The Power of Diversity: AAPI 100
Meet the AAPI difference-makers in Pennsylvania
Asian Americans are seeing unprecedented success in electoral politics. Vice President Kamala Harris is the first Asian American (as well as the first woman and the first Black person) to occupy her post. A record number of Asian Americans serve in Congress. And Asian Americans are represented like never before in Pennsylvania, from the General Assembly to mayors, executive staffers and candidates.
This representation is more crucial than ever: At a time when anti-Asian attacks are on the rise, securing greater sway will be key to battling such hatred.
City & State’s Power of Diversity: AAPI 100 identifies Asian American leaders from across the commonwealth – and how they are making a difference in politics, business, nonprofits, education and more.
1. Neeli Bendapudi
Penn State President Neeli Bendapudi has tackled diversity issues head-on since becoming the first Asian American to head the commonwealth’s preeminent public university last year. She canceled a planned Center for Racial Justice – then announced her own approach: a “diversity dashboard” that would show the racial makeup of the faculty, as well as graduation outcomes by race. Bendapudi, who was born in India, was recently tapped to co-chair an Association of American Universities task force charged with expanding higher-education partnerships between America and India.
2. Nikil Saval
Barely halfway through his first term in the state Senate, Nikil Saval scored $125 million for his Whole-Home Repairs Program, which funds homeowners’ and small landlords’ infrastructure upgrades. To win support for his legislation, Saval drew on deep grassroots organizing experience dating to his years at Stanford University, where he earned a Ph.D. in English. Saval was also Philadelphia’s first Asian American Ward leader and co-founded Reclaim Philadelphia, a progressive group – all while displaying the vision that has won him attention in and beyond the commonwealth.
3. Patty Kim
Having previously worked as a news anchor, reporter and Harrisburg City Council member, state Rep. Patty Kim was already familiar with the Capitol when she became the first Asian American woman elected to the General Assembly. Kim established the Pennsylvania Legislative Asian Pacific American Caucus and has led Democratic efforts to mandate a $15 minimum wage, combat climate change and raise public school salaries. She currently chairs the Aging and Older Adult Services Committee and is board director of Team Pennsylvania, a nonprofit public-private partnership.
4. Jaewon Ryu
Asian Americans are well-represented in health care – but as Geisinger CEO Jaewon Ryu has noted, they’re less visible in top leadership. Ryu is an exception, and his diversity, equity and inclusion initiative at the $7 billion health system ensures he won’t be an outlier much longer. Ryu, an emergency medicine physician, is also a former health care attorney and serves on the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission. He previously held key roles at Kaiser Permanente, Humana and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
5. Abhinav Rastogi
At Temple University Hospital, an 879-bed nonprofit hospital with several Philadelphia-area campuses, CEO Abhinav Rastogi is investing in expansion to accommodate growing patient volume while maintaining the hospital’s top safety ratings. He oversaw this year’s acquisition of Temple Health-Chestnut Hill Hospital and worked on the expansion of Temple Lung Center – moves that increased system capacity. Under Rastogi’s leadership, Temple also recently unveiled its Temple Women & Families campus, providing high-quality maternal health services for a historically at-risk community.
6. Anna Perng
When Anna Perng became a parent to two children with disabilities, she co-founded Philadelphia’s Chinatown Disability Advocacy Project to fight for language access and disability justice. Her advocacy has now taken her to the White House Office of Public Engagement, where, as senior adviser for aging and disability, Perng recently made sure this year’s Easter Egg Roll was accessible and sensory-friendly. Previously, while serving on the Philadelphia Mayor’s Commission on People with Disabilities, she worked with Philadelphia Parks and Recreation officials on inclusive programming and employment.
7. Anantha Shekhar
India-born neuroscientist Anantha Shekhar has prioritized research and diversity at the University of Pittsburgh since 2020, when he became medical school dean and senior vice chancellor. Shekhar has steered Pitt’s NIH research funding to nearly $700 million annually and dedicated $6.5 million to diversify the faculty at Pitt’s six health sciences schools. He also co-founded the university’s Race and Social Determinants of Equity, Health and Well-being Cluster Hire and Retention Initiative, and is masterminding its new BioForge biomanufacturing facility.
8. Tarik Khan
Talk about multitasking: Democrat Tarik Khan completed a Ph.D. in nursing at the University of Pennsylvania in 2022 and was elected the same year to represent Philadelphia and its suburbs in the state House of Representatives. Having co-created the Angel Dose vaccine equity program – featured at the White House and in a documentary film – Khan, a family nurse practitioner, now chairs the Subcommittee on Health Equity of the Legislative Black Caucus and is a vice chair of the House Asian American Caucus.
