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Fellows' Bios

Spring 1998 Fellows

Ikeolu Adeyemi

BOSEDE (IKE) GBADEGESIN ADEYEMI works in the London office of the New York law firm White & Case

She was born in Nigeria and came to the United States at age thirteen.

As an undergraduate at Harvard University, Ike volunteered as an English teacher for recent immigrants. She also interned at Greater Boston Legal Services, providing housing advocacy to economically disadvantaged clients. She attended Harvard Law School, where she was a submissions editor for the International Law Journal and co-president of the International Law Society.

Ike formerly worked in the Project Finance group of Skadden Arps in Washington, DC and then was Senior International Attorney with the Millennium Challenge Corporation. . She still works with a nonprofit she co-founded with other young Nigerian immigrants designed to provide ways for Nigerians abroad to develop and contribute to youth programs in Nigeria.

Ike is married to Oreoluwa Adeyemi.


Ponneh Aliabadi Varho

PONNEH ALIABADI VARHO  is a Senior Associate at Isaacson, Miller in DC. 

Ponneh was born in Iran. Her family fled the Iranian revolution when Ponneh was two and settled in the US.

Ponneh graduated from University of Virginia Law School in May 2001, where she served as a Class Agent and recipient of the Emerson Award in her first year. In 2007 she completed her master's degree in higher education at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education.

As an undergraduate at the University of Virginia, Ponneh was Vice President of the Persian Cultural Society, a 1998 Class Trustee, active in the University Honor Council, a member of the University Guide Service, a black belt member of karate and tae kwon do associations, coach of a women's soccer team, and a competitive runner at distances from 5K to 10 miles. She also was active in the pre-law fraternity and mock trial competitions. 

After taking the Virginia Bar, Ponneh began working at Swidler Berlin Shereff Friedman in Washington, DC. She has worked on several pro bono cases involving refugees seeking asylum and a case involving Southern, black farmers who were discriminated against by the government. She is an active member of the IABA (Iranian American Bar Association) and was an associate at Collier Shannon Scott, a Washington, DC law firm, practicing advertising/privacy and trademark law. 

Ponneh lives with husband Scott Varho and their son.


Lera Auerbach

LERA AUERBACH is currently a composer in residence with both the Pacific Music Festival in Sapporo, Japan and the West Cork Chamber Musical Festival in Ireland.

Lera was born in Chelyabinsk, Russia. Lera gave her first public performance at age six, appeared as a soloist with orchestra at eight, and wrote her first opera, which was staged and toured throughout the former Soviet Union, at twelve. In 1991 Lera was invited to do a concert tour of the US, where she decided to remain. 

Lera graduated from The Juilliard School with degrees in both piano and composition, attended the Hannover Hochschule für Musik, and studied comparative literature at Columbia University.

Lera made her Carnegie Hall debut in 2002, performing her own Suite for Violin, Piano, and Orchestra with violinist Gidon Kremer. In 1996, Lera was named Poet of the Year by the International Pushkin Society and received the Poetry Prize of the Year by the Novoye Russkoye Slovo, the largest Russian-language newspaper in the West. Her published works include five volumes of poetry and prose, two novels, and more than one hundred works in Russian-language literary newspapers and magazines. She was president of the jury for the 2000 International Pushkin Poetry Competition.

Recently, the Hamburg State Ballet premiered her 24 Preludes CV and Original Ballet on Music; David Finckel of the Emerson String Quartet premiered her Cello Sonata #1; and Philippe Quint premiered her Violin Concerto #1 and Violin Sonata #2. Her recent recordings include: BIS Records, 24 Preludes for violin and piano. Her book Hannover Notebook was published by Slovo/Word. In addition, she was named Composer-in-Residence by Japan's renowned Orchestra Ensemble Kanazawa.

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Pacific Music Festival, the Tokyo String Quartet and Sapporo Symphony performed Lera's Fragile Solitudes for string quartet and orchestra, followed by the program, "Pacific Soundings II - The World of Lera Auerbach". In May of 2009, the Kennedy Center opened their CrossCurrents festival of music with a composer portrait devoted to Lena, (this proved to be the first of three composer portraits celebrating Lena over the course of the Summer). The next day, she was saluted in New York by the New York Philharmonics's performance of her Symphony No. I, "Chimera". In September of 2009, a new work entitled, Sogno di Stabat Mater for violin, viola, vibraphone and string orchestra was premiered by Gideon Kremer and the Kremerata Baltica. Nonesuch Records released Sogno this past Summer. November of 2009 brought the Canadian National Ballet's world premiere of the ballet Watch Her, with music by Lena.

