New York, NY (PRWEB) June 1, 2007
Each year, the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations (NECO) awards the "Ellis Island Medal of Honor" to outstanding individuals who lead a lifestyle dedicated to community service, exhibit interests for the preservation of cultural groups and to those who share and contribute through personal and professional achievements toward the overall benefit of society. The award pays homage to the historical significance of immigration and acknowledges citizens of the United States of various ethnic backgrounds for their exceptional qualities and pride in their heritage. This year, six Americans of Indian descent were among 100 distinguished recipients from diverse heritage groups of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor awarded on May 12, 2007 on Ellis Island. The honorees were: Dr. Akshay Desai, Mr. Kirti "Kenny" Desai, Hon. Jacob Eapen, MD, MPH, Dr. Kiran C. Patel, Ms. Smita N. Shah and Mr. Daniel J. Thomas. The Ellis Island ceremony starts with an elegant and festive Welcome Cocktail Reception where all Medalists meet one another. Following the ceremony, the Gala Dinner is held in the beautifully restored Great Hall on Ellis Island, capped by a stunning display of fireworks, which are presented by Grucci.
Dr. Akshay Desai is a visionary leader in the fields of medicine, business and education. He is also the founder, President and CEO of St. Petersburg based Universal Health Care Inc., one of the largest Medicare Advantage health plans in the state of Florida. He is also the President of American Family & Geriatric Care, President, CEO and Chairman of Universal Health Care, President of American Managed Care, LLC, and President of Courtesy Healthcare. Dr. Desai obtained his medical degree from Government Medical College, India and his Masters Degree in Administrative Medicine at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. He is certified by the American Boards of Internal Medicine, Geriatrics, and Quality Assurance. As a strong advocate for a good education overcoming the disadvantaged position of non-privileged Americans from various minority backgrounds, Dr. Desai was appointed Chairman of the Council for Education Policy, Research and Improvement (CEPRI) for the state of Florida by Governor Jeb Bush. An active member of the Florida Republican Party and formidable fund-raiser, he was an alternate delegate to the party's 2004 national convention. He was an elected delegate to the party's 2000 convention. He currently serves as the influential 'Committee of 100' of the state GOP. He was appointed by President Bush to the President's Advisory Commission on Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders where he currently as Commissioner and Chairman of Health Committee, advising the President on issues effecting Asian Americans. Dr. Desai is also deeply connected to his Indian roots and has been on the Board of Trustees of the India Cultural Center, Tampa, Florida since 1998.
Mr. Kirti 'Kenny' Desai is the president of TAK Construction, which includes real estate development companies and building residential development projects primarily in New Jersey, the Greater New York, and Philadelphia metropolitan areas. Since its inception in 1987, TAK has completed over 100 projects with an aggregate value in excess of $400 Million. Desai completed his Bachelor's in Civil Engineering from Baroda, India, before moving to New Jersey for his Master's, which he was awarded by the Stevens Institute of Technology at Hoboken. He is also the Director of the Regional Alliances of construction industries, New York and New Jersey and was recognized by Hon. Frank Pallone of NJ in the House of Representatives, the Mayor of Township of Clark, New Jersey and the Federation of Indian Associations. He was honored with the New Jersey Golden Trowel Award in 2005 and the Top 50 outstanding Asian American Business in 2003. To name a few, his philanthropist activities and diversified affiliations with religious, cultural, social, political and educational organizations include Director of the Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan premier cultural and educational institution, Chairman of the Indian Cultural Society in Union, NJ and Director and founding member of the Indo-American Cultural Society of North America. His generous personal involvement and donations have resulted in the successful completion of the Mahatma Gandhi Center and the Hindu Temple in Wayne, NJ.