9. Arvind Venkat
Elected in 2022, Arvind Venkat is the first-ever Indian American and the first physician in a half-century elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives – and the only Asian American state-level elected official west of Harrisburg. Venkat is also an emergency physician and director of integrated ethics for the Allegheny Health Network and a professor of emergency medicine at Drexel University College of Medicine. He recently sponsored legislation around medical debt relief and serves as vice chair of the newly created Pennsylvania Legislative Asian Pacific American Caucus.
10. Akbar Hossain
After serving as executive director for Gov. Josh Shapiro’s transition team and, before that, policy director for his campaign, Akbar Hossain was recently appointed state secretary of policy and planning – the first Asian American to hold that position for the commonwealth. Hossain, who was born in Bangladesh, is a first-generation college graduate who holds a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania and previously worked as a government investigations attorney. His experience also includes a federal judge clerkship.
11. Shankar Musunuri
Veteran biotech entrepreneur Shankar Musunuri leads Malvern-based Ocugen, his 10-year-old startup whose innovations include gene therapy for blindness, regenerative cell therapy for cartilage repair, and first-of-its-kind inhalation vaccines to treat COVID-19 and the flu. He previously developed cutting-edge products for Pfizer and founded Nuron Biotech. Musunuri holds a Ph.D. in pharmaceutical sciences from the University of Connecticut, which recognized him with its Distinguished Alumnus Award, as well as an MBA from Duke University, where he serves on the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Board of Advisors.
12. Helen Gym
With a style often described as passionate and pugilistic, Philadelphia social justice crusader Helen Gym hopes her progressive energy will translate into victory in tomorrow’s Democratic mayoral primary. Gym leveraged grassroots organizing victories around public education, housing and other local issues into what many consider an effective tenure on City Council, where she was the first female Asian American member. As mayor, she proposes to combat crime with greater community investment – and has raised eyebrows with plans for a guaranteed-job program.
13. Sarah Hammer
Skilled in both finance and law, Sarah Hammer is currently acting secretary of the state’s Department of Banking and Securities, which regulates financial institutions, lenders and investment firms. In addition, Hammer teaches at her alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School; she also holds an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and a master of studies from Oxford University. She previously managed financial institutions policy for the U.S. Department of the Treasury, where she oversaw the Federal Insurance Office.
14. Joe Lee
Gov. Josh Shapiro’s new deputy chief of staff is Joe Lee, whose impressive résumé includes a stint as a CIA intelligence analyst, a master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania’s Fels School of Government and numerous state-level leadership roles. He currently oversees the state’s government operations and finances. Lee got his start at the CIA, where he worked on the President's Daily Brief; he then held several roles at the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry before serving as then-Gov. Tom Wolf’s acting secretary of general services.
15. Ajay Nair
A scholar of social justice, race and ethnicity, Ajay Nair has written extensively on the need to diversify higher education leadership. So it was particularly validating when Arcadia University made him its first president of color in 2018, putting Nair in a small but growing club of Indian American college presidents. In addition to bolstering fundraising at Arcadia, he has prioritized campus diversity – starting in his cabinet, where half the members are people of color. Nair co-edited the essay collection, “Desi Rap: Hip-Hop in South Asian America.”
16. Cindy Chung
Earlier this year, the U.S. Senate confirmed Cindy Chung as the first Asian American judge to sit on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Pennsylvania – one of the few Asian American women to have served on any federal circuit court. Chung previously served as the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania. Prior to that posting, as an assistant U.S. attorney, she held leadership positions in the divisions for major crimes and violent crimes.
17. Ida Chen
As the first Asian American female judge to serve in Pennsylvania, Ida Chen was acutely aware of the linguistic and cultural challenges that can arise in court. The Hong Kong native came to Philadelphia via Indonesia, earned a law degree at Temple and, in 1986, became the first Asian American appointed to the Philadelphia Human Relations Commission. Her career – which includes teaching at her alma mater and co-founding the Asian American Women’s Coalition – has been defined by concerns for racial and ethnic justice.
18. Amid I. Ismail
Over 15 years, Dean Amid Ismail has established Temple University’s dental school as a fixture in both its community and Philadelphia, as well as an institution with global prominence. Ismail balanced the school’s budget to ensure financial stability and invested heavily in cutting-edge dental technology and training, including an NIH-funded research program. He has also prioritized community outreach, expanding local access to dental care and implementing measures to improve patient care.
19. John Chin
As Center City evolves for a new era, John Chin defends equitable development and advocates for Chinatown residents’ housing, small businesses and economic security. Chin, who leads the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation, oversaw the 2019 debut of the $75 million Crane Community Center and helped secure a recent $1.8 million federal infrastructure grant aimed at communities of color. He also chairs the Mayor’s Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs and recently launched Black & Gold 2.0, a city initiative engaging Black and Asian American communities.
