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2013 Outstanding American by Choice Recipients

Archived Content

The information on this page is out of date. However, some of the content may still be useful, so we have archived the page.

February 22, 2013
Alexandria, VA

Tsehaye Teferra
Founder and President, Ethiopian Community Development Council, Inc.
Arlington, Virginia

A native of Ethiopia, Dr. Tsehaye Teferra is Founder and President of the Ethiopian Community Development Council, Inc. (ECDC). ECDC was established in 1983 to serve a growing Ethiopian refugee community and assist other refugees and immigrants from diverse cultural backgrounds. Under his leadership and vision, ECDC has gone from a start-up agency with a first-year budget of $85,000 to a major community-based organization with an annual budget of over $16 million. ECDC has 3 branch offices and 12 affiliates providing multicultural services to newcomers around the country. 

Dr. Tsehaye received his undergraduate degree from Haile Selassie I University in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He served as a cross-cultural instructor in the Peace Corps’ in-country training program and taught at several institutions of learning in Ethiopia before coming to the United States as a UNESCO Fellow in 1972. He completed an M.S. in Applied Linguistics and a Ph.D. in Sociolinguistics at Georgetown University.

Dr. Tsehaye is active in civic, professional, and local community matters; he is a board member of several nonprofits, including InterAction. He has received many awards, including recognition for his outstanding contributions to the United States by the U.S. Department of State in 1991. In January 2012, Dr. Tsehaye was honored for his community service by the White House during an event themed, “Champions of Change: American Diaspora Community” in Washington, D.C.


April 9, 2013
Washington, DC

Ferozan Alamshahi Akbari
Immigration Analyst, Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
San Francisco, California

Ferozan Alamshahi Akbari arrived at the San Francisco International Airport in 1984 as a refugee. She stepped off the airplane, escaping persecution in Afghanistan with her husband, four small children ranging from five months to six years old, and four bags containing clothes for the children. She was overwhelmed with happiness to make it to the United States after seven long months in a Pakistani refugee camp, and describes the day she stepped foot on U.S. soil as the happiest day of her life.

Mrs. Akbari and her husband both worked hard to provide a better life for their children. She began working at a doctor’s office and a local bank while her husband studied and completed his engineering license. Mrs. Akbari became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1995 and joined the legacy Immigration and Naturalization Service in 2001. She began her career in data entry and now serves as an Immigration Analyst for the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate (FDNS) at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. In 2012, she was recognized as FDNS Analyst of the Year.


April 9, 2013
Washington, DC


Pearl B. Chang
Deputy Chief, Office of Policy and Strategy, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
Washington, District of Columbia

Pearl Chang is the Deputy Chief of the Office of Policy and Strategy at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). She was born in China and was naturalized in 1972 in Memphis, TN.
Her 35 years of federal service began with the United States Information Agency, where she not only managed the J-1 Visa Exchange Visitor Program but also served as a radio journalist, broadcaster, and producer for the Voice of America. She later joined the legacy Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) in 1987. In March 2003, legacy INS ceased to exist and most of its functions were transferred from the Department of Justice to three new organizations, including USCIS, within the newly created Department of Homeland Security. As Deputy Chief, Ms. Chang helped establish the USCIS Office of Policy and Strategy as the agency’s central office for policy development, regulations, and research.


May 29, 2013
Washington, DC


Ramon Melocarela
Immigration Services Officer, New York Field Office, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
New York, New York

Ramon Melocarela is an Immigration Services Officer (ISO) at the New York Field Office for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). A native of the Dominican Republic, Mr. Melocarela immigrated to the United States after his marriage and birth of his two children. In 2004, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve because he saw an opportunity to be a part of the United States, and its culture and society.

Mr. Melocarela has served his country on two overseas tours of duty. In 2006, he was deployed to Iraq for one year. It was during this time that Mr. Melocarela was naturalized at a special ceremony held in Iraq. Upon returning to the United States, he began his federal career with the Transportation Security Administration within the Department of Homeland Security at the Los Angeles International Airport. He joined USCIS in September 2008 before being deployed for a second tour of duty to Iraq for almost 16 months. Now located in the USCIS New York Field Office, Mr. Melocarela continues to serve in the U.S. Army Reserve. 


