands of families over three generations have trusted Dr. Buddiga to treat their allergy, asthma, immune and skin conditions, and continue to partner with him for their ongoing health journey in life.
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Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about how and where you grew up?
I was born in Madras, India and immigrated to Queens — New York City at the age of 4. After completing my elementary education at age 12, I returned to India with my family for high school and college. After completing a bachelor’s degree in architecture in India, I had a “calling” to pursue a career in medicine in the United States to share my passion of science and to care for patients with an altruistic compassion promoting healing.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Being an avid reader this is a challenging question to answer-it’s like asking which is your favorite song or singer. Although one book definitely stands out — #1 New York Times Best Seller in 2016 — “When Breath Becomes Air” by Paul Kalanithi. At the age of 36, on the verge of completing more than a decade worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. What makes life worth living in the face of death? “When Breath Becomes Air” is an unforgettable, life-affirming reflection on the challenge of facing death and on the relationship between doctor and patient.
The narrative that resonated with me was to hold the doctor-patient relationship as sacred with the morals and values that I grew up with, acquired and not to take the “power of healing” for granted.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?
“Freedom [Noun]: To ask nothing, to expect nothing, to depend on nothing” by Ayn Rand.
My translation of this quote is that the best investment is always an investment in yourself. This most likely pays you back throughout your life and allows you to stand on your own two feet.
This is something that I communicate with all my pediatric and adolescent age patients to seek good mentorship so that they can improve their lives as well as those around them.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. You are currently leading a social impact organization that has stepped up during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to address?
As an immunologist following the Covid-19 pandemic very closely since its presentation in the United States in December 2019 to January 2020.On January 22, 2020, I posted on social media the arrival of a new contagion similar to SARS Coronavirus and requested that community leaders to start public health prevention measures immediately.
REF post below Facebook 1/21/2021
My organizational effort is known as the Coronavirus — SARS-CoV2 Eradication Education Protocol 2020–2021 project of BUDDIGA Family Allergy, Skin, Immunology with the goal to educate the population regarding public health measures to prevent spread of this contagion, diagnosing patients appropriately with testing and treatment with available FDA emergency use approved medicine along with guidance and counseling about this complicated novel disease.
A major initiative that I led was to prevent and arrest the spread of disease by a vaccination effort with Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson vaccine protocols within the Central California area by partnering with the California Department of Public Health. I personally administered hundreds of doses of vaccines into the arms of my patients, as well as others who qualified per the FDA’s Emergency use authorization to receive this vaccination.
I also conducted two webinars — one national and another international — to teach physicians and health professionals around the world and within local communities about the coronavirus pandemic and public health prevention measures. I successfully facilitated a Q&A, answering many questions regarding the effectiveness and the side effects of the new platform mRNA vaccines manufactured by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna Pharmaceuticals in conjunction with the NIAID (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease).
In your opinion, what does it mean to be a hero?
A hero is one that leads with the best intentions allowing for decisions based on facts grounded in science. The ability and flexibility of the context you are in with the tools that you have, anticipating to adjust to Plan B or C if needed, as circumstances are constantly changing. The inherent attribute or skill of de-escalation of a problem safely is an intangible asset. A great analogy in medicine is leading a “Code Blue” — your leadership and quick decision making may make all the difference in saving a life.
In your opinion or experience, what are “5 characteristics of a hero? Please share a story or example for each.
A story of true leadership that always motivates me is Captain Sully Sullenberger’s achievement of “Miracle on the Hudson” where quick decisions based on facts, changing weather and unique circumstances led to a successful outcome. For those that need a quick reminder of this incident the story is about Captain Sully, a retired airline captain famous for landing a commercial jet on the Hudson River. On January 15, 2009, Sullenberger took off from LaGuardia airport while piloting US Airways Flight 1549 with 150 passengers and five crew members. The plane hit a goose shortly after take-off, forcing Sullenberger to land the plane in the Hudson River; no one was killed. His timely actions truly exemplified and set the bar of being a “hero.”