20. Vibhas Madan
Indian American economist Vibhas Madan is making his mark at Drexel University, where he is currently dean of the LeBow College of Business. Madan, who completed two economics degrees at the University of Delhi before earning a Ph.D. at Michigan State, is a specialist in international trade policy who previously led LeBow’s economics department and was the School of Economics’ founding director. A committed advocate of diversity, he’s currently administering a $10 million gift to fund minority scholarships and civic partnerships.
21. Lindy Li
Lindy Li is the youngest member of the DNC’s National Finance Committee – a familiar distinction for her: At 25, Li was the youngest female congressional candidate in U.S. history. Now a political commentator for MSNBC and CNN, Li was a 2020 DNC delegate for President Joe Biden; she also served on his Asian American outreach team and helped organize the White House’s first-ever Asian American Heritage Month celebration. She co-chairs the Justice Unites Us SuperPAC, promoting AAPI electoral turnout, and is active with the DNC Ethnic Council.
22. Ting Wang
Ting Wang’s career has taken her from Sichuan International Studies University, where she earned a business degree, to the City of Philadelphia’s Commerce Department, where she is director of business advocacy. In between, she co-owned a sushi restaurant, studied real estate at Temple University (she’s a licensed Realtor), earned a counseling degree in North Dakota and was a production coordinator at URBN, Urban Outfitters’ parent company. Wang now applies her bilingualism and versatility to a city department with an increasingly diverse constituency.
23. Alka Patel
Bridging the digital divide across the commonwealth is Alka Patel’s mission – and making sure women and minorities are represented equitably is her passion. Patel heads government and external affairs and community impact for Comcast’s Keystone region, where she guides the company’s $1 billion digital literacy initiative and Xfinity’s role in providing federally subsidized internet. Patel, a Pittsburgh native, was a two-time appointee to then-Gov. Tom Wolf’s Advisory Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs and a former intellectual property lawyer and AI specialist.
24. Nina Ahmad
Nina Ahmad emigrated from Bangladesh at age 21, the first of many bold moves in her life – the latest being a bid for an at-large seat on Philadelphia City Council; she previously ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2018 and state auditor general in 2020. Ahmad, who holds a Ph.D. in chemistry from Penn, created the city’s Commission on Women while serving as the Kenney administration’s deputy mayor for public engagement. She currently heads the state chapter of the National Organization for Women.
25. Sunil Singhal
If your chest is a problem, Sunil Singhal probably knows why. Singhal directs the thoracic surgery research laboratory at Penn's Perelman School of Medicine, where he oversees cutting-edge research into lung cancer, mesothelioma and other maladies. He also serves as Perelman’s vice chair of translational research and as the William Maul Measey professor in surgical research. Singhal is an MBA with a sideline in consulting for philanthropic venture capital and for a biotechnology startup.
26. Anne Wakabayashi
Since 2020, campaign veteran Anne Wakabayashi has brought her know-how to clients at The Win Company, where she has made ads for, among others, U.S. Sen. John Fetterman and the Pennsylvania House Democratic Campaign Committee. Wakabayashi also served as Pennsylvania senior strategist for Elizabeth Warren’s presidential run, as the chief fundraiser for Equality PA in 2013, and as the founding executive director of Emerge PA. She was appointed by then-Gov. Tom Wolf to chair the Pennsylvania Commission on LGBTQ Affairs.
27. Nish Vartanian
Cranberry-based MSA Safety, a global protective gear manufacturer, is safe in the hands of 35-year company veteran Nish Vartanian, who became CEO in 2018. He leads what Newsweek has called one of “America’s Most Responsible Companies,” with American and international divisions, and annual revenue of $1.5 billion from the sales of products for the fire, energy, construction and utilities industries. Last year, Vartanian also joined the board of directors of the Pittsburgh branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
28. David Oh
In a city where Democrats hold a 7-to-1 voter registration advantage, the Republican mayoral candidacy of David Oh might seem like a long shot. But Oh, the first Asian American elected to Philadelphia City Council, appears to have the best shot of any Republican in a generation. A U.S. Army veteran and the son of Korean immigrants, he has cultivated broad support with a non-ideological approach to issues like the city’s drug crisis, public schools and financial irregularities at Philadelphia’s notorious Parking Authority.
29. Mary Pao
Mary Pao’s career in disease research dates to high school, when she worked on cancer immunotherapy at New York’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Pao, an M.D./Ph.D., currently leads rare disease strategy at ANI Pharmaceuticals, where she is chief medical officer for the rare disease business unit. The pediatric hematologist-oncologist has worked at Genentech and GSK and also launched Arcus Medica, a Philadelphia pharmaceutical consulting company later acquired by Real Chemistry. Pao, the daughter of Chinese immigrants, co-chairs the Multicultural Parents Alliance at Germantown Friends School.
