7 Indian American recipients of ‘Outstanding Americans by Choice’

Recipients of the prestigious “Outstanding Americans by Choice” award.

Seven Indian Americans have been honored with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services’ “Outstanding American by Choice” recognition, which was instituted in 2006 by the then-USCIS Director Emilio T. Gonzalez. During the period, the agency has recognized 128 foreign-born US citizens, who have contributed significantly to the American way of life.

Out of all Indian American recipients, six were born in India and one had Indian parents.

These individuals demonstrated active civic participation, professional achievement, and responsible citizenship and commitment to the United States.

Following is a complete list of Indian American recipients of the award, along with their profile as reported by the USCIS, and updated by the American Bazaar:


Acting Secretary of Homeland Secretary Rand Beers with Outstanding American by Choice Honoree Dr. Rahul M. Jindal in Arlington, VA, Nov. 13, 2013 (Courtesy of USCIS)

 Dr. Rahul M. Jindal
Transplant Surgeon, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center;
Professor of Surgery and Global Health, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and George Washington University
Silver Spring, Maryland

Dr. Rahul M. Jindal is a Transplant Surgeon at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD. He is also a Professor of Surgery and Global Health at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, MD and George Washington University in Washington, DC. He obtained his medical degree from B.J. Medical College in Ahmedabad, India. He then earned a Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in Scotland and received a Transplant Fellowship from the University of Oxford in England. Dr. Jindal also earned a PhD in social psychology from Middlesex University in London and an MBA from Colorado Technical University in Colorado Springs, CO.

In the late 1990s, Dr. Jindal performed the world’s first operation to link a tube with blood vessels in the damaged liver of a critically ill six-year-old boy. Dr. Jindal also set up the first comprehensive kidney dialysis and kidney transplant program in Guyana, South America and successfully performed the first living kidney transplant in that country. His team has given hope and raised medical standards with their continued work in Guyana. In the United States, Dr. Jindal also played a crucial role in a groundbreaking surgery in 2009, performing the first ever pancreas islet cell transplant for traumatic pancreas in a wounded soldier.

Based on his experience in working with psycho-social issues among kidney patients, Dr. Jindal co-authored a book entitled “The Struggle for Life: A Psychological Perspective of Kidney Disease and Transplantation,” which is now used as a standard textbook in programs around the world, raising awareness about psychological issues in patients with kidney failure and transplantation. Dr. Jindal is associated with several medical organizations and was appointed Commissioner of the Governor’s Office on Service and Volunteerism for the State of Maryland (2013). He was appointed as Commissioner to the Human Rights Commission, Montgomery County, Maryland (2014). Dr. Jindal was awarded the Fulbright-Nehru Distinguished Chair to carry out research and teaching in India (2015-16) and is the recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor for 2015.


USCIS Director Alejandro N. Mayorkas presents Amarpreet S. Sawhney, President and CEO, Ocular Therapeutix, Inc., with the “Outstanding American by Choice” recognition in Washington, DC, on May 29, 2013 (Courtesy of USCIS)

 Amarpreet S. Sawhney
President and CEO, Ocular Therapeutix, Inc.
Lexington, Massachusetts

Dr. Amarpreet S. Sawhney is the President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Ocular Therapeutix, Inc., a company focused on unmet needs in ophthalmic surgical wound management and drug delivery. Previously, he was founder and CEO of Confluent Surgical; Chairman of MarketRx; technology founder of Focal, Inc. and Access Closure, Inc. He holds more than 120 patents, which form the basis for several first-of-a-kind medical devices that have helped millions of patients worldwide. He has founded six companies that account for over 1,600 jobs and more than $1.5 billion in revenue to date. Sawhney helps foster entrepreneurship by mentoring innovators and creating companies through Incept, a medical device incubator. He is a member of the board of directors of MassMedic, EcoSikh, Axtria, Ocular Therapeutix, Inc., Augmenix, and Incept LLC.

Sawhney was named one of the “Five Most Innovative Medical Device CEOs” by MassDevice in 2011. He has received several awards including the MassMedic Best Startup Company award, Frost & Sullivan Product Innovation award, MIT Global Indus Technovators award, and the Ernst & Young Regional Entrepreneur of the Year award. Sawhney holds a Ph.D. and M.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin and a B.Tech. in Chemical Engineering from IIT Delhi. He resides in Lexington, Massachusetts with his wife Deepika and two children Anhad and Pria.