Meanwhile, in Europe Julian Rachlin performed Lera's Sonata for Violin and Piano no. 3 at Vienna's Musikverein. Lena spent that winter on an artist residency at the Wurlitzer Foundation in Taos, New Mexico. Lena's work as a poet continues: the West Cork Literary Festival featured her work in 2009 and she is a featured blogger for Best American Poetry. Since September 2011, the world has witnessed the premieres of six different major works, and widespread interest in her ballet "The Little Mermaid" (just nominated for the Rose d'Or Award).  Her Requiem, “Dresden – Ode to Peace” was premiered by the Dresden Staatskapelle and State Opera Chorus in 2012.  

Lera works as a musician, composer, and poet, living in New York with her husband, Rafael DeStella. Her official website is www.leraauerbach.com


Anthony Chen

ANTHONY S. CHEN is an Associate Professor of Sociology and Political Science at Northwestern University in Chicago. 

Tony was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. His parents are Taiwanese and reside in Alief, Texas.  

Tony received a BA from Rice University and a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California at Berkeley.

Tony served as associate professor of sociology and public policy at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor until 2009. The Social Science History Association honored Tony with the 2009 President's Book Award for his work on the history of affirmative action policies in employment, The Fifth Freedom:Jobs, Politics, and Civil Rights in the United States, 1941-1972. As a volunteer, he has worked to fight leukemia and other related cancers. He was a Robert Wood Johnson Fellow in Health Policy Research at University of California at Berkeley.


Igor Cherepinsky

IGOR CHEREPINSKY works as an engineer for Sikorsky Aviation in Connecticut. 

Igor was born in Ukraine and came to the United States in 1990.

Igor received his master's in engineering from Polytechnic University in 1999 after completing a BS, also at Polytechnic. 

In a summer program run by Polytechnic University for high-school students, Igor devised a path-planning system for a small robot. He subsequently designed racing models of radio-controlled airplanes and designed on-board computers for automobiles. As an undergraduate at Polytechnic University, he worked with the New York Department of Transportation to develop a system to provide real-time traffic statistics to a central facility, and has worked part-time for OmniTek R&D, designing and implementing control software applications. 


Rajiv Doshi

RAJIV DOSHI, MD is the Executive Director (United States) of the Stanford-India Biodesign Program which was begun in 2007. He is also Founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Ventus Medical, a venture capital-backed medical device company in San Jose, California that markets products for obstructive sleep apnea (Provent) and snoring (Theravent).

Rajiv earned a BS in chemical engineering, an MSE in biomechanical engineering, and an MD, all from Stanford University. He also serves on the Medical Advisory Board of Lunar Design. Rajiv has over forty US patents issued or pending.

Prior to founding Ventus Medical, he was a Principal at De Novo Ventures. Rajiv has taught medical device design courses at Stanford since 2000.


Nadine Duplessy Kearns

NADINE DUPLESSY KEARNS is now Executive Director of New Community for Children. New Community offers academic and enrichment based after schools and summer programs for youth who come primarily from the Shaw area of Washington, DC.

Nadine was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. She came to the United States at age eleven to live in Dorchester, Massachusetts.

At Harvard University, she was co-founder of the Harvard-Radcliffe Haitian Alliance, serving neighboring Haitian communities, and was a translator for the New England Observers Delegation, which assessed human rights conditions in Haiti in 1994. For her degree in East Asian studies, she spent the fall of 1994 at the Cooperative Japanese Business and Society Program in Tokyo, studying language, business, and culture. Nadine worked at Coopers & Lybrand Consulting (now Pricewaterhouse Coopers) before attending the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy, where she received a master's in development economics, trade and commercial policies with the ultimate goal of promoting trade and investment in the Caribbean.

Nadine has since worked as a program manager at International Business Initiatives, in Arlington, Virginia; and as Deputy Director of Capital Partners for Education in Washington, DC; and as Director of Community Relations for the Washington Latin School. Nadine's recent awards include a 2010 American Express Foundation – Aspen Institute Fellowship for Emerging Nonprofit Leaders and the 2011 Women of Color Policy Network Lead the Way Fellowship.