30. Dave Goswami
Since taking over leadership of IPS in 2007, Dave Goswami has tripled the size of the Philadelphia-area multinational company. The India-born entrepreneur, named Ernst & Young’s Greater Philadelphia Entrepreneur of the Year in 2018, now heads a firm with locations in 10 countries and offerings ranging from life sciences consulting to construction management, architectural and engineering services. Under Goswami’s leadership, IPS recently absorbed Linesight, a project management operation with 3,000 global professionals in 17 countries.
31. Arun S. Prabhakaran
In a career that has straddled the public and nonprofit sectors, Arun Prabhakaran is currently president of the Urban Affairs Coalition, overseeing operations for a $46 million organization that supports 80 nonprofits and myriad programs throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania. Prabhakaran was most recently chief of staff to Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, where he oversaw administration and a $48 million budget for the nation’s fifth-largest prosecution office. He previously served as UAC’s senior vice president, leading government relations and strategic partnerships.
32. Prema Katari Gupta
By this time next year, Center City District will have a new chief executive for the first time since its founding. Longtime leader Paul Levy is handing the reins to Prema Katari Gupta, who joined the downtown revitalization organization in 2020 and is currently vice president of parks and public realm as well as heading the Central Philadelphia Development Corporation, its partner organization. Gupta previously served as senior vice president at Philadelphia’s Navy Yard and directed planning and economic development at University City District.
33. Samuel Chen
Political strategist and commentator Samuel Chen heads the consulting firm he founded, The Liddell Group, and directs the political science program at Northampton Community College. He also hosts the news journal “Face the Issues” and is a political contributor for Alhurra TV. Chen has worked for numerous politicians, including Sen. Pat Toomey, U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent and Gov. Tom Corbett. Chen, a member of the American Enterprise Institute, is the author of two books about democracy and elections and has a forthcoming politics podcast.
34. Ajay Raju
Ajay Raju heads his eponymous law firm, whose practice areas include corporate, real estate, immigration, life sciences and government relations. Raju’s extracurricular interests are equally diverse: His Raju Foundation funds initiatives as varied as the Germination Project, a leadership incubator; The Philadelphia Citizen, a media nonprofit; and the Ark Institute, a public health coalition. Raju also manages two venture funds and a management consulting firm, hosts 6abc’s “Overheard,” and is a regular panelist on the station’s “Inside Story.”
35. Susan Lin
An experienced criminal defense and civil rights trial attorney, Philadelphia-based Susan Lin currently serves as president of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Pennsylvania. She has litigated federal criminal cases involving fraud, immigration violations, firearms, drugs and robbery, and is known for lawsuits over police practices and prison conditions – including victories in cases involving solitary confinement, stop-and-frisk, and wrongful incarceration. Lin has also taught at Temple Law School and the Penn Carey School of Law.
36. Min Suh
Clients turn to Min Suh for counsel on the ever-changing area of employment-based immigration law. It’s the focus of Suh’s practice at Obermayer, where she is a partner in the Philadelphia office, representing corporations, universities and nonprofit organizations with the immigration issues that can arise during mergers, relocations and downsizing. Suh, who coordinates the firm’s multi-disciplinary practice, is an authority in global hiring and government investigations.
37. Yuanyou Sunny Yang
Admitted to practice in both the U.S. and China, attorney Yuanyou Sunny Yang specializes in international business and trade. Yang, one of the few Asian immigrant women law partners at major firms, serves on the board of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Pennsylvania and as regional chapter president of the Federal Bar Association, and is a member of the Pittsburgh Mayor’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs. She organized the recent Greater Pittsburgh Lunar New Year Fair and has led vigils supporting Asian American communities.
38. Nydia Han
Week in and week out on 6abc, consumer investigative reporter Nydia Han addresses Philadelphians’ pressing questions: What’s up with the Philly Pops? Why is David’s Bridal bankrupt again? Are purple Peeps kosher for Easter? The Emmy-winning Han also co-hosts “Action News Mornings Sunday” and created a documentary series looking at contemporary race and identity called “#ThisIsAmerica.” Her own perspective – as both an American and a reporter – is informed by her bicultural background: Han attended university in both the U.S. and South Korea and speaks Korean fluently.
39. Denise Nakano
Native Angeleno Denise Nakano found her niche in Philadelphia, where she was a longtime anchor and reporter for NBC10 before becoming KYW Newsradio’s midday anchor in 2020. Along the way, Nakano scooped up a national Murrow Award and eight national and regional Emmy Awards – including recognition for her coverage of Philadelphia’s heroin epidemic, which also garnered her a city proclamation. Nakano, who plays a newscaster in M. Night Shyamalan’s most recent film, “Knock at the Cabin,” is active with the Asian American Journalists Association.
