Georgia Thrombosis Forum (GTF) was formed on December 12, 2012 with the mission of spreading awareness of thrombosis in the State of Georgia. As GTF celebrates its 3rd Anniversary and enters its 4th year of proud achievements, a few members of GTF decided to review the phenomenal progress of GTF since its inception. GTF is primarily working towards improving the health of the community.
Sharvari Rangnekar, MD, a Board Certified Endocrinologist from the Wellstar System in Marietta, GA, and a member of GTF, interviews two of the young volunteer members of GTF, Atharva Athalye and Rohan Rege, both high school sophomores.
Abbreviations used in the text :
AA : Mr. Atharva Athlye, Sophomore, Alpharetta High School, Alpharetta, GA
RR : Mr. Rohan Rege, Sophomore, South Forsyth High School, Cumming, GA
Dr. S. : Sharvari Rangnekar, MD, Board Certified Endocrinologist with the Wellstar System
Dr. S. : Hello Atharva and Rohan, how are you ?
AA and RR : We are fine, thanks for asking
Dr S. : Thanks Atharva and Rohan for giving me time to interview both of you. I know you are very busy in the school studies, and I appreciate it very much your taking time to tell me about what GTF has achieved so far.
AA and RR : We both are happy to be here for a good cause.
Dr. S : Sound great, so let us begin. Let us start with the past. Can you tell us about the GTF organization, how it was formed and what has the organization accomplished in the past few years?
Rohan: Let me address this. Dr. Atul Laddu, MD, a retired Cardiologist, formed our group in 2012. Dr. Laddu’s grandson, Rajan, had back surgery in 2011, after which he was diagnosed with Pulmonary Embolism (PE), which can be a fatal condition, if not treated immediately. Luckily Rajan received prompt treatment and was treated successfully. During this experience, while talking with his many friends, Dr. Laddu realized how little the general public knew about these deadly conditions (DVT and PE).
This is when he decided to work with the North American Thrombosis Forum (NATF), an organization that conducts research on and spreads awareness about thrombotic conditions, and formed the Georgia Group of Volunteers (GGV), to work closely with the NATF to spread awareness of these conditions and help save people’s lives of the Citizens of the State of Georgia.
The story of blood clots can be simplified by quoting 2 facts : A clot is formed every minute in the U.S, and one person dies of clots every 6 minutes (Clot Connect, 2015).
The GGV was initially formed with only two young volunteers, Amey Houde and Amruta Houde, both of whom were personally asked to join by Dr. Laddu. At the 2012 NATF Thrombosis summit in Boston, these two young volunteers gave a presentation of their plans with GGV to the NATF board. This was the first presentation by GGV, and set the stage for many more to follow. Gradually, the GGV grew and a number of young volunteers, such as myself, were recruited in the organization.
Dr. S: So it appears that there was a lot of support from a variety of people for the GGV?
Rohan: Yes, this is correct. There has been a lot of support from our parents, as well as Dr. and Mrs. Laddu. Atharva, all the members of GGV, and I are proud to work for this organization, spreading awareness about such conditions in our communities, and making efforts to save lives.
Dr. S.: What benefits, if any, did the young volunteers get from working with GGV?
Rohan: Our voluntary work in GTF has instilled a lot of qualities in us, which has been the indirect benefit that our founder, Dr. Laddu, as an exemplary mentor, has been striving to instill in young volunteers for a long time.
We have been able to hone on our presentation skills, set up and manage booths, write articles that were published in important magazines, meet and interact with different dignitaries, plan events, visit the GA Senate floor and work closely with Georgia Sen. Renee Unterman, who, among her other functions, is the Chairperson of the Health and Human Services Committee of the State of Georgia. We are fortunate to have such a high profile person as a member of our organization.
Dr. S.: What are some of the activities your group has done since the founding in 2012 ?
Rohan: As I have indicated earlier, our first major activity was a presentation by Amey and Amruta Houde in 2012 to the Board of the NATF, which includes senior faculty from Harvard Medical School. Additionally, in the same year, we made a Poster Presentation at Thrombosis and Hemostasis Summit, in Chicago, which was very well received.
Dr. S: This is very impressive that the young volunteers are indulging in activities way beyond their scholastic activities.
