Fresno Dr. Giatri Dave speaks out on domestic violence, cultural barriers

The Fresno BeeJanuary 11, 2014 

Radiation oncologist Dr. Giatri Dave of the Fresno Cancer Center is photographed in her office Jan. 10, 2014.


A Fresno physician who is raising her profile by appearing on a local newscast as a medical expert is now receiving international attention.

Giatri Dave, a radiation oncologist, is among a group of women of South Asian descent featured in the "2014 inaugural Saris to Suits calendar" that promotes raising awareness of domestic violence and challenges their cultural boundaries.

"Many women are afraid," she said. "There are cultural, financial and religious reasons why they cannot speak out about the various forms of violence they are experiencing. And seeing other people that might be in some ways similar to them culturally gives them a little bit of power and strength to speak out."

Dave, 40, who is of Indian descent, is among the female CEOs, activists, scientist, journalists and entertainers wearing saris in the calendar to highlight the violence in the South Asian community locally, nationally and globally. The campaign opposing domestic violence was sparked by a series of gang rape attacks against women in India.

Dave frequently visits family in India, specifically in Mumbai and Delhi, and said the series of violent crimes sparked social outcry and demonstrations about the role of women in the world's largest democracy.

"It's concerning to not be able to visit those cities freely," she said. "But also a lot of the cultural attitudes that are pervasive there, sometimes we see that in the local communities over here as well."

Dave said the message to raise awareness against domestic violence was created with hopes to transcend borders, since one in every four women is affected by domestic violence in America.

The group of women has made national and international headlines for their stand against violence.

"We've all had different stories and struggles and different ways we've broken the mold," Dave said.

The Fresno oncologist also appears weekly on a KGPE (Channel 47.1) newscast addressing medical topics in "Ask the Doctor."

"I think it's really important for people to be educated and to be their own health advocate," she said. "And if there's some way I can help doing that then I will help."

Dave graduated from the University of California at Irvine and Emory University School of Medicine before working for a Fresno medical group.

Despite living in Fresno for more than a decade, few here know what the Los Angeles native went through during her childhood.

Dave and her sister Gargi are survivors of a hijacked flight in 1986 in which about 120 passengers were injured and 20 people died.

On Sept. 5, 1986, Dave, then 13, and her 10-year-old sister were traveling by themselves and were returning to California from India aboard Pan Am Airlines Flight 73.

Five hijackers associated with the Libyan terrorist Abu Nidal Organization seized the Boeing 747 and the 379 passengers and crew on board while it was on the ground in Karachi, Pakistan.

As a result, the Dave sisters, represented by the law firm Crowell & Moring, along with more than 170 other victims sued Libya for its role in the hijacking. The Libyan government separately agreed to compensate the victims as part of a deal with the Bush administration before the lawsuit was resolved.

The money from the negotiations was intended only for U.S. residents, Lee Boyd, the Dave sisters' attorney, said in a 2011 story in The Bee. But Crowell & Moring said the money should be shared by all flight victims. The firm also claimed 25% of the payout as a contingency fee.

In 2011, a Washington, D.C.-based appellate court ruled the compensation dispute should be settled through arbitration. The outcome of the case could not be confirmed. Dave declined to comment about the hijacking.


The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6659, or @DianaT_Aguilera on Twitter.

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