40. Kannu Sahni
Kannu Sahni brings a unique perspective to the community affairs he oversees at Pittsburgh-based Highmark Health. His adopted region now has 200 initiatives around health equity, behavioral health and chronic disease thanks to the community health needs assessment he masterminded for Highmark’s Allegheny Health Network. Sahni, who is earning a Ph.D. in public policy at Pitt, has served as vice chair of the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Asian and Pacific American Affairs and as a founding member of the Steel City’s Welcoming Pittsburgh council.
41. Huma Mohiuddin
After almost six years with BNY Mellon, in 2021 Huma Mohiuddin became the bank’s market president for Pittsburgh, one of the company’s largest markets. In this role, she has oversight for all wealth management teams, including portfolio management, wealth planning and private banking – all while maintaining her team’s 94% client satisfaction ratings and managing both community engagement and business development. Mohiuddin, who previously served as vice president of investments at J.P. Morgan, sits on the boards of the Pittsburgh Symphony and Carnegie Library.
42. Philip Wan
At Philadelphia-based SEI, Philip Wan ensures smooth operations and meticulous standards for a financial services firm with $1.3 trillion in assets. Wan, a certified public accountant by training, is also the president of MMC Philadelphia, an investment firm he founded in 2015. He honed his numerical skills at Drexel’s LeBow College of Business and over more than a decade at Ernst & Young’s Philadelphia office. He serves on the board of the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation.
43. James Wang
For over a decade, James Wang has headed The Asian Bank and its parent company, Asian Financial Corporation. He is a founder and former COO of the independent community bank, catering to a growing and ethnically diverse Asian community that, while comprising less than 8% of the Philadelphia population, owns 11% of its small businesses. Wang, who began his career on Wall Street, also served on the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Asian Pacific Affairs.
44. Roxanne Patel Shepelavy
After a quarter-century in Philadelphia journalism, in 2015, Roxanne Patel Shepelavy helped launch The Philadelphia Citizen, a nonprofit media outlet with an agenda for social change. As executive editor, Shepelavy has combined her passions for democracy and the City of Philadelphia to establish The Citizen as a local leader in solutions journalism – exploring ways to tackle the city’s persistent problems, mentoring young writers and launching civic projects like the annual Ideas We Should Steal Festival.
45. Grace Rustia
As Pennsylvania AARP’s multicultural outreach director, Grace Rustia engages the commonwealth’s growing and increasingly diverse geriatric population through block parties, voter drives, health education and ethnic programming. Rustia, a Filipina American, is the associate state director for Pennsylvania’s chapter of the national advocacy group, which represents 2 million seniors statewide. She also serves on the Philadelphia Mayor’s Commission on Asian American Affairs.
46. Oliver Truong
At least a dozen newly elected state representatives have Oliver Truong to thank in part for their wins. Truong leads outreach at LEAD PA, a progressive organization that recruits and trains political candidates, campaign organizers and policy advocates – including 27 General Assembly candidates in 2022, nearly half of whom won. Truong, a Lancaster native, also serves as treasurer for the Asian Pacific Islander Political Alliance and was named as a 2022 40 under 40 by the National Association of Asian Pacifics in Politics and Public Affairs.
47. Vikram Dewan
After shepherding the Philadelphia Zoo through a dynamic epoch of growth, CEO Vikram Dewan, a former bank executive, is stepping down this year to work in social justice philanthropy. Dewan’s tenure has been defined by a radical expansion of outreach – including a community access program, which allowed 1 million school children to visit free of charge, as well as the Hamilton Family Children’s Zoo and Faris Family Education Center. Dewan also launched a neighborhood membership initiative and programs engaging schoolchildren in conservation.
48. CB Bhattacharya
When companies behave ethically and engage their workers in socially conscious efforts, the University of Pittsburgh scholar CB Bhattacharya argues, they’ll actually be more profitable. It’s a point he’s made numerous times – even using the COVID-19 pandemic as evidence – from his office at Pitt’s Katz Graduate School of Business, where Bhattacharya founded and directs the Center for Sustainable Business. The author of “Small Actions, Big Difference: Leveraging Corporate Sustainability to Drive Business and Societal Value,” Bhattacharya also spearheaded the ESMT Berlin Sustainable Business Roundtable.
49. Lee Huang
As president of Econsult Solutions, Lee Huang leads a Philadelphia-based consultancy specializing in economic development, as well as two areas where Huang serves as lead principal: equity and inclusion, and higher education and health care institutions. A member of the Philadelphia Board of Education until 2021, Huang has authored numerous economic impact analyses for universities, social impact assessments for major institutions, and analyses of minority- and women-owned businesses. He serves on the board of the Philadelphia Health Management Corporation, among others.