Rohan: The year 2013 was a very important year for our group, not only because we added a lot of young volunteers to the group, but also because we received a proclamation declaring September as Thrombosis Awareness month in the State of Georgia. This proclamation was signed by the Governor of Georgia, Nathan Deal. This was a very proud moment for us (see below, the photo of the Proclamation document).
Dr. S.: So were there other activities besides receiving the proclamation in the State of Georgia?
Rohan : Receiving the proclamation from the State of Georgia was of course the biggest activity for the organization in the year 2013. However, the entire year was filled with a lot of other very interesting and important activities. For example, the young volunteers of the GGV attended some very important meetings, namely, a meeting with Mayor of Johns Creek, a meeting with NATF Board members and a meeting with Sen. Renee Unterman. The GGV arranged some very important lectures, one by Prasad Garimella, MD, a Pulmonologist at Georgia Tech, one by Dr. Atul Laddu at Georgia State University, and another by Dr. Atul Laddu in Fulton County. The lectures involved talking about thrombosis and its management.
Dr. S.: I understand that the young GGV members got involved in writing and publishing a lot of articles?
Rohan: Yes, that is correct. Several articles were written by the young volunteers that were published in various places, namely e-Thrombosis, Suwanee magazine, the Gwinnett Daily Post, The Statesman (a newspaper from India), Ekta (A Marathi periodical), and Crossroads (a publication from the City of Suwanee).
Dr. S.: The young members getting involved in summer internships at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, NATF and at Loyola looks very impressive. Please tell me more about this activity.
Rohan: One other major achievement for the group was to receive summer internships at the Loyola University in Chicago as well as at the Brigham Women’s Hospital/ NATF offices in Boston. Our young volunteers received very high praise about their work from the senior medical faculty at both these prestigious institutions.
Dr. S.: This looks very inspiring. What about 2014? Did you maintain the same pace of activities?
Rohan: We speeded our progress considerably in 2014, when the group expanded and added quite a few new projects fueled by ideas from the new members. New partnerships were developed, including one with Daiichi Sankyo, Inc., a leading pharmaceutical firm. Several presentations were arranged, which included “Journey of GGV in 2012-2013” in the Georgia Senate that highlighted the GGV Activities, “Georgia State Capitol Booth”, “Page Program at Georgia State Capitol”, “Thrombosis” and “NATF and GGV”, all used to raise Thrombosis Awareness.
Dr. S.: I understand that NATF has now recognized GTF as an affiliate of NATF? This is a very impressive credential for GGV! Did you undergo any other change?
Rohan: Recognizing the importance of our organization and the work that our group was doing to spread awareness, the NATF in 2014 announced GGV an official affiliate of NATF. This was an extremely important milestone for our organization.
Dr. S.: Some time ago, I read an article in Sam’s Club magazine on thrombosis.
Rohan: We are proud that we published an article written by Dr. Atul Laddu in the September 2014 issue of Sam’s Club Healthy Living with a circulation of about 9 million! The GTF thus started giving the message not only in Georgia, but all over the U.S.!
Dr. S: This is unbelievable! How did you get Sam’s Club publish an article on thrombosis?
Rohan: Well, GTF does take an aggressive approach in our activities, and we thank the management of Sam’s Club for letting us spread our message through this article to the World !
Dr. S : Let us talk with Atharva and get his input about this past year (September 2014 – September 2015). What major changes have occurred for the GTF during this period ?
Atharva : Several things have happened in the past 12 months.
- The GTF changed its name from the Georgia Group of Volunteers (GGV) to the Georgia Thrombosis Forum (GTF).
- The governing body of GTF changed its name from the Core Group of the GGV to the Board of Directors of GTF.
- Additionally, as Rohan has indicated earlier, the North American Thrombosis Forum (NATF) gave us the official status of an affiliate of NATF. We are very proud of this great achievement. Because of that, we changed our motto to “GTF: In Partnership with NATF in Community Service for Thrombosis.”
Dr. S. : I understand that GTF has introduced several new projects in 2014-2015. Could you please elaborate on these ?
Atharva : Yes, indeed, GTF has introduced the following new projects :
- Patient Support Group
- GTF Logo Contest 2014
- IBGA Scholarship 2014
- Proclamations 2014
- GTF Website project
- New members of GTF
- Physicians with GTF
- BOD members
Dr. S : This is certainly an impressive list of new additions. Let us take a few important ones and try to understand them.
Atharva : The first one is the Patient Support Group (PSG).