Hon. Jacob Eapen, MD, MPH has devoted his medical expertise to the health problems of undernourished children in developing countries and to poor and disturbed juveniles in the United States. Born and educated in India, he was appointed health advisor by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to the Republic of the Philippines, where he catered to the needs of nearly 30,000 Indo-Chinese. Dr. Eapen has devoted his medical expertise to the health problems of undernourished children in developing countries and to poor and disturbed juveniles in the United States. Time and again, he has demonstrated his commitment to the healing ministry and to improving public health for the underserved worldwide. He was appointed Director for Research of Public Health Programs, a non- profit organization in California. His work with organizations such as the International Health Services, Stop Aids World (SAW) and lectures on public health issues affecting children worldwide has earned him this honor. In the words of Hon. Fortney Pete Stark, "he has embraced Public Health Services in an explicit attempt to foster more appropriate and effective policies to benefit poor, undeserved patients" Dr. Eapen serves as a board member of Washington Hospital in Fremont, California and is currently running for re-elections. He was one of the first Indo-Americans ever to win a general election in Northern California. He is also a member of several California State Boards: The Association of California Health Care Districts (ACHD) representing about 44 district hospitals in California Governance, Forum California Hospital Association (CHA) representing more than 500 hospitals in California and the advisory board of California Medical Association (CMA) Foundation. To read more, visit Dr. Eapen's Press Release
Dr. Kiran C. Patel, a board certified cardiologist, was born in Zambia and educated in England and India. He received his medical degree in his family's home state of Gujarat, India. He came to the United States seeking an advanced degree with his wife on Thanksgiving Day, 1976. He recalls, "It was a date of great patriotic significance to my wife and me, one that empowered my life and set me on a road to great opportunity." With his wife, Dr. Pallavi Patel, he has built a billion dollar physician management company which provides service to more than 450,000 members, employing more than 1,200 employees and operating in Florida, New York and Connecticut. Inspired by his father, Dr. Patel and his wife are civic-minded philanthropists dedicated to improving the quality of life for residents in Tampa Bay and communities abroad. He has donated $5 million to the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center to fund a school for the performing arts; and funded a recurring annual scholarship that allows 70 students each year to obtain a college education. Today he serves as the Chairman Emeritus for the Patel Foundation for Global Understanding, a non-profit organization that develops and funds a wide variety of programs in health, education and arts & culture. Together with his wife, they have created a versatile non-profit organization designed to create extraordinary results in charity through leveraged giving, while focusing on replicable, scalable and sustainable programming. They have funded many schools, hospitals and village reconstruction projects in Dr. Patel's home village of Mota Fofalia and throughout Gujarat. Other international projects include the construction of a heart hospital in Tanzania and an HIV center in Zambia. In Tampa Bay, the Patels have underwritten a heart research hospital, a charter school, a major performing arts conservatory, and most recently, The Patel Center for Global Solutions at the University of South Florida. In his compassionate words, "when we work selflessly together, there are no little people. Especially in the United States, we can all be generous philanthropists united to create a better world."
Smita Shah is the president of SPAAN Technology, Inc. She is the first female of Indian origin to receive this award, and the youngest recipient this year. Founded in 1998, her Chicago-based firm now employs 41 professionals providing construction management, engineering, and facility/technology services. Shah attended Northwestern University for her undergraduate work where she earned a degree in engineering, and went on to receive her Master's of Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). More recently, she has also completed the Advanced Management Program at Oxford University. According to her, a good education is the stepping stone to success: "My dad came here in 1971, landing at Kennedy Airport with education, for education…he started his journey in America to seek a Master's degree in engineering. That is the power of higher education: It brings equality." Her professional accomplishments were acknowledged by Illinois State Treasurer Judy Bar Topinka as a 2004 Woman Making a Difference and she is the recipient of the Non-Traditional Entrepreneurial Trailblazer award. An Illinois Arts Council board member since she was 25, Shah was secretary of the famed Steppenwolf Theater for seven years. "Working with artists is fascinating, great fun, and a real balance in my life," Shah observes. Apart from her professional excellence, Smita has also demonstrated a commitment to give back to her community, her ethnic group and her country by dedicating her time and talents to numerous boards of directors, councils and advisory panels. She has a long history of community service and commitment to the ideals of the American way of life. As a young American of Indian decent Smita has been zealous in supporting and defending the values of American life. An ex White House staffer and member of the White House Advance Team from 1993 until 2001, she was awarded the "Women Making History Award" by Senator Barbara Boxer. Shah was also a delegate at the 1996 and 2004 Democratic National Conventions and was on the DNC's Rules Committee in 2000 and 2004. "I'm a big believer in having a voice at the table. Indian-Americans' political coming of age is exciting, we are such a young community." Smita preserves and celebrates her ancestry as an active member of the Indian community in Chicago, working to bridge the gap between racial and ethnic groups with organizations promoting ethnic diversity as well as those that support the community as a whole. According to the Technology Review, MIT's Magazine of Innovation, "Smita is earning the confidence to build bridges professionally and personally."