50. Christine Medina
As a principal at Deloitte, Christine Medina brings diversity and perspective to the $50 billion global consultancy, where she leads the application modernization and innovation health care sector practice – helping major health organizations improve outcomes, promote equity and save millions of dollars through technology and innovation. Internally, Medina has spearheaded Deloitte diversity initiatives, including a caregivers’ program focused on women and minorities. She also launched and leads the board of Deloitte’s Philadelphia StepUp chapter, which supports local nonprofits through pro bono skills-based programs.
51. Wasi Mohamed
Wasi Mohamed, a familiar figure in Western Pennsylvania policy circles, is chief of staff for newly elected U.S. Rep. Summer Lee. He leads the team supporting the state’s first Black Member of Congress, a progressive former attorney and labor organizer who ousted a Republican incumbent last November. Previously, Mohamed was senior policy officer at the Pittsburgh Foundation, where he worked to advance an equitable agenda. He won plaudits for his grassroots community advocacy as director of the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh.
52. Song Li
China-born chemist Song Li leads Frontage Laboratories, an Exton-based research organization that assists life science companies with drug development – including research on that buzzy new Alzheimer’s drug. Li, who founded Frontage in 2001, more recently launched Frontier Biopharm, a Philadelphia-based pharmaceutical manufacturing outfit with full-service research and development capabilities and offices in New Jersey and China. Li previously guided product development for Great Valley Pharmaceuticals and Wyeth.
53. Jojy Varghese
He doesn’t exactly look like a housing fairy godmother, but that’s the behind-the scenes-role Jojy Varghese plays for many Philadelphians. The Philly native is chief of staff for the Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation and executive director of the Philadelphia Accelerator Fund, a nonprofit that invests in affordable housing. Varghese, who holds a master’s in public administration from the University of Pennsylvania, most recently directed community and economic development for the Urban Affairs Coalition.
54. Junge Zhang
From his Pennsylvania laboratories, Junge Zhang is leading peptide innovation and entrepreneurship through the two biotech companies he founded. Zhang heads Biopeptek Pharmaceuticals, a Malvern-based outfit specializing in research, development and manufacturing of peptide technologies. He also launched Mainline Biosciences, a clinical-stage new drug research and development company that, not coincidentally, specializes in peptide drugs. Zhang, who studied at the Wuhan University of Technology and earned a Ph.D. from Drexel, previously led new drug development at Johnson & Johnson.
55. Maitreyi Roy
For Executive Director Maitreyi Roy, Bartram’s Garden is more than a beloved Philadelphia destination and, as the nation’s oldest surviving botanical garden, a national historic landmark. Over a decade of intentional community engagement, Roy has cultivated the garden as an organically inclusive public space with social purpose – from its free entry to its blossoming programs. Her tenure has led to quadrupled attendance and fostered new connections through education, employment and even a community garden.
56. Florence Tang
In addition to being a senior vice president at Firstrust Bank, Florence Tang is also a relationship manager, cultivating connections with Pennsylvania’s Asian business community. Tang, who speaks Cantonese and Mandarin, previously headed BNP Paribas’ Asia desk as a San Francisco-based vice president before coming to Philadelphia in 2005. Over a decade at the 89-year-old local bank, Tang has catered to local communities with commercial real estate and industrial lending, as well as portfolio management and various investment products.
57. Alain Xiong-Calmes
His job now encompasses the entire Northeast, but Alain Xiong-Calmes remains firmly rooted in Eagles and Sixers territory. Xiong-Calmes heads regional state and local government relations at the Washington, D.C.-based Chamber of Progress, a tech industry coalition promoting equitable and progressive public policy. He previously held leadership and policy roles with Gov. Tom Wolf, Sen. Bob Casey and the Obama Foundation – and during the 2020 election cycle, he served on the Pennsylvania Asian American Pacific Islanders for Biden Harris Leadership Council.
58. Ellen Yin
When restaurateur Ellen Yin is involved, Philadelphia foodies pay attention. Yin is the entrepreneurial force behind several of Philadelphia’s most highly regarded eateries, including Fork, High Street Philly and a.kitchen+bar – variously recognized by Michelin, Bon Appetit and the James Beard Foundation. The Wharton MBA, herself a three-time Beard Foundation finalist for outstanding restaurateur, is also a founding member of Sisterly Love Collective, an organization for women in hospitality.
