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Ohio-based doctor couple’s efforts to strengthen Nepal-US relations

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Washington DC, April 29: When the United States was immensely facing trouble due to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially during the peak, Dr. Damodar Poudel and his spouse Dr Sanju Mahato were reaching out to the local communities of the US, especially to Nepali origin with life-saving medical services.

By the time the pandemic was coming to an end, there were a large number of Nepali who had overcome the contagion also with the help of the doctor duo.

Meanwhile, when the US, the first producer of the vaccine against COVID-19, was struggling to provide inoculation service to its public, Dr Poudel was attentive to exploring ways to heal pandemic-triggered pain and plights in the country of his root, Nepal.

It was the moment Dr Poudel straightly decided to initiate lobbying with the US authorities to send vaccines to Nepal. “The Embassy of Nepal along with other Nepali organizations were also lobbying for vaccines through different channels. I also tried my way. I had started sharing concerns with the leaders of the two major political parties – Republican and Democratic – utilizing my already established contacts,” Dr Poudel shared.

He added, “Through the leaders, especially Sherrod Brown, the Senior US senator from Ohio, my message reached the high-placed officials of the US government. Congressman Brad Wenstrup also raised the issue in the Vaccine Committee of the US Congress.”

Dr Poudel’s attempt turned fruitful as it was spectacular in calling for the attention of the US authorities in sending vaccines against COVID-19 to Nepal during the most troubled times.

Nevertheless, the doctor duo’s contributions did not go unrecognized. The City of Reynoldsburg passed a resolution to recognize their contributions and Senator Brown’s office also gave certificates of appreciation in 2021.

Born in Parping, Kathmandu, Dr Poudel completed his MBBS from Maharajgunj Medical Campus, a constituent campus of the Institute of Medicine (IoM), and earned his M.D. from Ohio. After earning the degree, he has been working in the health sector of the US for two decades. He is also a Board-certified Obesity specialist and has a fellowship in Primary Care Psychiatry.

He also provides free services to Nepali patients with poor economic conditions at his Columbus-based Clinic.

“Excessive consumption of junk food and lack of physical activities have been the major causes of the rise in obesity among people living in the US, including Nepali.

A study has even predicted that obesity will be seen in around 55-60 per cent of the population in the US by 2040,” said Dr Poudel responding to a query.

Dr. Poudel is currently the Regional Medical Director of Hopewell Health Centre, the Ohio-based Federally Qualified Health Centre. The Centre provides services to over 26 locations in Ohio.

It may be noted that the Nepal government (cabinet) has recently appointed him as Consulate General to Ohio State.

Talking to RSS Dr. Poudel said, “Nepal and the US both have much more to exchange and work in reciprocity. It will be very beneficial for Nepal’s social and economic development if the latest technologies from the US can be adopted in Nepal in various sectors. It is only possible with a mutually cordial relationship between the two countries.”

He further said, “Improving the relationship between Nepal and the US is my first responsibility and I will fulfil the role entrusted to me.”

According to Dr Poudel, Nepal can cash in on the rise in the demand for goods such as medicine, herbs, tea, coffee, shoes and garments among others in the US.

“There is a need for a study to make US markets accessible to Nepali entrepreneurs”, he suggested.

Dr Poudel has also been connecting US officials to the local-level people’s representatives of Nepal.

Dr. Poudel, who once shared a platform as a panellist with billionaire Michael Bloomberg while the latter in the US Presidential race in 2020, has also been using his connections to invite the US State and city officials to the festivals celebrated by the Nepali diaspora.

Dr Poudel is a community faculty and Assistant Professor at the Ohio State Medical School. His active engagement has also facilitated an agreement signing between Nepal’s National Innovation Centre (NIC) led by Mahabir Pun and the Agriculture Department of the Ohio State University for research activities.

The engineers from the NIC were also provided with training for research and innovation at the Northeast Ohio Medical University following Dr. Poudel’s coordination.

Dr Poudel has played a vital role in re-launching the Nepal Caucus in the US Congress. Currently, there are four Congressman from Ohio who has joined the Nepal Caucus. Congressman Mike Carey from Ohio is the co-chair of the Caucus. The Nepal Caucus is a bipartisan coalition that promotes relations between the US and Nepal across a broad spectrum of strategic interests such as economic developments, scientific research and natural disaster relief among others.

Dr Poudel is currently the President of the NIC-USA, a coordinating body with Pun’s NIC; Chief Patron of the Central Ohio Nepalese Association (CONA); and a working committee member of the Bangkok-based Association of Nepali Origin (ANO).

He has also worked as an advisor to the Non-Resident Nepali Association (NRNA) US chapter.

“I have always tried to strengthen the US-Nepal relations at governments and people’s level and will continue to do so,” said Dr Poudel. (RSS)