This behavioral characteristic is an essential representation of every citizen’s understanding of a basic moral code in society. Treating everyone the way one wants to be treated is a quality that represents the backbone of human society.
Teacher / Mentor
Your first teacher is a parent who nurtures and shows love and affection. This early developmental behavioral character is a crucial element to bonding. Babies and young children who lack this type of direction early on usually do not meet natural healthy milestones of growth and behavior. That is why I consider this bond to be sacred along with the ability to be open minded allowing for children as well as young adolescents to ask questions of the “why.”
Bravery / Courage
This is an important attribute for all to protect themselves as well as their community from threats. Scientists and researchers have the bravery and courage to test different infectious strains to vaccines in a biohazard facility to discover or design the best therapeutic to disable or eradicate an illness successfully.
Another good example may be in sports where it takes bravery and courage to stand out from the pack. Some of the best leaders have had early success in sports, athletics, speech and writing. This may be a reason why the Scripps National Spelling Bee is screened on the sports cable channel ESPN TM.
No one defines this quality better than the life of Mother Theresa who, in 1950 established a home called “The Missionaries of Charity”, whose primary task was to love and care for people that nobody was prepared to look after. Winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 she was the embodiment and instrumental force behind the Society of Missionaries. They provide effective help to the poorest of the poor in a number of countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, and they undertake relief work in the wake of natural catastrophes such as floods, epidemics, and famine, and for refugees. The organization also has houses in North America, Europe and Australia, where they take care of the shut-ins, alcoholics, homeless, non-communicable disease patients and AIDS sufferers.
If heroism is rooted in doing something difficult, scary, or even self-sacrificing, what do you think drives some people — ordinary people — to become heroes?
Honor, duty and compassion — a driving force observed in healthcare professionals, nurses, firemen, police, military, public servants as well as many other self-sacrificing vocations or careers. They often embody the self-drive and initiative to disrupt, innovate and show passion for the art of creation and promote morals and values for societal improvement for generations to come.
What was the specific catalyst for you or your organization to take heroic action? At what point did you personally decide that heroic action needed to be taken?
The catalysts that prompted me to take action was the command of my knowledge in immunology and to assist doctors and health professionals to navigate questions regarding the contagion, it’s process of spread, and advocating prevention measures such as masking, handwashing, social distancing and eventually the vaccination effort to eradicate this disease.
The point that I personally decided that action needed to be taken was when, during my educational webinars, I faced many patients’ questions and misconceptions about the COVID-19 vaccine based on rumors, anecdotes distorting scientific facts and spreading misinformation. Many questions were challenging such as the speed of vaccination generation/manufacture and FDA emergency use approval for a novel disease.
Who are your heroes, or who do you see as heroes today?
Dr. Anthony Fauci — Director of National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Disease-NIH — I met him during Grand Rounds during my fellowship in Allergy & Immunology. He’s an exceptional scientist and humble gentleman that contributed a selfless career to the eradication of infectious disease starting with HIV causing the AIDS epidemic. Dr. Fauci has served as Special consultant to nearly eight U.S. Presidents over 40 years tackling public health contagions and challenges.
Scientific American — A scientific journal that assisted hundreds of scientists and researchers around the world by simplifying the hard facts of the pathogenicity of this virus responsible for the pandemic.
Let’s talk a bit about what is happening in the world today. What specifically frightened or frightens you most about the pandemic?
As of this writing, we have had approximately 33 million cases with nearly 590,000 deaths. The decline of cases is inversely proportional to the 287 million vaccine doses administered in the United States. This means that approximately 50% of the American population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and it’s variants. We are looking forward to achieving herd immunity once 75–80% of the US population is fully vaccinated — a goal we may reach by August 2021.