59. Jane Roh
Jane Roh’s career as a spokesperson for Philly’s progressive policymakers has roots in her Korean immigrant childhood. Growing up in Montgomery County, Roh had firsthand lessons in social and economic inequities that helped her become a champion of social justice, including her current role as communications director for District Attorney Larry Krasner. Roh, a one-time journalist who previously led communications for City Council President Darrell Clarke, has earned a reputation as an impassioned and articulate defender of the vulnerable and the public good.
60. Mohan Seshadri
As head of the Asian Pacific Islander Political Alliance, Mohan Seshadri organized the state’s largest Asian American voting programs for recent elections, working in 15 languages to double Pennsylvania’s Asian American voter turnout in 2020. Under Seshadri’s leadership, API PA also helped establish the Save Chinatown Coalition to protect Philadelphia’s Chinatown from destructive development. Seshadri, who previously was executive director of the Governor’s Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs, is also the founding co-chair of the Asian American Power Network, a national coalition.
61. Annie Wu Henry
Dubbed “John Fetterman’s TikTok whisperer” by the New York Times style section, Annie Wu Henry attracted outsize attention for her social media savvy during the now-senator’s 2022 campaign. Born in China and adopted into a York family, Henry brought a quirky Gen Z sensibility that turbocharged the campaign’s online following. Her viral videos trolling Fetterman’s opponent, Republican Mehmet Oz, not only helped win the race – they also upped the bar nationally for campaign outreach.
62. Jeff Coleman
The first Filipino American to serve in Pennsylvania’s legislature, Jeff Coleman heads Churchill, the Harrisburg branding and strategic communications firm he founded in 2005. He is also the producer of “Joe Watkins: State of Independence,” a weekly TV interview program broadcast throughout the mid-Atlantic. Coleman, a native Tagalog speaker and a vocal supporter of Filipino American causes, served two terms in the state House of Representatives and ran in last year’s Republican primary for lieutenant governor.
63. Marian Lien
Marian Lien is currently board president at OCA, a Pittsburgh-based organization representing the nation’s 12 million Asian and Pacific Islander Americans. Lien oversees programs ranging from political advocacy and voter mobilization to a medical and dental clinic, a scholarship fund for study in Asia and myriad Chinese cultural activities. She is also the director of education for inclusion and global awareness at St. Edmund’s Academy and served on then-Gov. Tom Wolf’s Advisory Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs.
64. Chutatip “Nok” Suntaranon
From the shrimp markets of her Thailand childhood to the James Beard Awards, Nok Suntaranon has without a doubt achieved one version of the American dream. Just a year after she opened Kalaya Thai Kitchen, Esquire called it the country’s best new restaurant; this year, the James Beard Foundation made Suntaranon a Best Mid-Atlantic Chef finalist for the second consecutive year. Suntaranon recently upgraded Kalaya from a 30-seat South Philly BYO to a sprawling Fishtown destination, but her commitment to uncompromising Thai flavors remains steadfast.
65. Neil H. Shah
Hotels and resorts from Boston to Key West have sprouted under the guidance of Neil Shah, who heads Hersha Hospitality Trust. His acquisitions and developments over 20 years have yielded a $3 billion bicoastal portfolio, including 25 properties currently under management. Shah, a Harvard MBA, graduated from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, where he is now a research sponsor of the Zell-Lurie Real Estate Center. He also chairs the institutional real estate finance advisory council of the American Hotel and Lodging Association.
66. Su Ming Yeh
On behalf of Pennsylvania’s incarcerated residents, attorney Su Ming Yeh has advocated for civil rights and brought class action lawsuits to challenge prisons’ adverse health conditions and lack of medication. Yeh is the longtime director of the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project, where she recently served as a lead attorney suing the Philadelphia Department of Prisons for inadequate COVID-19 health measures. Yeh also co-chairs the minority bar committee of the Pennsylvania Bar Association and serves on the board of the Asian Pacific Bar Association of Pennsylvania.
67. Tiffany Chang Lawson
Last year, Tiffany Chang Lawson brought her deep knowledge of Harrisburg to Deloitte Consulting, where she is senior consultant for the government and public sector practice. Lawson previously served as executive director of the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs under two administrations and has led the Bureau of Campaign Finance and Civic Engagement at the Pennsylvania Department of State. She co-founded Harrisburg Asian American Pacific Islander in 2021 to address rising anti-Asian hate and is part of Ascend, a network of professionals and executives from Fortune 500 companies who advance the state of API equity at work.
68. Narasimha Shenoy
As he watched the size and impact of Philadelphia’s Asian American business community grow, Narasimha Shenoy decided the cohort – with a business formation rate nearly triple the city average – needed its own advocacy organization. He founded the Asian American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia in 1999 and, after 22 years at its helm, recently handed over the presidency to labor scholar Khine Zaw. Shenoy continues to chair the organization as well as serving as CEO of Kedar Corporation, an engineering and construction company.