May 29, 2013
Washington, DC


Olga B. Koper
Market Manager, Battelle Memorial Institute
Columbus, Ohio

Dr. Olga B. Koper works in the Business and Open Innovation Group for Energy and Environment at Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, OH, the largest nonprofit research organization in the world. Previously, she was Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at NanoScale Corporation. She led the development of FAST-ACT, a nanopowder that absorbs and mitigates toxic chemicals, and co-led research for a cancer imaging system and in vitro cancer-diagnosis. She holds more than 30 U.S. and international patents to improve the environment, energy, and health using nanomaterials.

In 2007, she received Pipeline’s Innovator of the Year award in the Charter Class of Pipeline. Pipeline is an exclusive community of entrepreneurial leaders building high-growth companies. In 2013, Entrepreneur magazine featured Dr. Koper as one of seven “Entrepreneurial Women to Watch.”  Dr. Koper received an M.S. in Chemistry from the University of Silesia in Poland and a Ph.D. from Kansas State University, where she is an adjunct professor.


May 29, 2013
Washington, DC


Anna Mongayt
Co-founder and Head of Operations, Upstart
San Francisco, California

Anna Mongayt co-founded Upstart, a crowdfunding platform that allows people to raise money in exchange for a portion of their future income. Upstart is enabling young people to alleviate financial burdens such as student loans or living expenses by monetizing their future potential. The company helps recent graduates pursue their dreams of starting a business, learning to code, or beginning a career in a field they are passionate about by matching them with financial investors who believe in their aspirations. Investors can opt-in to become mentors and earn a return based on a regression model that predicts an individual's income over ten years.

Prior to co-founding Upstart, Ms. Mongayt worked at Google Inc. where she ran Gmail Consumer Operations and Global Enterprise Customer Programs. Ms. Mongayt graduated Summa Cum Laude from Boston University with a B.A. in Finance and Entrepreneurship.


May 29, 2013
Washington, DC


John A. Herrera
Senior Vice President for Latino Hispanic Affairs
Self-Help Services Corporation
Holly Springs, North Carolina

John A. Herrera is Senior Vice President for Latino Hispanic Affairs at Self-Help Services Corporation, a community development financial institution (CDFI). He also co-founded the Latino Community Credit Union, the first fully bilingual financial institution in the state of North Carolina and a national model for providing banking services to immigrants and the underserved. Mr. Herrera is a founding Board Member of the National Association of Latino Community Asset Builders and is the founder of La Fiesta del Pueblo, the largest Latino Festival in North Carolina. He has served on several boards including, the North Carolina Minority Support Center, a statewide CDFI Intermediary, the North Carolina Credit Union Commission, and in 2001 became the first Latino immigrant to be elected to a municipal office in North Carolina as an Alderman in the Town of Carrboro.

Mr. Herrera is a 2005 Eisenhower Fellow. He holds an M.S. from North Carolina State University in Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management, with a concentration in community development and a B.S. from the University of Delaware. He is married to Glisceria Vindas and has 6 children, Eileen age 16, Nelson age 14, Yariela age 13, Isayara age 12, Catalina age 11, and Miguel age 9.


May 29, 2013
Washington, DC


Amarpreet S. Sawhney
President and CEO, Ocular Therapeutix, Inc.
Lexington, Massachusetts

Dr. Amarpreet S. Sawhney is the President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Ocular Therapeutix, Inc., a company focused on unmet needs in ophthalmic surgical wound management and drug delivery. Previously, he was founder and CEO of Confluent Surgical; Chairman of MarketRx; technology founder of Focal, Inc. and Access Closure, Inc. He holds more than 120 patents, which form the basis for several first-of-a-kind medical devices that have helped millions of patients worldwide. He has founded six companies that account for over 1,600 jobs and more than $1.5 billion in revenue to date. Dr. Sawhney helps foster entrepreneurship by mentoring innovators and creating companies through Incept, a medical device incubator. He is a member of the board of directors of MassMedic, EcoSikh, Axtria, Ocular Therapeutix, Inc., Augmenix, and Incept LLC.

Dr. Sawhney was named one of the “Five Most Innovative Medical Device CEOs” by MassDevice in 2011. He has received several awards including the MassMedic Best Startup Company award, Frost & Sullivan  Product Innovation award, MIT Global Indus Technovators award, and the Ernst & Young Regional Entrepreneur of the Year award. Dr. Sawhney holds a Ph.D. and M.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin and a B.Tech. in Chemical Engineering from IIT Delhi. He resides in Lexington, Massachusetts with his wife Deepika and two children Anhad and Pria.


