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Great Immigrants: 4 Indian Americans Among Carnegie Corporation’s Annual List Celebrating Their Contributions to American Society

Great Immigrants: 4 Indian Americans Among Carnegie Corporation’s Annual List Celebrating Their Contributions to American Society

  • Released every Fourth of July, the list includes Abhijit Banerjee, Ashish Jha, Eboo Patel, Primal Shah, and Liberia-born Raj Panjabi.

The Carnegie Corporation of New York has named four Indian Americans among this year’s cohort of Great Immigrants. Released every Fourth of July, the list celebrates naturalized citizens whose contributions have enriched American society and strengthened its democracy. 

Indian Americans in the list include Nobel Prize Laureate Abhijit Banerjee, professor of economics, MIT; Ashish Kumar Jha, dean of the School of Public Health at Brown University; Eboo Patel, founder and president of Interfaith America, and Premal Shah, co-founder, Kiva. Also listed is Liberia-born Raj Panjabi, a global healthcare leader, entrepreneur, and former White House official. 

“The 24 Americans honored today serve as a reminder of the economic and societal benefits that each new generation of immigrants brings to our country and the richness of talent, skills, and achievements they contribute to our democracy,” said Dame Louise Richardson, president of Carnegie Corporation of New York and a naturalized American citizen, born in Ireland. “In honor of our founder, Andrew Carnegie, a Scottish immigrant, we celebrate these extraordinary individuals who have made notable contributions to American society.”

Abhijit Banerjee was born in Mumbai. He came to the United States to pursue a PhD in economics at Harvard University, which he completed in 1988. He is currently the Ford Foundation International Professor of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In 2003, he co-founded the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) at MIT, a global research center working to reduce poverty by ensuring that policy is informed by scientific evidence. In 2019, he, Esther Duflo, his research partner and wife, and colleague Michael Kremer received the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty. He is the coauthor (with Duflo) of “Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty” (2011), which won the Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award, and “Good Economics for Hard Times: Better Answers to Our Biggest Problems” (2019). He is a trustee of Save the Children USA, a trustee of the British Museum, and chair of the Global Education Evidence Advisory Panel. 

Born in Pursaulia, Bihar, Ashish Kumar Jha came to the United States in 1983. He earned a bachelor’s degree at Columbia University and both an MD and a master’s degree in public health at Harvard University. A practicing physician and global leader in public health research, he is known as a source of trusted information and guidance to policymakers around the world. He is recognized globally as an expert on pandemic preparedness and response as well as on health policy research and practice. After leading groundbreaking research on Ebola, was on the frontlines of the COVID-19 response, leading national and international analysis of key issues and advising state and federal policy makers. President Joe Biden appointed him as White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator in March 2022.  In that role, he led the work that increased the development of and access to treatments and newly formulated vaccines, improved testing and surveillance, and put in place an infrastructure to respond to current and future disease outbreaks.  He is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine, one of Fortune’s “World’s 50 Greatest Leaders,” and a recipient of the John Jay Award from Columbia University.  

Mumbai-born Eboo Patel, an Ismaili Muslim of Gujarati Indian heritage, is the founder and president of Interfaith America, a Chicago-based nonprofit, started as Interfaith Youth Core by Patel at age 22, works with governments, universities, private companies, and civic organizations to promote cooperation across religious differences.  

As a young immigrant in the suburbs of Chicago, Patel says his brown skin, Muslim faith, and Indian heritage often left him feeling like an outsider. He experienced racist bullying and, for a time, like many of his adolescent peers, he struggled with his beliefs. But by his mid-20s, he had matured and become a leader in interfaith work in the U.S.

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As he told the Next Big Idea Club, Patel sees religious diversity as an essential dimension of American democracy. “We are a stronger country when faith is fully embraced as a source of inspiration and a bridge of cooperation,” he believes. He served on President Obama’s Inaugural Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and received the National Conflict Resolution Center’s 2024 National Peacemaker Award. He is the author of five books, including “Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation “ (2007), which won the Grawemeyer Award in Religion. 

Social entrepreneur Primal Shah was born in India and grew up in Minnesota. After attending Stanford University and working for PayPal, he cofounded Kiva — a global poverty alleviation nonprofit that has raised over $2 billion for low-income entrepreneurs in 150 countries. He was named a Champion of Change by the Obama White House and one of Fortune magazine’s “40 Under 40.” Kiva (the Swahili word for unity) provides the more than 1.7 billion unbanked people around the world with the financial services they need. Kiva works by crowdfunding loans from small donors to entrepreneurs; 8 in 10 loans go to women, and the repayment rate is 96 percent.  Shah’s interest in microfinance began at Stanford, then took root during a sabbatical from PayPal when he worked on a peer-to-peer loaning concept in India. After returning to Silicon Valley, Shah and three coworkers left PayPal to bring Kiva to life.  In 2019 Shah shifted from president to senior advisor at Kiva to become president of Branch International, which provides app-based microfinance services across India and Africa. In 2021 he cofounded, a “Kiva for climate,” which he chairs.

Rajesh (Raj) Ramesh Panjabi was nine years old when he escaped a civil war in his home country of Liberia and immigrated with his family to the United States. He returned to Liberia as a young medical student, and co-founded Last Mile Health to save lives in some of the world’s most remote communities. From 2021 to 2023, Panjabi served as White House senior director and special assistant to the president for global health security and biodefense, playing a lead role in executing the 2022 National Biodefense Strategy and American Pandemic Preparedness Plans. He was named one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World” by Time magazine, and was twice named to Fortune magazine’s list of the “World’s 50 Greatest Leaders.”  He graduated from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, received an MPH in epidemiology from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and trained at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital.

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