The idea of PSG, although not new, is a new to GTF, that we have started to execute in 2014. In the PSG, there usually is a physician expert-moderator, and we invite a few patients who suffered from DVT/PE patients who are encouraged to interact with other patients, and ask questions to the physician expert-moderator. The event is in the form of a telephone conference, where everyone dials in. Any one of the participating patients could ask any question to the moderator, and the moderator guides the patient in the right direction.
Our first meeting was held on October 15, 2014 with four patients attending. Gregory Piazza, MD from NATF was the moderator for this call with Ruth Haile Muskale, Pharm D and Sharvari Rangnekar, MD (yourself) being the chairs of this call.
Dr. S : What was the general feeling of the attending patients ?
Atharva : The patients who attended this event demanded to have more such sessions.
The second meeting was held on May 18, 2015. We had a confirmation from 4 patients, but unfortunately only one patient attended. We clearly realize that we needed to drum up more patients. The patient remarked that it was a very useful session and also showed significant interest in the PSG. We are planning to have our next session in spring of 2016.
Dr. S : What about the GTF Logo Contest 2014 and the IBGA Scholarship 2014 ?
Atharva : Yes, the GTF logo that you see was created through a logo contest among the young members of GTF, and Aditya, one of our members, won the first prize.
The IBGA Scholarship was an essay contest where each member of GTF would get the chance to submit an essay to a panel of judges outlining their experience with GTF. The first prize winner of this event was Aditya Bhave and the second prize winner was Omkar Waingankar. This scholarship was sponsored by the Ms. Martha Brown, CFO of Independence Bank of Georgia, a local community bank in Georgia.
Dr. S. : I understand that you did get several proclamations from important cities and counties in Georgia ? are there any plans for more proclamations now ?
Atharva : As a matter of fact, we have obtained many new proclamation over the past several months from all over Georgia : Cobb County, Forsyth County, Fulton County, Gwinnett County, Cities of Alpharetta and Atlanta
All of these proclamations were acquired with the help and efforts of our young volunteers who contacted the Board of Commissioners of each of the counties and also the City Councils and Mayors of the cities by themselves.
And no, we have not stopped getting proclamations, we are still working on to getting a few more.
Dr. S. : Can you please tell me what the website project is about ?
I am proud to say that the GTF website was inaugurated with great fan and fare on September 25, 2015 by Samuel Goldhaber, MD, the President of NATF at the time of the NATF Annual Summit in Boston.
Dr. S: I understand that some of you were offered Summer Internships at Harvard, NATF and Loyola University ?
Rohan: Yes, we did have a total of 4 summer internships this past summer, three in Boston and one in Chicago.
In Boston, Omkar completed one internship at the NATF offices, and two at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s Pharmacy, which were completed by Aditya and Vaishnavi.
The last, but definitely not the least, was the internship at Loyola University in Chicago. This internship was at the hematology laboratory led my Jawed Fareed, PhD, who is one of the World’s foremost experts in hematology research. This internship was completed by Varun.
Dr. S. : I would like to ask a basic question : how can you high school students at such a young age get all these privileges ? You are so fortunate to get these wonderful opportunities, not usually available to your colleagues !
Atharva : Dr. S, you are absolutely correct. This is a reflection of the contacts which members of the Board have had and the goodwill that GTF has established. I fully agree with you that we are very fortunate to get these wonderful opportunities, not usually available to our colleagues.
Dr. S. : Is every member of GTF eligible to get the internship ?
Atharva : No, not quite. The Board of Directors of GTF had selected specific volunteers who the Board thought were ready. All the volunteers had to go through a rigorous process of selection, based on selection criteria that were announced ahead of time, so that everyone knew what they need to do to get selected. For the second round, the chosen applicants had to write an essay indicating why they wanted to have the internship. The volunteers were then interviewed by the Board, and finalists were selected.
Dr. S. : GTF has conducted several interviews with pharmacists, patients and physicians. Please educate me on how this process works, and what are you aiming at through interviews.
Atharva : We conducted several interviews to understand the challenges and the perspectives from each one of these individuals.
We have had a total of 5 interviews this past year. Varun interviewed Mr. Peter, a businessman who suffered from both DVT and PE. On the same day, Aditya interviewed Georgia Senator Unterman, about how she is coping with her DVT, which she suffered a few years ago. Later, Rohan and Aneesh interviewed a pharmacist to see how she interacted with patients with thrombosis. Recently, Aditya interviewed Manjeeri Sangvai, MD, OB/GYN, to gain a better understanding of Women’s Health and how they are more susceptible to Thrombosis. Varun was interviewed by a local magazine, Cobb In Focus.