May 29, 2013
Washington, DC


Sivalingam Sivananthan
Distinguished Professor, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; Director, Microphysics Laboratory, University of Illinois at Chicago;
Founder, Sivananthan Laboratories, Inc. and its group companies;
Founder, Institute for Solar Photovoltaic Innovation, Research, and Edu-training
Naperville, Illinois

Dr. Sivalingam Sivananthan is a College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor and Director of the Microphysics Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is also the founder of the high-tech, Bell Labs-styled incubator, Sivananthan Laboratories, Inc., and its group companies, based in Bolingbrook, Illinois.

Born in Chavakacheri, Sri Lanka, Dr. Sivananthan is a world-renowned physicist as well as a successful entrepreneur in creating advanced military infrared night vision technology. The same technology at the heart of his night vision technology has also served as the platform for groundbreaking, next generation solar cells. To that end, he helped found InSPIRE, a nonprofit Institute for Solar Photovoltaic Innovation, Research, and Edu-training, whose mission is training Illinois's workforce and Illinois college and high school students to create a renewable energy and solar eco-systems in Illinois.


June 14, 2013
Baltimore, MD


Dr. Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa, MD, FAANS, FACS
Professor of Neurological Surgery and Oncology, Neuroscience, and Cellular and Molecular Medicine, Johns Hopkins University;
Director, Brain Tumor Surgery Program, Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center;
Director, Pituitary Surgery Program, Johns Hopkins Hospital
Baltimore, Maryland

Dr. Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa received a medical degree from Harvard University, where he graduated cum laude. He went onto complete his residency in neurosurgery at the University of California, San Francisco, where he also completed a postdoctoral fellowship in developmental and stem cell biology. At Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD, Dr. Quiñones is a Professor of Neurological Surgery and Oncology, Neuroscience, and Cellular and Molecular Medicine. In addition to directing the Brain Tumor Surgery Program at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, and the Pituitary Surgery Program at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Dr. Quiñones leads the Brain Tumor Stem Cell Laboratory. He focuses on the surgical treatment of primary and metastatic brain tumors, with an emphasis on motor and speech mapping during surgery as well as in the treatment of patients with pituitary and skull base tumors using endonasal transsphenoidal and minimally invasive surgical approaches.

Dr. Quiñones is an internationally renowned neurosurgeon and neuroscientist who leads cutting edge research to cure brain cancer. Named as one of the 100 most influential Hispanics in 2008, he was also selected by Popular Science magazine as one of their “6th Annual Brilliant Ten,” in their search for young geniuses influencing the course of science. 


November 13, 2013
Arlington, VA


Dr. Rahul M. Jindal
Transplant Surgeon, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center;
Professor of Surgery and Global Health, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and George Washington University
Silver Spring, Maryland

Dr. Rahul M. Jindal is a Transplant Surgeon at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD. He is also a Professor of Surgery and Global Health at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, MD and George Washington University in Washington, DC. He obtained his medical degree from B.J. Medical College in Ahmedabad, India. He then earned a Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in Scotland and received a Transplant Fellowship from the University of Oxford in England. Dr. Jindal also earned a PhD in social psychology from Middlesex University in London and an MBA from Colorado Technical University in Colorado Springs, CO.

In the late 1990s, Dr. Jindal performed the world's first operation to link a tube with blood vessels in the damaged liver of a critically ill six-year-old boy. Dr. Jindal also set up the first comprehensive kidney dialysis and kidney transplant program in Guyana, South America and successfully performed the first living kidney transplant in that country. His team has given hope and raised medical standards with their continued work in Guyana. In the United States, Dr. Jindal also played a crucial role in a groundbreaking surgery in 2009, performing the first ever pancreas islet cell transplant for traumatic pancreas in a wounded soldier.

Based on his experience in working with psycho-social issues among kidney patients, Dr. Jindal co-authored a book entitled “The Struggle for Life: A Psychological Perspective of Kidney Disease and Transplantation,” which is now used as a standard textbook in programs around the world, raising awareness about psychological issues in patients with kidney failure and transplantation. Dr. Jindal is associated with several medical organizations and was recently appointed Commissioner of the Governor’s Office on Service and Volunteerism for the State of Maryland.


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