Daniel J. Thomas is President and CEO of Periodontal Specialists, in Leawood, Kansas, a periodontal group practice which employs several board certified dental specialists, registered dental hygienists, surgical assistants, scaling assistants and several support personal and provides non surgical and surgical care to thousands of patients in Kansas and Missouri. He also serves as CEO of a large pediatric dental specialty group practice serving patients in Kansas and Missouri. His wife is also a pediatric dentist. Along with his DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery), Dr. Thomas has also earned Certificates in Periodontics, Implant Dentistry and Conscious Sedation. He went on to earn a Master's of Science degree in Oral Biology. He made significant achievements beyond the mandatory educational requirements of the specialty and was certified by the American Board of Periodontology as a Diplomat. Dr. Thomas has served as President of the Heart of America Dental Society and is currently the President of the Heartland Dental Society. He is also on the Dental Advisory Committee for Blue Cross and Blue Shield. As the founder and Vice President of the Indian American Republican Council, he is a prominent fund-raiser for the Republican Party and provides a platform for Indian Americans to work with the Party and participate actively at local, state and Federal levels nationwide in the formulation of policies that are of importance to the community and to the country. Dr. Thomas has devoted his medical expertise to teaching at the UMKC School of Dentistry as an Associate professor in the Department of Periodontics. His erudite articles have been published in esteemed periodontal journals both in the United States and abroad. His knowledge is sought after by several leading dental associations and professional clubs such as the American Academy of Periodontology where he has been invited to give presentations. Dr. Thomas has served as a Representative to the American Student Dental Association, as Delegate of the Missouri Student Dental Association and finally as an expert witness in Periodontics in Kansas. He was also elected to Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honor Society. Dr. Thomas has proven his commitment not only to the field of dentistry but also to philanthropy and aiding the less fortunate. For several years, he has been involved in pro-bono social work, treating homeless, handicapped and mentally challenged individuals. He is also a clinical assistant professor in Periodontics at University of Missouri of Missouri-Kansas City. To read more, visit Dr. Thomas' Press Release
Another Ellis Island recipient, MZI Global Marketing President and CEO Mira Zivkovich-Choudhary, although of Serbian descent, has a special affinity for Indian culture. A widow of a prominent Indian doctor in New York, she travels extensively to India with her son, Brian, who is now an international investment banker, to aid the local economy and family of her deceased husband. She has worked to advance the networking capabilities of one million physicians of Indian heritage globally by promoting the custom published magazine, IndianDR and the web community, IndianDR online. As a multicultural marketing expert, Ms. Zivkovich has developed MZI's proprietary methodology, Ethnosynergism™ a marketing approach which provides insights into the attitudes and behaviors of numerous market segments and connects companies and brands with diverse consumer groups.
Because of their many achievements and his ability to touch individuals, these Indians have been honored at this year's ceremony at the historic Ellis Island in New York City. They have brought pride to Indians everywhere. They have now joined the honored ranks of past recipients such as former American presidents--Bill Clinton, George Bush, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, and Gerald Ford as well as other famed individuals such as Frank Sinatra, Donald Trump, Lee Iacocca, and Barbara Walters, whose success has been an inspiration in their adopted homeland.
Courtesy of MZI Global Marketing and Mira Zivkovich-Choudhary.
Special thanks and congratulations to all Ellis Island Medal of Honor recipients.