Na Eng

NA ENG is a Producer at CNBC in New York. 

Na was born in Cambodia just as the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime came into power. When she was five, her family fled the war-torn country to resettle in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Na graduated from Columbia University in 1998. One year later, she earned her master's in international affairs from Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs. 

Na is an Emmy Award-winning television producer based in the New York City-area. Her reporting for NBC, PBS and CNBC has taken her all over this country and the globe to report on a wide range of public policy stories, from the aftermath of Katrina to an investigation into private prisons. She earned an Emmy Award for a profile of a grassroots struggle for progressive taxes in Alabama. She has also been honored with several prestigious national journalism awards, including the Edward R. Murrow Award, the Sigma Delta Chi Award and three National Headliner Awards. Na also serves as a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations.



Mill Etienne

MILL ETIENNE is a Physician at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington, DC.  

Mill was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and came to the United States at age five, settling in Spring Valley, NY.

Mill did his undergraduate studies at Yale University. Throughout high school and college, Mill hosted a local television program that focused on presenting positive role models to the youth in Rockland County.

Upon graduating from Yale University, Mill moved on to New York Medical College where he served as an officer in the student senate and served as an instructor and coordinator of the Science and Technology Enrichment program for underprivileged high school students. While in medical school, Mill also served as the National Speaker of the House of Delegates for the Student National Medical Association.

Mill completed his neurology residency at Columbia University's Neurological Institute of New York and recently published an article in the Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports. He completed a fellowship in epilepsy and clinical neurophysiology at Columbia University and received an MPH at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. Having been an attending physician at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, MD, Mill also worked as a neurologist at USNS Comfort who began work and arrived in Haiti one week after the disaster took place. Mill's work in Haiti resulted in cover page articles in both the Baltimore Sun and USA Today.


Christian Fung

CHRISTIAN FUNG is currently the Director of Programs for the Global Forum on MSM and HIV in San Francisco.

Christian was born in Hong Kong and moved to San Francisco at age thirteen. He began volunteering with AIDS service organizations in high school and facilitated a support group for gay and lesbian teens.

Christian supported himself through the University of Washington working as an inner-city AIDS educator, and was appointed to the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Advisory Council by the Governor. He graduated in 1999 from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University in development economics. Christian also received a master's degree in epidemiology at the Harvard University School of Public Health in 2001, where he chaired the human rights student group. 

Internationally, Christian has directed a relief effort in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan (CARE), assisted in public health programs in Malawi (USAID), and designed rule-of-law projects in Russia (World Bank). Christian worked as an emergency health specialist with the International Rescue Committee in New York, Kosovo, and East Timor. Christian worked as a Foreign Service Officer for 10 years with the US Agency for International Development where he managed the PEPFAR (Presidential Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) program in Rwanda, Cambodia and Malawi. For the last two years, Christian served as the West Africa Regional Health Director; the appointment expanded his purview to over twenty-one countries' programs. 

Starting in June 2012, he returned to focus on civil society efforts as the Director of the Global Forum on Men Who have Sex with Men & HIV to continue the fight for equality for gays and lesbians and to promote equity using HIV/AIDS as a lens.


Lisa Halpern


LISA JENNIFER HALPERN   works for Vinfen Corporation as the Program Director of Recovery Services in Massachusetts.

Lisa was born in Seattle, Washington. Her father was born in Canada; her mother, the child of Holocaust survivors, was born in a displaced persons camp in Germany.

Lisa graduated from Duke University summa cum laude with degrees in economics and public policy. In 2001, she received a master's in public policy, with concentrations in health policy and leadership studies, from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. 

Lisa spent three years in Washington, DC working as senior researcher to David Gergen and for the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. She worked for the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and a dual-diagnosis PACT team – serving people with severe mental illness and substance abuse disorders. 

Lisa currently lives in Boston and ; she is a frequent speaker and author on schizophrenia and mental illness recovery.



Rollie Lal

ROLLIE LAL is a full time author of non-fiction books on international security and international suspense novels.

Rollie was born in India and came to the US when she was one year old.