With that said, what concerns me most is the UK dominant variant strain causing fungal lung infections or Mucormycosis in the lungs of Indians leading to rapid death and is a direct consequence of overuse of steroids on top of an already compromised immune system secondary to this contagion. Cases are also increasing disproportionately in Japan, Nepal, and Argentina as health systems continue to buckle under the pressure of this viral pandemic with poor equitable distribution in worldwide vaccines.
Despite that, what gives you hope for the future? Can you explain?
We have learned so much in 18 months about this pandemic:
1- The mechanism of this disease
2- The vector of spread through respiratory particles
3- Functional vaccines have been established that can immunize proactively
4- The high effectiveness of the vaccine protocol against Covid-19 variants
This gives me tremendous hope for our future.
What has inspired you the most about the behavior of people during the pandemic, and what behaviors do you find most disappointing?
I was inspired by people’s ability to social distance, wash hands with sanitizer, and wear masks which are all public health preventive measures that usually are applied during a 1 in 100 years pandemic.
Also the rapid adaptability of most Americans to work from home and frontline workers such as health professionals, fire, police, paramedics who mobilized with protective gear and managed this pandemic from further spread. Unfortunately, there have been thousands of deaths and sacrifices made by adults as well as children for the greater good of society. Universal understanding of the necessity to close large gatherings, sporting events, restaurants, college graduations and large entertainment events.
When there is a majority of good behavior there is also the presence of poor behavior and this was what I found most disappointing. Certain groups of people were involved in mask shaming, not adherent to social distancing or challenging other public preventive health measures such as the vaccination efforts with false claims and misconceptions based on hearsay.
When we are in a crisis in America, it usually brings us all together such as the national emergency terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001 where we stood united against the forces of darkness. Unforeseen and unexpected was the rapidity that this silent enemy known as the “viral pandemic” polarized the country and as a consequence the United States suffered with more than 595,000 deaths.
Has this crisis caused you to reassess your view of the world or of society? We would love to hear what you mean.
The pandemic crisis has opened up a deep wound of reality of the importance of global geo-political stabilization, respect for science, communication and leadership. We need transparency and open communication channels (diplomacy) when it comes to sharing medical information. This is of major importance to prevent the next pandemic.
A quote regarding medicine that I respect was stated by Nobel Laureate Joshua Lederberg,
“The single biggest threat to man’s continued dominance on the planet is the virus.”
This pandemic has tested our state of readiness for the next contagion and hopefully we shall be prepared next time as a good offense starts with a great defense.
What permanent societal changes would you like to see come out of this crisis?
A societal acceptance that we are all vulnerable to a silent enemy such as infectious disease. As a global project we should create a plan for equitable distribution as well as access to all countries for vaccines, medicines, saline hydration, PPE-personal protective equipment, life- saving medical equipment (ventilators, oxygen) and hospital networks that can sustain life for a country’s population. This is just a start!
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
Life is an opportunity to contribute to the greater good and it’s our responsibility to make that interest or passion come true by encouraging the pursuit of these qualities.
Where would we be without the power of observation and self initiative by Edward Jenner who noticed that milk-maids did not get disfiguring infections such as smallpox because they were protected by developing a milder disease such as cow-pox. Those antibodies that developed on exposure protected them against smallpox.
Hence the role of immunization by serendipity was born. Be humble and pay kindness forward as one day you shall receive it back — knowing that respect is a two way street.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Access to education for all with gender equality — the internet actually may provide this already with wi-fi access through satellite.
Mandatory preventative health checkups — vision, hearing, dental and nutrition checks early in life.
Cancer, heart and lung check ups in midlife.
Provide clean air and clean drinking water to the world.
Reduction of the carbon footprint worldwide.
Provision of life saving immunizations to all countries — that is why we have organizations such as the United Nations, UNICEF and multiple non-profits who share a common goal.
While these may sound “utopian”, they are achievable through well-designed partnerships between world leaders.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Dr. Anthony Fauci — Director of National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Disease-NIH
Mr. Rahul Gandhi — Member of Indian Parliament in the world’s largest democracy — India
How can our readers follow you online?
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!
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