Although psychiatrists of Indian origin were playing a vital role in clinical and academic psychiatry in U.K. until the mid-1990s, there was no professional body to provide a platform for mutual support, encouragement and share clinical expertise and experience.
The story of BIPA started with two NHS Psychiatrists, Dr Baburao Chaparala and Dr Harish Gadhvi, who came back from the USA having been inspired by a meeting of the Indo-American Psychiatric Association (IAPA) in May 1995.
The idea of setting up such an Association in the UK began to take shape with the coming together of three more Psychiatrists based in Birmingham, UK, namely Drs Thakor Mistry, Vinod Singh and Mohan George. An initial meeting of the five in Birmingham in July 1995 Following a brainstorming session it was agreed to draw up a draft Constitution and organise a wider National Steering Committee meeting.
The first Steering Executive Committee meeting was held in Birmingham in October 1995. 18 out of 30 invited psychiatrists attended the meeting with some apologies received. The idea of forming the Association was welcomed by all and initial responsibilities and people to take it forward identified. Work started on a Draft Constitution and the Association's name was agreed upon as British Indian Psychiatric Association. Many further meetings held at 3 monthly intervals, over the next 17 months, led to the final official launch.
BIPA came into being with an Inaugural Meeting in North London on 1 March 1997 attended by IPS President at the time Prof Bashyam and the General Secretary Dr Nimesh Desai.
One of the early objectives was to get due recognition by the Royal College of Psychiatrists for the contributions of Indian Psychiatrists practising in the UK and abroad.
Over the years, BIPA has grown in Membership strength and organised regular successful Annual Residential Meetings together with regional Meetings and workshops on wide-ranging themes. In the initial years, it also organised International Meetings (2001 in Goa with IPS, 2003 at NIMHANS in Bangalore, and 2005 in New Delhi with IHBAS, IPS and WPA Transcultural Section).
Further, a very significant development in the UK was the organisation of bi-annual Meetings of the Great Partnership with joint forces of BIPA, BPPA(British Pakistani Psychiatrists Association), SLPA(Sri Lankan Psychiatrists Association) and BAPA(British Arab Psychiatric Association). The initial lead was taken under the Chairmanship of BIPA in 2004 where we organised one of the largest Meetings with nearly 400 delegates from different Associations. For the first time in the history of our Associations the President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists attended as a Chief Guest. Thereafter, over the years, each of the RCPsych Presidents has attended our Annual Meetings. 2006, 2008 and 2010 saw further Great Partnership Meetings chaired by other Associations. This was a prelude to the recognition of Diaspora organisations within the RCPsych that followed.
During the decade starting in 2010 three important developments took place. BIPA collaborated with BAPIO (British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin) and AAPI (American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin) to form GAPIO (Global Association of Physicians of Indian Origin.
BIPA collaborated with other International Diaspora organisations to form an umbrella organisation IGPI (Indo-Global Psychiatric Initiative). Besides contributing to the academic programmes, this initiative allowed networking with fellow Indian Psychiatrists in various nations.
In 2013 a Diaspora Psychiatrists committee was formally established in the Royal College of Psychiatrists, following the initiative of Prof Sab Bhaumik, the then President of BIPA. He became the first Chairperson of this committee. This is the first time the diaspora organisations in the UK got a formal presence in the College under BIPA’s lead.
During this decade BIPA has strengthed its relationship with IPS and renewed its MoU. For more than 10 years BIPA has been inviting the IPS President and the President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists as guests of honour for its Annual Conference. Thus BIPA acted like a bridge between the IPS and RCPsych.
During this period BIPA took an active role in supporting overseas trainees, advocated for them in the College and provided mentorship for their career development. Likewise, it continues to support overseas middle-grade psychiatrists in their career progression.
Several British Indian Psychiatrists who had an association with BIPA occupied high positions in the RCPsych. Prof Dinesh Bhugra served as the President of the College and later President of WPA. The current Dean of RCPsych Prof Subodh Dave served as the President of BIPA in the past.
One of the significant strengths of BIPA as an organisation has been its Constitution which helped smooth transition of power and the Office Bearers plus Executive Committee members, systematically, over the last nearly 27 years now. Also, it has attracted eager members willing to voluntarily contribute their time and energy in taking up responsibilities of Office bearing posts. Further, they can keep the organisation refreshed with changing times and demands.
A significant achievement for BIPA has been reviewing and revising its objectives to meet the criterion of public benefit required by the Charity Commission in the UK. A charity application was submitted in 2015 by the then President Dr Seshagiri Nimmagadda and BIPA gained Charitable status in 2016 during the Presidency of Dr Anand Ramakrishnan. This has ensured even more transparency and accountability with a wider recognised status.
The current President Dr Bhavana Chawda and her predecessor Dr Ananta Dave ushered in an era of female leadership of the organisation which is long overdue.
BIPA is the second largest organisation of Psychiatrists in the UK after the RCPsych. It continues to grow from strength to strength and remains responsive to meet the challenges of changing times in psychiatric practice and the needs of wider society. With its status as a charity, it aims to extend its reach beyond the Indian diaspora Psychiatrists in the UK to champion the needs of patients from the diaspora communities in the UK. It continues to strive to maintain its working relationships with IPA, RCPsych, other diaspora psychiatric organisations in the UK and the Indian diaspora psychiatric organisations abroad.
Dr Thakor Mistry, BIPA Founding General Secretary,(1995-1999) and Chairman (2005-2006)
Dr Seshagiri Rao Nimmagadda, BIPA General Secretary (2008 -2012), President (2014-2016) & Trustee (2021.. Current)
Prof Subodh Dave, BIPA Gen. Secretary (2005-2007) and President (2010-2012)
Dr Bhavana Chawda, President BIPA (2022 – Current)