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Three Indian Americans Among White House Fellows in the ‘Most Diverse Class in History of the Program’

Three Indian Americans Among White House Fellows in the ‘Most Diverse Class in History of the Program’

  • Joy Basu, Dr. Sunny Patel and Dr. Aakash Shah will work for a year as a full-time, paid fellow for White House staff, Cabinet secretaries, and other senior government officials.

Joy Basu, Dr. Sunny Patel and Dr. Aakash Shah are among three Indian Americans appointed to the 2021-2022 class of White House Fellows. This is “the most diverse class in the history of the program,” the White House says. Fellows from diverse backgrounds will work for a year as a full-time, paid fellow for White House staff, Cabinet secretaries, and other senior government officials. The fellowship’s mission is to encourage active citizenship and service to the country.

“Selection into the program is based on a record of professional accomplishment, evidence of leadership skills, the potential for further growth, and a commitment to service,” according to the White House. They actively participate in an education program that expands their knowledge of leadership, policy-making, and contemporary issues.

Joy Basu of Naperville, Illinois, is placed at the White House Gender Policy Council. She previously served as a senior advisor to innovative businesses seeking authentic, impact-integrated growth. Basu was the first chief of staff at TPG Growth, “where she worked as a key architect and builder of The Rise Fund, a groundbreaking impact investment platform,” according to a White House press release. She also served as The Rise Fund’s global sector lead for Food and Agriculture. 

Before joining TPG, Basu was a consultant at McKinsey & Company. There, she “focused on agricultural development, working with businesses, governments, and donors to improve food systems in emerging markets,” a White House press release said. Basu also served as project manager to the World Economic Forum’s New Vision for Agriculture and has supported strategic projects for the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency and Starbucks Coffee Company. 

She earned her J.D. and M.B.A. from Stanford University with a certificate in public management and social innovation. While at Stanford, she served as co-president of the Women of Stanford Law, as an Arbuckle Fellow and as a leader of the Afghanistan Legal Education Project. She holds a B.A. in Public Policy and Economics from Duke University. She currently serves as a trustee for the Heifer International Foundation and a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Sunny Patel of Burbank, California, a child and adolescent psychiatrist and public health physician, will work at the United States Department of Homeland Security. Patel recently completed his fellowship at NYU, where he created a model embedding mental health services in the pediatric oncology clinic. 

He also launched a comprehensive mental health response for frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic and volunteered as a palliative care physician at Bellevue Hospital. “Patel has spearheaded health interventions for vulnerable populations in the United States and abroad, including in India, Thailand, and Dominican Republic,” the White House press release said. He has spent the past decade working with refugee populations and has conducted forensic psychological examinations for asylum seekers with NYU and Physicians for Human Rights. His research has been published in numerous journals and informed policy initiatives, including work presented at the United Nations General Assembly. He has also served as a resident tutor in medicine at Adams House of Harvard College. 

Patel completed his adult psychiatry residency at Cambridge Health Alliance and Harvard Medical School. He has an M.D. from the Mayo Clinic, an M.P.H. from Harvard, and bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biology and physiology, respectively, from UCLA with college and departmental honors.

Aakash Shah of Cliffside Park, New Jersey, s a practicing emergency room doctor at Hackensack Meridian Health and is placed at the United States Department of Health and Human Services. Patel also serves as the director of Addiction Medicine; medical director of Project HEAL (a hospital-based violence intervention program) at Jersey Shore University Medical Center; and the medical director of New Jersey Reentry Corp. At Hackensack, Patel helped treat some of the earliest confirmed cases of COVID-19 during the pandemic. 

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Shah’s work has resulted in “several reforms, including the elimination of prior authorization requirements for medications for opioid use disorder, and he received the bipartisan endorsement of five former New Jersey governors,” according to the White House press release. 

Shah previously served as the founder and executive director of Be Jersey Strong, “which represented one of the largest and most diverse efforts to connect the uninsured to coverage in the nation,” and was honored by President Barack Obama at the White House for its impact. He has also served as an advisor to several local, state, and federal campaigns and policymakers. 

He received his M.D. from Harvard Medical School, M.B.A. and M.Sc. in Comparative Social Policy from Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, and B.A. and B.S. from Ursinus College. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from Centenary University.

The White House Fellows Program was established in 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson with the purpose of “give[ing] the Fellows first hand, high-level experience with the workings of the Federal Government and to increase their sense of participation in national affairs.” It functions as a non-partisan program maintained throughout both Republican and Democratic administrations. 

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