Dr Pranav Shetty, who has been on the front lines of fighting Ebola in West Africa, created history January 20, becoming the first Indian American to sit in a First Lady’s box during a President’s State of the Union address.
And when President Barack Obama got to the part of his
remarks where he recognized the selfless service of Ebola
fighters, the cameras panned toward the 33-year-old
Mangalore-born, Trinidad-raised, Indian-American physician seated behind the First Lady.
Shetty is a global emergency health coordinator at the
International Medical Corps, a non-profit organization that
is a critical partner in the fight against the epidemic. IMC is
operating four Ebola treatment centers in West Africa — two
in Liberia and two in Sierra Leone — that have discharged a
combined 113 survivors to date. It has approximately 1,130
people working on the ground in West Africa on the Ebola
response and its centers provide patients not just physical
care but also the psychosocial support that is critical to recov-
ery. To expand the pool of health workers capable of manag-
ing Ebola treatment centers across the region, it is providing
training for local officials and health-care workers, as well as
for international and non-governmental organizations.
As the initial health technical lead for IMC’s emergency
response operations worldwide, Shetty is often one of the
first to deploy to the affected area after a disaster or crisis. He
was deployed to Liberia in August 2014 to establish and
oversee two Ebola treatment units, which have now dis-
charged over 80 survivors of the deadly illness. In addition,
he managed teams of rapid responders that deploy to Ebola
hot spots in Liberia and a training center for local and inter-
national health-care workers who are now working on the
frontlines of the Ebola response effort across the region.
Shetty, who has a medical degree from the University of
Pittsburgh School of Medicine, a fellowship in Global Health
and International Emergency Medicine at the University of
Maryland, a Masters of Public Health from the University of
Maryland and a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience from
the University of Pittsburgh, has worked with IMC since
2011. Prior to the Ebola response, he managed programs
assisting affected Syrian populations, and helped establish
health-care programs to support displaced populations in
Iraq in 2014. He was deployed to the Philippines in 2013 in
ÂWhat we are called to doÊ Dr Pranav Shetty, the first Indian American to sit in the First Lady’s box during a state of the union address, tells Aziz Haniffa about the spirit that drives him and others in the International Medical Corps to rush to the front lines in times of crises like the Ebola epidemic
Pranav Shetty was 2 when his father Manohar Shetty,
a surgeon, and mother Sujatha, a nurse, moved from
India to Trinidad. They lived there for nine years with
the senior Shetty doing reconstructive plastic surgery.
When Pranav was 11, the family moved to the US —
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania — where they have lived for
over two decades, with the elder Shetty changing his
specialty to psychiatry, which he still practices.
Although Pranav now lives in Arlington, Virginia, with
his wife Nora, he still considers Pittsburgh home, having
first gone to Shaler Area High School, before attending
the University of Pittsburgh, where he met his wife.
Top Row from left, Victor Fugate, Dr. Pranav Shetty, Judy Gross, Alan Gross, Astronaut Scott Kelly. Bottom row from left, Astrid Muhammad, Anthony Mendez, First Lady Michelle Obama, and Dr Jill Biden at the State of the Union speech January 20.