Brain Health Takes Center Stage: Meet The Latest Class Of Paul And Daisy Soros Fellows

Brain Health Takes Center Stage: Meet The Latest Class Of Paul And Daisy Soros Fellows

Dr. Vivek Murthy, U.S. Surgeon General, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services was part of the … [+] inaugural class of Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship in 1998.

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The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans’ Board of Directors proudly announced the 2024 PD Soros Fellows today, comprising 30 exceptional graduate school students, all immigrants or children of immigrants, poised to excel in their respective fields.

I was a recipient of the Fellowship in the very first class in 1998 and I’m thrilled to see how the Fellowship has grown in the past 26 years. This past year more than 2,300 students from across the country applied for the Fellowship. While the number of applicants has grown, the Fellowship has stayed committed to its rigorous merit-based selection process, resulting in a group of Fellows that truly embodies immigrant excellence.

As a neurologist, I was particularly pleased to see many engaged in brain health research. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, a fellow alumnus from the inaugural class of PD Soros Fellows in 1998, has indicated that mental health is the defining public health crisis of our time. The impressive depth and breadth of the brain science research among these trailblazing 2024 PD Soros Fellows is encouraging and worth celebrating.

Moreover, the rich diversity and high level of accomplishment of this class of PD Soros Fellows, extending far beyond the cognitive sciences serves as a poignant reminder of the valuable contributions immigrants make to our country. These creative, dedicated, and resilient scholars are diligently tackling some of society’s most pressing questions, underscoring the strength that lies in our nation’s diversity.

Meet Some 2024 PD Soros Fellows Researching Brain Health

Shubhayu Bhattacharyay: Pursuing an MD at Harvard University, Shubhayu is dedicated to health equity and developing innovative solutions for patients with dementia and traumatic brain injuries. He is also researching sources of bias in medical Artificial Intelligence to protect patient safety and equity in the clinical deployment of decision-support systems for TBI care.

Michael E. Xie: Pursuing an MD/PhD at Johns Hopkins University, Michael utilizes novel techniques to unravel the mysteries of the brain and better understand how cognitive function deteriorates in neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases. Michael has also been leading a research project on using AI to improve patient outcomes.

Evelyn Wong: Pursuing an MD/PhD in biophysics at Stanford University, Evelyn’s journey from a refugee family to a scholar exemplifies resilience and determination in bridging gaps in healthcare and education. She is developing flexible electrodes to record neural signals from deep, hard-to-reach structures in the mammalian brain. She also serves as a co-director of the Stanford Asylum Collaborative, providing medical and psychological evaluations to support individuals seeking asylum in the United States. Evelyn aspires to pursue a career as a physician-neuroengineer.

Many 2024 PD Soros Fellows have academic focus centered on identifying novel pathways to enhance … [+] brain health.


Min Jae Kim: Pursuing an MD/PhD at the University of Pennsylvania. Min Jae’s passion for neuroscience drives his quest to revolutionize neuromodulation therapies, offering hope to those with neurological disorders. Min Jae’s work is multidisciplinary, spanning neurology, psychiatry, and neurosurgery. Min Jae’s research includes work on cognitive impairment in patients with Parkinson’s Disease after Deep Brain Stimulation, as well as work investigating radiographic markers and circuits to enhance seizure freedom rates for patients undergoing epilepsy surgery.

PD Soros Fellowship Enhancing Diversity And Investing In America’s Future

While it is invigorating to see the many PD Soros Fellows engaged in brain health research, it is also encouraging to see exceptional students from demographics underrepresented in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math fields who are also part of this new class of Fellows. Some of the new fellows who have distinguished themselves in STEM include:

Sharon Loa emigrated from Peru, attended the University of Montana, and is now an MD/PhD candidate studying cancer biology at Stanford. In college, she went from never having heard the term “research” to contributing to the discovery of a novel metabolic pathway in which enzymatic activation of pyruvate kinase increases cytosolic oxaloacetate to inhibit the Warburg effect, recognized in Nature Metabolism.

James Occean emigrated from Haiti, attended the University of South Florida and is now an incoming PhD student in cancer biology at Stanford. He’s currently finishing his master’s at Johns Hopkins and has also ventured into industry; he’s working in data science at Personal Genome Diagnostics within LabCorp Oncology. His work contributed to verifying and validating kitted assays designed to detect cancer-related and clinically relevant genomic variants.

Geronimo Bejarano immigrated from Colombia, went to the University of Central Florida, and is now pursuing a PhD in health services research at Brown University. He received his master’s in public health from the University of Texas. Motivated by the health inequities of the minoritized communities he grew up in and his parents’ experience as limited English proficiency older adults, Geronimo’s research interests have centered around how the privatization of the US healthcare system impacts inequities and care delivery for older adults.

PD Soros Fellows Breaking Barriers Across The Board

The richness of the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship goes far beyond STEM fields. The full list of fellows can be found on the Fellowship page, and includes Ruva Chigwedere who is the first fellow from Zimbabwe and Saidu Tejan-Thomas Jr., the first fellow from Sierra Leone; both are great examples of the diversity that is needed in theater, television, film and storytelling.

Additionally, this year there are three Fellows with Filipino heritage: Ananya Agustin Malhotra, Hannah Keziah Agustin, and Celine Calpo. Ananya has been working in foreign policy with a focus on nuclear disbarment and arms control and will pursue a law degree at Yale University. Hannah is a writer, poet, and journalist pursuing a master’s in fine arts in literary reportage from New York University. Celine currently works at the Federal Judicial Center and will be pursuing a law degree.

Benefits of the PD Soros fellowship

Daisy Soros and Paul Soros (1926-2013) created the Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship to support New … [+] Americans attending graduate school in the United States. The program has provided $80M in funding for graduate students over the course of 26 years. (Photo by Patrick McMullan/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)

Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Amidst rising education costs, each PD Soros Fellow will receive up to $90,000 to alleviate financial burdens as they pursue their studies at institutions across the United States. Over the past 26 years, thanks to the generosity of Paul & Daisy Soros and their family, the Fellowship has awarded over $80 million in funding for graduate school students pursuing a range of fields, from medicine and the arts to law and business. This Fellowship is designed for immigrants and children of immigrants. The 30 new PD Soros Fellows stories resonate and serve as reminders of the challenges immigrants face as they navigate unfamiliar terrain. The latest class of Fellows hail from five continents and have a broad range of academic interests.

“As we welcome these impressive new Fellows to our community, I am filled with pride and hope for the bright futures they will have professionally and as they give back to our country,” said Mrs. Daisy Soros, co-founder of the program. “Their stories demonstrate the strength and vitality inherent in the immigrant identity—they aren’t afraid to take risks and think big.”

“Together, they represent a diverse tapestry of backgrounds, perspectives, and aspirations, poised to make enduring contributions to their fields and communities,” said fellowship director Craig Harwood.

Founded by Hungarian immigrants Daisy M. Soros and her late husband Paul Soros (1926-2013), The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans program honors the contributions of continuing generations of immigrants in the United States.

I hope you will find joy and inspiration in the stories of these 2024 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellows and the Fellowship as a whole. The work of these 30 individuals is remarkable, but they are also a reminder of the deep commitment that immigrants and children of immigrants have to the values of American society and citizenship. What a profound gift that these young innovators are to the country and the world.

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