USCIS Director Alejandro N. Mayorkas presents Vivek Wadhwa, Academic, Researcher, Writer, Entrepreneur, with the “Outstanding American by Choice” recognition in Moffett Field, CA, Feb. 22, 2012 (Courtesy of USCIS)

 Vivek Wadhwa
Academic, Researcher, Writer, and Entrepreneur
Menlo Park, California

Wadhwa is a Distinguished Fellow at Carnegie Mellon University’s College of Engineering and a Director of Research at Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering.  He is a globally syndicated columnist for The Washington Post and author of The Immigrant Exodus: Why America Is Losing the Global Race to Capture Entrepreneurial Talent, which was named by The Economist as a Book of the Year of 2012, and of Innovating Women: The Changing Face of Technology, which documents the struggles and triumphs of women. Wadhwa has held appointments at Stanford Law School, Harvard Law School, and Emory University and is a faculty member at Singularity University.

He was named one of the world’s “Top 100 Global Thinkers” by Foreign Policy magazine in 2012; in June 2013, he was on TIME magazine’s list of “Tech 40”, one of forty of the most influential minds in tech; and in September 2015, he was second on a list of “ten men worth emulating” in The Financial Times.

Wadhwa is based in Silicon Valley and researches exponentially advancing technologies.  These advances – in fields such as robotics, artificial intelligence, computing, synthetic biology, 3D printing, medicine, and nanomaterials – are making it possible for small teams to do what was once possible only for governments and large corporations to do: solve the grand challenges in education, water, food, shelter, health, and security.

Wadhwa holds an MBA from New York University and a B.A. in Computing Studies from the University of Canberra, in Australia. He is founding president of the Carolinas chapter of The IndUS Entrepreneurs (TIE), a non-profit global network intended to foster entrepreneurship.

Wadhwa became a naturalized citizen in 1989.


USCIS-Director-Emilio-T.-González-presents-Indra-K.-Nooyi-with-the-“Outstanding-American-by-Choice”-recognition-in-Washington-DC-Apr.-23-2007 (Courtesy of USCIS)

Indra K. Nooyi
Chairman-elect and Chief Executive Officer
Purchase, New York

Chairman-elect and Chief Executive Officer of PepsiCo, Indra K. Nooyi joined PepsiCo in 1994 and directed worldwide strategy for over a decade. She was the primary architect of PepsiCo’s restructuring and transformation, which added some of the world’s strongest health and wellness brands to PepsiCo’s portfolio. While at PepsiCo, Nooyi has also served as President and Chief Financial Officer. Prior to joining PepsiCo, Nooyi spent four years as Senior Vice President of Strategy, Planning and Strategic Marketing for Asea Brown Boveri, Inc. She was also Vice President and Director of Corporate Strategy and Planning at Motorola, Inc.

In January 2016, Nooyi became the biggest alumni donor of her alma mater, Yale University. That year she also became the “first woman to endow the deanship at a top business school” Yale School of Management announced in a news note. Nooyi has been consistently ranked in Forbes list of The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women. In the years 2008, 2009 she was the third Most Powerful Women on the Forbes list, and was ranked the 14, after the former first lady Michelle Obama who was ranked 13th, in 2016.

Nooyi was born in Madras, India. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Madras Christian College and a graduate degree in business administration from Indian Institute of Management. Nooyi also earned a graduate degree in public and private management from Yale University. Her past and present commitments include: member of Yale University’s President’s Council on International Activities; board member of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the International Rescue Committee, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City, Motorola, Eisenhower Fellowships, and Asia Society. She was appointed to the US-India CEO Forum by the Obama Administration.

Nooyi is married and has two daughters.


USCIS-Director-Emilio-T.-González-presents-Farooq-Kathwari-with-the-“Outstanding-American-by-Choice”-recognition-in-Washington-DC-Apr.-23-2007 (Courtesy of USCIS)

Farooq Kathwari
Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer
Ethan Allen Interiors, Inc.
Danbury, Connecticut

Farooq Kathwari is Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer of Ethan Allen Interiors, Inc. He has been President of the Company since 1985 and Chairman and Chief Executive Officer since 1988. In 1989, he formed a group to purchase Ethan Allen and took the Company public in 1993. Under Mr. Kathwari’s leadership, Ethan Allen has transformed into a leading manufacturer and retailer of home furnishings in the United States.

