Never one to stay in a comfort zone, Indian-American community and healthcare leader Srilekha Palle’s says that her life has been a roller coaster ride during the past few years. The Boston University alumnus was recently appointed to the Virginia Asian Advisory Board (VAAB) by Governor Glenn Youngkin.
Hailing from a village in Andhra Pradesh, India, Palle immigrated to the US to realise her American dream. In an engaging conversation with New India Abroad®, the doctor shares her inspiring story of how she went from being a young girl in Andhra to a prominent figure in the Indian American community in the United States.
Share briefly about your journey from a healthcare professional to a community political leader of the GOP.
My journey with public service started from a Durga temple in the neighbourhood, where I served as a volunteer and went on to become president. During that time tenure, due to my professional background, I was asked to be the Vice Chair of the South Asian Public Health Association (SAPHA) to promote public health within the South Asian community. That may be one of the turning points in my life where I began to understand that we ought to have a multifaceted role that involves leadership, advocacy, and strategic planning to raise awareness about any issue in the United States.
With that realization in mind, I played multiple executive roles in cultural, religious, business, and political arenas, where I had the opportunity to meet elected officials from both parties and understand the intricacies of the platforms of both sides of the aisles and enriched my understanding on policy and politics on diverse subjects. With keen interest to serve community,
I chose to run for office and didn't succeed in 2018, and I hope to run again in the future. Whether I win or not, I will continue to serve my community, striving to impact and build a better future for everyone positively.
What will be your main priorities as a member of the Virginia Asian Advisory Board (VAAB)?
The Virginia Asian Advisory Board is a formal liaison between the administration and the diverse and rapidly growing Asian American Pacific Islander ("AAPI") communities in the Commonwealth. As per mandate, I will advise Governor Youngkinon issues of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) interest so that his administration can best serve the AAPI constituents of Virginia. I will also advise the Governor on ways to improve economic and cultural links between the Commonwealth and Asian nations, focusing on the areas of commerce and trade, art and education, and general government, as well as issues affecting the AAPI community in the Commonwealth.
My personal goal is to, at a certain point, talk to Governor Youngkin about adopting a sister city in India and building trade relationships with India.
Being an Indian – American, how do you view the Indian Diaspora's contribution to your town and the country at large?
The Indian community has already significantly contributed to the American economy, philanthropic discourse, charities, politics, and state government and significantly in technological development and innovations. Remarkably, many Indian Americans have founded successful startups and technology companies, created jobs, and driving innovations.
The Indian community has contributed to the cultural diversity of the region by introducing food, music, dance, and traditions. Indian festivals such as Diwali and Holi are now celebrated in many cities across America. Through the effort of myself, Mr. Gupta, one of the prominent Indian American leaders, Fairfax County School now recognizes Diwali as an official school holiday, and that is the case in multiple counties across America.
Share your journey from India to the U.S. and your memories of India. What do you like the most about India?
Despite growing up in a small town Bethemcherla, Rayalaseema region of Andhra Pradesh, my mom and Uncle instilled an intense pride in education, and I learned what hard work means from my dad and what integrity means from my brother. I carry the family values that my parents imparted to me today. I remain connected to my Indian roots and contributing as a volunteer to provide healthcare and social services in rural parts of India.
I went to boarding school in Nandyal after that, where I learned the concept of "procrastination is the thief of time" from one of the warden that supervised us, and an administrator and his wife who treated me as a family and his and my uncle who was then the medical officer of the school together what selfless service to the community means. Those humble human beings remain my role models to this day.
Of course, you learn a lot from your dear friends at all stages of your life on how to be resilient, flexible, adaptable, and self-reliant. India has undoubtedly taught me a lot, and I owe a lot to my motherland.