Dr. S. : What other new major projects have you completed ?
Atharva : In addition to the above, the GTF has worked on our “bread and butter” projects, such as booths, festivals and presentations.
For example, last September 2014, Varun and Ishani led a booth at Suwanee Fest, which was one of our largest booths, with about 900 people attending our booth.
We had a booth at the Georgia State Capitol which was led by Aditya, which attracted a lot of people. The volunteers that were part of this booth got the chance to interact with many important state politicians and dignitaries.
Our next two booths were at the MMA Gudi Padwa Event and at the Chinmaya Mission Alpharetta 5K Walk/Run event, which are both cultural events.
The next booth was the Cumming Festival booth on July 3rd. This booth was also led by Aditya.
One of the very special events we participated in was the Atlanta Braves Game. We went to the Braves game (the Braves played against Chicago Cubs, and won !) and displayed a message, written by Ms. Kat Marriott of NATF, on the big screen that read “Welcome NATF-GTF. Prevent Blood Clots. Know the signs. Know your risk. Educate yourself” to about 40,000 attendees at the game !
We set up a booth at Suwanee Fest in September 2015. This was the most successful booth to date for GTF with over 1200 people attending our booth. We also interacted with many patients who shared their story. I was the leader of this booth.
We had a booth at the Maharastra Mandal of Atlanta (MMA) Ganapati Program (a cultural event) which was led by Aditya.
Dr. S : What about the presentations ? Were they by Adult members, or by the young members of GTF ?
Atharva : We had multiple presentations over the past year, all made by the young members of GTF.
On our 2nd Anniversary Celebration on January 3, 2015, we had presentations from Vaishnavi, Varun, and myself.
On May 7, 2015, Gargee presented at the Heroes First Foundation Golf Tournament.
Avanti presented to her school on Market Day in May.
On June 6, 2015, the Jackson 5 (a group of young volunteers that come up with novel ideas) presented to Senator Unterman about their experience as a PAGE at the Georgia State Senate. On July 2 and July 16, Vaishnavi and I presented to the Rotary Club of Braselton, respectively.
On July 25, 2015, I made a presentation at the ALOE STEM Saturday Camp.
On September 25, 2015, Aditya, Rohan, Vaishnavi, and I presented to the Board of Directors of NATF in Boston about the progress of GTF.
Dr. S. : Tell me about the publications
Atharva : We published many articles in various media outlets.
Aditya wrote “Life After Thrombosis” and it is published on eThrombosis.
A “Case Report” which was an interview of Rose, a patient who suffered from cerebral thrombosis in her brain after delivering her second child, written by Omkar and Sneha, is also published on eThrombosis. “Interview with Pharmacist” is published on eThrombosis and was written by Rohan and Aneesh.
Aditya recently wrote an article about “Women and Thrombosis” which was written about his interview with Dr. Sangvai and is also published on eThrombosis.
Varun wrote the “Interview with Mr. Peter” and can be found on e-Thrombosis. Over the past year, we have completed many big projects that have helped us reach toward our goal.
Finally, Varun wrote the Cobb In Focus article about Thrombosis and is published in the Cobb In Focus Magazine.
Dr. S.: This is amazing, Atharva ! So what are the GTF plans for future? What are some major projects in 2016?
Rohan: Let me take this from here. So far, GTF has planned 2015-2016 to be a big year for us. We have already published an article in in October issue of Costco Connection, a publication that circulates to over 9.6 million people.
Dr. S: Oh My God! An article in Costco Connection? This sounds incredible! How did you pull this off?
Rohan: Well, the Board and the members of GTF have established enough contacts with the outside World, and we try to use and discover new contacts for our projects.
Dr. S.: OK, this sounds great. Anything else that GTF has planned?
Rohan: We have planned a few proclamations and other projects to give experience to our new recruits. We are lucky that the members of the Board have negotiated a few summer internships 2016 in BWH / NATF / Loyola.
During our visit to the NATF Annual Summit in September 2015, some of our members were, in fact, invited by the members of the BWH / NATF / Loyola Faculty to join them for an internship!