Kathwari serves in numerous capacities at several nonprofit organizations: he is a member of the Board of Overseers of the International Rescue Committee (IRC); a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR); a director and former chairman of the National Retail Federation (NRF); Director Emeritus and former chairman and president of the American Home Furnishings Alliance (AHFA); a member of the International Advisory Council of the United States Institute of Peace (USIP); a member of the advisory board of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS); Chairman Emeritus of Refugees International (RI); an advisory member of the New York Stock Exchange; and a director of the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University. He also serves on the boards of the Western Connecticut State University Foundation and ArtsWestchester. He founded the Kashmir Study Group. Additionally, he served as a member of President Obama’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders from 2010 to 2014.

Kathwari was born in Kashmir. He holds a BA in English Literature and Political Science from Kashmir University, Srinagar, Kashmir, and an MBA in International Marketing from New York University, New York, NY. He is also the recipient of three honorary doctorate degrees.


USCIS-Director-Emilio-T.-González-presents-Farooq-Kathwari-with-the-“Outstanding-American-by-Choice”-recognition-in-Washington-DC-Apr.-23-2007 (Courtesy of USCIS)

Dr. Renu Khator 
Chancellor of the University of Houston System, President of the University of Houston, Houston, Texas

Born in India, Dr. Khator received her undergraduate degree in liberal arts from Kanpur University. Khator came to the United States at the age of eighteen. She earned her master’s degree and doctorate from Purdue University in Political Science and Public Administration with particular training in environmental policy. She has published five books, numerous book chapters, and journal articles in leading national and international journals. Her areas of specialization include water policy and the impact of globalization on the environment. Khator has participated in more than fifty workshops and conferences around the globe in the areas of her professional interests and serves on a number of important boards.

Khator serves dual posts of Chancellor of the University of Houston (UH) System and President of the University of Houston since 2008. She is UH System’s “first woman Chancellor and the first Indian immigrant to head a comprehensive research university in the United States” her curriculum vitae reads. Prior to taking her current positions at the UH, she was Provost and Senior Vice President, University of South Florida (2003-2007). Here, she was also Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (2000-2003) and Director of Environmental Science and Policy (ESP) Department (1997-2000).


USCIS Director Emilio T. González presents Dr. Kiran Patel with the “Outstanding American by Choice” recognition in Tampa, FL, Dec. 14, 2006 (Courtesy of USCIS)

Dr. Kiran C. Patel 
Chairman, Patel Foundation for Global Understanding
Tampa, Florida

Dr. Kiran C. Patel is the Chairman and President of Freedom Health, Inc. Dr. Patel, is also the Chairman and President of Optimum Healthcare, Inc. Born in Zambia, Africa, and son of Asian-Indian parents, Dr. Patel obtained his diploma from Cambridge University and The University of London. He attended medical school at Gujarat University in India. Dr. Patel completed his residency in Internal Medicine in New Jersey as well as a fellowship with a Cardiology program affiliated with Columbia University. In 1982, Dr. Patel started a physicians’ practice, ownership and management company. Years later, as a result of his successful work in the industry, Dr. Patel was able to build the WellCare Management Group with revenues of over $1 billion, serving over 400,000 members, and employing more than 1200 people.

Dr. Patel serves as the Chairman of the Patel Foundation for Global Understanding, a non-profit organization that develops and funds a wide variety of programs in health, education, and arts and culture. Dr. Patel, and his wife Dr. Pallavi Patel, has earned a reputation of generosity through their philanthropic activities and generous donations across the world. Their Foundation also supports a yearly US scholarship fund for underprivileged youth and the IMAGINE Project, which teaches philanthropic entrepreneurism to young leaders. CHART/India, another innovative Foundation project, works aggressively to provide HIV/AIDS treatment, prevention, and education programs throughout India’s rural and urban populations. Dr. Patel and his wife have made possible the Charter School at the University of South Florida, as well as the highly celebrated Tampa Bay Performing Arts Conservatory. In 2003, Dr. Patel was appointed by Florida’s governor to the University of South Florida Board of Trustees.

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