P.D. Soros Fellowship for New Americans


Q&A: MD Student Sahar Soleimanifard Looks Back At The Fellowship

  • Sahar Soleimanifard

FFThe Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans provides two years of funding for outstanding graduate students who are immigrants and children of immigrants. After two years the Fellows join a lifelong community of past Fellows. We asked Sahar Soleimanifard, a 2015 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellow, to look back at the first two years of the Fellowship and what they have meant to her.


Sahar was born in Iran amidst the Persian Gulf War and in the aftermath of a revolution that left the country in a decades-long battle between all sociopolitical groups. Growing up in a society with rigid gender roles, Sahar developed a steely determination to live a purposeful life and make a lasting impact. She graduated from Sharif University, the top engineering school in Iran, where she became interested in biomedical imaging. At the age of twenty-three, she moved to the United States to start her PhD at Johns Hopkins University, which she has since completed. The Fellowship supported her studies towards an MD at Johns Hopkins University. 

Why did you apply to The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans?

I learned about PD Soros Fellowship in an email from the financial aid office at my school. I immediately googled PD Soros and started reading about former fellows. I was amazed by their immigration stories, backgrounds, achievements, and future goals. I was hooked! I thought to myself, wow, it would be a dream come true to meet and learn from such a talented group of people. I believe the deadline was coming up in two weeks, so I made an appointment with my adviser the same day and started working on my application right away. 

You’re now finishing up the second year of the program. Has the Fellowship been what you expected?

The fellowship has gone way above and beyond my expectations. I feel that I am part of a large family, spread across the country, who have been going to New York for the past two years to visit their parents! I feel exceptionally close to my Paul & Daisy Soros 2015 Fellows in great part because of the time we spent together during the Fall Conferences. I think I know more about them in some ways than some of their family and friends. I am certain the feeling is mutual.

I must add, the Fellowship office is always available, returning emails and calls within minutes, and ready to answer questions and help in any way they can, even in situations unrelated to the Fellowship.

What have the primary benefits of The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship been for you?

I received the PD Soros Fellowship during my second and third year of medical school. In addition to the financial support, the fellowship provided me with plenty of opportunities to meet and connect with a large group of talented and inspiring individuals in medicine, science, technology, business, and beyond, which will certainly be an invaluable asset, as I move along in my professional career.

Do you have any favorite memories from your Fellowship experience?

My favorite memories are from the “what’s not on your resume” session at the first Fall Conference when the Fellows share very personal stories, happy and sad, about their upbringings and how immigration shaped their lives or those of their parents.

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of applying?

My advice to future applicants would be to be honest with yourself and the committee, to have clear personal and professional goals, to be ready to talk about your past, and to have fun during the interview process.

Where are you with your graduate program now? What’s next?

I am finishing my third year of medical school this summer, and will be applying for radiology residency in September.

How do you plan to stay active with the Fellowship community in the years to come?

I plan to attend as many PD Soros events as possible and will be honored to connect with or mentor future Fellows. I am always available to talk via email, phone, Facebook, etc. If you happen to be in Baltimore and want to hang out, let me know! 

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