Dr. S.: This is fantastic! So it appears that GTF and its activities are slowly being recognized by others!
Rohan: Thanks for the complement, but your evaluation is absolutely correct !. We are also planning a few interviews, festivals, booths, presentations, and publications. As Atharva said earlier, our website (www.gtfonline.net), created from scratch by one of our young volunteers, Atharva, was inaugurated by Sam Goldhaber, MD, President of NATF on September 25, 2105, and is already fully functional.
Dr. S.: It is nice that you are doing the routine activities. Are you planning something special and advanced that will show some challenge to the Senior young volunteers?
Yes, precisely. For 2016, the focus of GTF is now slowly going to shift to research conducted by our senior young volunteers.
Dr. S.: This is very encouraging. What kind of research are you planning?
Rohan: The research involves areas such as coagulation cascade, research in various types of surgeries and their possible association with thrombosis. One of our young volunteers wants to conduct research on how different parameters (age, gender, nationality, height, weight, etc.) could affect thrombosis in Citizens of Georgia. We already know that a study entitled, “Secular trends in occurrence of acute venous thromboembolism: The Worcester VTE study (1985-2009)” was published in the American Journal of Medicine in 2014 by Huang and his colleagues. We now want to see if the same story as seen in the Worcester VTE study) can be reproduced in the Georgia communities.
Dr. S.: How old is GTF now ?
Rohan: GTF is now entering its 4th year of existence. And, yes, indeed we will be celebrating our 3rd anniversary in January 2016. We are extremely happy to know that the president of the NATF, Dr. Sam Goldhaber, will be our guest of honor. At this event, we will also give award the winners of our scholarship essay, there will be a few presentations by the young volunteers
Dr. S.: I understand the GTF is also planning a lot of publications. Why are so many efforts being spent on publications?
Rohan: Our flag ship publication was in Costco Connection, but we also have others planned. This one in Suwanee Magazine. Suwanee Magazine and its publisher, Ms. Angela Veugler, have been very proactive in supporting the cause of thrombosis by publishing our articles on thrombosis, and we would like to thank them for their support.
Dr. Laddu, our founder, has been invited as a guest author for the International Journal of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics in their January 2016 edition. This is a very proud moment for us in GTF. We also have some articles planned for cultural magazines in our area.
Now back to your question about us spending so much time and efforts in publishing articles, the best response I could give is that we know the Faculty at BWH, NATF and Loyola spends years in publishing their quality research work in peer reviewed scientific journals. We all are very proud of their efforts, and to be closely associated with them. We at GTF are trying to mimic the efforts of these researchers, and hence we try to publish. A publication reaches several thousand people, and thus our message gets across to a larger audience. The publication gives us a very valuable experience to write, and is also good for our career development.
This year we are going to be interviewing a general practitioner (to see how often they see such patients and what methods of treatment they administer/recommend). We will also interview several patients who have suffered from thrombosis.
Dr. S. : What are some novel projects you have planned for 2016?
Rohan: I am glad you asked this question. This year, we have three novel projects planned. We have decided to start a partnership with Another Level of Excellence (ALOE), which is an organization that provides education for underserved children in south Atlanta. We also have a project planned, Clot Formation in Athletes, which one of our members, Veeraj, will be researching and writing. Lastly, board member Archana Athalye and I are managing the GTF social media pages. We have accounts on Instagram, Facebook, You Tube, and Twitter.
Dr. S. : In the end, what would be some of the ‘Take Home’ messages from you to the community ?
Rohan: The most important message is that thrombosis is a silent killer and can cause many negative impacts on daily life. Prevention, through keeping in motion and increasing blood flow, is the better alternative to treatments after the condition.
Thrombosis can be fatal, and can occur in all age groups. You should know the risk factors and the symptoms. If you think that you have thrombosis, seek medical attention immediately and visit the NATF website, www.natfonline.org.
Dr. S. : Thanks Atharva and Rohan for this colorful journey through the enchanted land of fascinating achievements of GTF ! It has been a very enjoyable journey, and I wish you all the best with GTF and your personal life in the years to come.
AA and RR : Thanks Dr. S.
- Clot Connect (www.clotconnect.org), 2015
- Huang W, Goldberg RJ, Anderson FA, et al. Secular trends in occurrence of acute venous thromboembolism: The Worcester VTE study (1985-2009). Am J Med 2014: 127; 829-839.