After graduating with a degree in economics from the University of Maryland, Rollie went to Japan, where she taught English. Returning to Washington, DC, she worked as a correspondent for theYomiuri Shimbun, a leading Japanese newspaper. She completed her master's degree in strategic studies and international economics, and completed her PhD. at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Affairs in 2002. Her doctoral research focused on the formation of national sentiments in China and India.

Rollie then worked as a political scientist for Rand Corporation, with expertise in South and East Asia, terrorism and organized crime, and as a professor in Belgium and for the Department of Defense for several years. She co-published America's Role in Nation-Building: From Germany to Iraq, (Rand, 2003) and co-authored The Muslim World After 9/11(Rand, 2004). She has provided Congressional testimony to the US-China Commission on China's economic and political impact on South Asia and in December 2004, she served as an election observer for Uzbekistan's first full parliamentary elections.

Rollie and her husband, Steven Devisch, have a daughter and live in Reston, Virginia.


Alba Morales

ALBA RAQUEL MORALES is a researcher in the U.S. Program at Human Rights Watch in New York, focusing on criminal justice issues.

The child of Guatemalan and Cuban immigrants, Alba spent her childhood in Miami.

Alba attended Brown University, where she coordinated an English as a Second Language program for Central American immigrants. She then organized grassroots projects in a Mexican-American community in Oakland, California, and later worked for the Political Ecology Group (PEG), a San Francisco nonprofit that sought to foster links between the environmental justice and immigrant rights movements.

Alba graduated from New York University School of Law in 2001. At New York University, she participated in two criminal justice clinics, served on the staff of the Review of Law and Social Change, and was active in the Coalition for Legal Recruiting.

Upon graduation, she clerked for the Honorable Rosemary Barkett of the Eleventh Circuit in Miami, FL, and worked for three years as a staff attorney with the Legal Aid Society's Criminal Defense Division in Brooklyn. Following this, she was the staff attorney and clinic supervisor for the Innocence Project at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in NY.



Vivek Murthy

VIVEK H. MURTHY is the US surgeon general, an attending physician in internal medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, an instructor at Harvard Medical School, the co-founder and president of Doctors for America, and the co-founder and chairman of TrialNetworks, LLC.

Vivek was born in Huddersfield, England. His parents are originally from Karnataka state, India, but settled in Miami, Florida when Vivek was three years old.

While a freshman at Harvard University in 1995, Vivek co-founded VISIONS Worldwide, Inc., a nonprofit organization that organized HIV/AIDS preventive education and empowerment programs in India and the United States. In 1997, he also co-founded Swasthya, a community health partnership to promote basic health education, clinical care, and social support in Sringeri, India.  

Vivek graduated from Yale University completing a joint MD/MBA program, after completing a BA at Harvard University. He was a recipient of the AMA 2000 Foundation Leadership Award, given to 25 medical students in the US for demonstrated leadership and future potential as a leader in medicine.  He completed his residency training in internal medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.  

In 2007, Vivek co-founded a software technology company now known as TrialNetworks (www.trialnetworks.com) which is dedicated to improving the quality and efficiency of clinical trials with the ultimate goal of accelerating the delivery of effective therapies to patients.  Since 2009, Vivek has been the  co-founder and president of Doctors for America (www.drsforamerica.org), a national grassroots organization of physicians and medical students committed to building an affordable, high quality health care system.  In 2011, he was appointed by President Obama to the Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative and Public Health. 


Joel Nunez


Dr. Núñez was born in Jersey City, NJ. He is the child of immigrants from the Dominican Republic.

Dr. Núñez attended Drew University in Madison, NJ, where he graduated with honors in psychology. He completed his doctorate in clinical psychology at the Pennsylvania State University graduating with highest honors.

Dr. Núñez has co-authored two book chapters on conducting psychotherapy in multicultural contexts. Presently, Dr. Núñez is a consultant psychologist at the North Jersey Developmental Center in Totowa where he treats adolescents and adults living with developmental disabilities and severe and persistent mental illness.  He also provides clinical supervision for psychologists-in-training at the Meadowview Psychiatric Hospital in Secaucus, NJ.  Dr. Núñez additionally has a (small) private practice in Jersey City, NJ. 

Dr. Núñez volunteers as an elder at the Cityline Church of Jersey City where he is involved in providing professional pastoral counseling and teaching.  He, his wife and their children live in Union, NJ.


