P.D. Soros Fellowship for New Americans


Looking Back at the Fellowship: MD Student James Diao

James Diao

2021 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellow James Diao grew up in Houston, Texas as the son of Chinese immigrant parents. Living by the largest medical center in the world piqued his interest in medicine, and James went on to study statistics and biochemistry at Yale. After graduating, James joined the Harvard-MIT program in Health Sciences and Technology, where he was supported by the Fellowship. We caught up with James about what's next and what the Fellowship has meant to him:

Paul & Daisy Soros Fellow Holly Ekas (left) and James Diao (right) on a pizza tour of New York City at the 2022 Fellowship Fall Conference.

Paul & Daisy Soros Fellow James Diao (bottom left) taking a selfie with other Fellows during a snack break in Chinatown.

What’s the next step for you or what are the steps you've taken after graduating?

After my fourth and final year at Harvard Medical School, I’m very excited to continue my clinical training with Internal Medicine residency next year.

Can you tell us more about your graduate studies — what questions were you/are you pursuing? 

My research sought to explore how clinical, genetic, and computational tools can improve health for diverse populations. Specifically, I worked on developing algorithms for predicting molecular features from cancer histopathology images, predicting cardiovascular fitness from wearable devices at Apple, and dissecting the implications of race-based equations for kidney and lung function.

There are so many paths beyond college — why did you feel graduate school was the best next step for you personally and/or professionally? 

I’ve always known that I wanted service to be at the heart of my career. Although there are so many ways to serve, the opportunity to combine scientific innovation with clinical care of patients was what attracted me specifically to the research-based MD program at Harvard and MIT. Through HST, I’ve met so many talented classmates, mentors, and friends that have enriched both my personal and professional life. Looking back, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Why did you apply to The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans? What ended up being the most important part of the Fellowship?

Although I originally applied while broadly seeking financial support for my medical training, the PD Soros community ended up being far more important. I met folks I'd admired from afar but hadn’t had a chance to connect with, role models to guide career decisions, and lifelong friends from all academic disciplines and every corner of the world. I also learned so much about our common threads across values, expectations, and love of rice. A lot happened in just two years!


What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of applying to The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans?

Please do! Beyond the incredible community and financial support, applying alone is a wonderful excuse to re-open conversations about heritage and life goals with family and mentors. Long before the outcome was known, I knew it was all time very well spent.  ∎

transform="translate(188.000000, 15.000000)"