Akilesh Palanisamy

DR. AKIL PALANISAMY is board-certified in family medicine, and is a skilled integrative medicine physician who sees adults and teens at the Institute for Health and Healing at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco. He blends his western medical training with effective holistic approaches including functional medicine and Ayurveda, the traditional medicine of India.

Dr. Palanisamy was born in the Tamilnadu state, India, and came to the US during his high school years. His family now lives in Gilbert, Arizona. 

Dr. Palanisamy completed his premedical training at Harvard University, received his medical degree from the University of California, San Francisco and completed his residency at Stanford University. He also completed a Fellowship in Integrative Medicine with Dr. Andrew Weil at the University of Arizona, and is certified by the Center for Mind-Body Medicine at Georgetown University. 

Dr. Palanisamy's thirst for knowledge and longstanding yoga practice influenced his decision to become a physician and learn about holistic approaches. In 1999 he studied at Arya Vaidya Ayurvedic Institute in Southern India; by 2002, he started an advanced clinical internship with the renowned Ayurvedic doctor L. Mahadevan, MD at Sarada Ayurvedic Hospital in Kanyakumari, India. 

Experience has convinced Dr. Palanisamy that the mind-body-spirit connection is integral to health and healing. He is a skilled diagnostician and works in partnership with his patients to develop personalized and comprehensive treatment plans that incorporate nutritional supplements, herbs, massage and bodywork, and mind-body techniques. 

Dr. Palanisamy is dedicated to serving the needs of patients and the community, and advancing the practice of medicine. He brings compassion and insight, along with in-depth knowledge and experience, to his evidenced-based integrative medicine practice, successfully treating a wide variety of serious, chronic health conditions.

In addition, Dr. Palanisamy has started a business to bring consumer products based on Ayurveda to the public through healthy, all-natural foods and beverages.  His company's first product, Ayu Drinks, an organic Ayurvedic herbal infusion, is available in select stores in California and New York.  For more information please visit www.ayudrinks.com


Jean Tang

DR JEAN TANG is an Assistant Professor of Dermatology at Stanford University.

Jean was born in Taiwan and was brought to the United States by her family at age six.

At Stanford University, Jean completed her MD and PhD. degrees . Her research focuses on new treatments and risk factors for skin cancer - she conducts clinical trials and epidemiologic research. Jean was also part of the Bill Moyers PBS special, Becoming American: The Chinese Experience, which another Soros Fellow, Na Eng, helped produce.

Jean's latest research was published in the New England Journal of Medicine - she found a new drug for the treatment and prevention of the most common cancer in the US, basal cell carcinoma. Her research is supported by the NIH, Damon Runyon Foundation and V Foundation.

Jean is married to Nils Bunger and they have 2 sons.


Lawrence Wu

LAWRENCE WU currently practices law in New York at Harry Jho LLC, a boutique law firm specializing in the areas of OTC derivatives, Prime Brokerage, and Securities Finance. 

Lawrence was born in New York City and is the son of Chinese parents.  

While in his teens Lawrence dropped out of high school, he subsequently earned his GED, entered Queens College, and then continued at New York University and Binghamton University. After college, he entered Columbia Law School where he was editor-in-chief of the Columbia University Law ReviewIn the Law Review's October 1998 issue, he published a piece entitled, 'Family Planning Through Human Cloning: Is There a Fundamental Right?'

Lawrence clerked for Judge Eugene Nickerson of the Eastern District of New York in 1999-2000, after which he became an associate at Davis Polk & Wardwell, where he practiced corporate law involving financial institutions and derivatives.


Anita Yang Hsu

ANITA YANG HSU  is now a senior associate  at  Manatt, Phelps and Phillips, LLP in Los Angeles.

She was born in Taipei, Taiwan and came to the US as a small child, settling in Temple City, California.

While an undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley, she served as an intern and intern manager of the Berkeley Own Recognizance Project, which provides pre-trial freedom for those who cannot afford bail. Anita conducted interviews in jail, contacted references, prepared written reports to the court, and attended court sessions to record decisions. This work led her to design and conduct a study of women prisoners for her senior honors thesis. As a result of these experiences, she shifted her field of interest from medicine to law. She completed her JD at University of California at Berkeley's Boalt Hall in 2001.   

Anita is married to Jack Hsu and they have a daughter.