69. Andy Kang
At the 50-member Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition, Andy Kang leads political advocacy, facilitates immigration services and guides voter mobilization efforts. He previously headed Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Chicago, where he championed voting and language access, and launched a bystander training project in response to hate crimes; he also served on the City of Chicago’s Commission on Human Relations and on the transition teams for Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker and former Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot. He currently co-chairs the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association’s immigration committee.
70. Neil Makhija
A generation ago, Indian American candidates were rare. That’s no longer true, thanks in part to the efforts of Neil Makhija, a public interest attorney and election law professor at the University of Pennsylvania who heads the national political organization Indian American Impact. After recently helping elect South Asian candidates at the local, state and federal levels, Makhija – who previously ran for Congress in 2016 – is now running as a Democrat for Montgomery County commissioner.
71. Juliana Feliciano Reyes
For years before SEPTA sued Juliana Feliciano Reyes and the paper she writes for, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Reyes had gained a following for her thoughtful coverage of work and labor-related issues. Her lawsuit-prompting demand for public records was the rare instance of Reyes becoming the story – but the Filipina American has racked up myriad accolades, including three Philadelphia News Awards. Prior to joining the Inquirer, Reyes covered neighborhoods for the Philadelphia Daily News and was a reporter and editorial product lead for Technical.ly Media.
72. Jenna Antoniewicz
When she defeated the incumbent Republican mayor of Royersford in 2017, Jenna Antoniewicz became the first woman to serve in that role – and was part of a youthful Democratic wave that swept through Philadelphia’s historically Republican suburbs. This summer, Antoniewicz, a Korean adoptee, is moving her family to the country of her birth. She’ll leave Royersford with a new farmers’ market, a slew of community programs – including mental health education and an AAPI vigil – and a buzzy social media presence.
73. Susan Jin Davis
Susan Jin Davis makes sure companies keep their social compacts as they grow. As the first chief sustainability officer of Comcast NBC Universal, she implemented the corporation’s sustainability program; she also negotiated a compact between Comcast and the Asian American community and continues to serve on the company’s internal diversity council. Currently guiding social impact at Al Roker Entertainment, Davis also holds leadership roles at the Asian Pacific Islander American Chamber of Commerce and Entrepreneurship and the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies.
74. Thoai Nguyen
Thoai Nguyen arrived in the U.S. as a young Vietnamese war refugee. Decades later, he’s helping thousands of fellow Southeast Asian immigrants and refugees access support and community through SEAMAAC, the social and educational service agency Nguyen has led for nearly half of its two-decade existence. Under his leadership, the organization serves nearly 8,000 people annually across the Philadelphia region through community development and programs ranging from food assistance to park upgrades and youth performing arts.
75. Mel Lee
Community organizer and immigrant rights advocate Mel Lee leads the Woori Center, which she co-founded in 2020 to offer language, employment and immigration support for the Korean and Asian American communities. Most notably, Lee boosted her constituency’s recent voter participation and has led advocacy around extending educational and driver’s license privileges to undocumented immigrants. The South Korea native also co-directs Korean Americans for Civic Participation and is a member of the Action Council of the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition and the AAPI PA Power Caucus.
76. Esther Castillo
Philadelphia’s diverse communities speak in many registers – and Esther Castillo makes sure they get heard. As the city’s director of racial equity, storytelling and community impact, Castillo, who holds a Ph.D. in sociology from Temple University, integrates racial equity into governmental operations and spearheads cross-sector collaborations like a 2021-22 COVID-19 vaccination campaign for 5,000 limited-English-proficiency immigrants. Castillo also co-founded the Blasian Solidarity Collective, a community partnership uniting Black and Asian Philadelphians, and produced the award-winning documentary, “Feeling Asian American.”
77. Andy Toy
As policy director of the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations, Andy Toy knows strong communities start one home and block at a time. He previously helped plan neighborhood improvements as a community development and communications director at SEAMAAC, and was managing director for the Chinatown Community Center project. Toy’s extensive civic involvements include founding United Voices for Philadelphia, a voter mobilization nonprofit, and serving on the Mayor’s Commission on Asian American Affairs.
78. Jennifer Lee
At Temple University Beasley School of Law’s Sheller Center for Social Justice, associate professor Jennifer Lee mentors the next generation of socially conscious lawyers at the Social Justice Lawyering Clinic. Lee, an associate law professor, works with students on legal representation for low-wage workers and immigrants, and with grassroots organizations on policy reform; in 2022, she received Temple Law’s George P. Williams III Memorial Award for Professor of the Year. Lee serves on the Marutani fellowship committee at the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Pennsylvania.
79. Nathaniel Yap
After earning a degree from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and working in banking at Wells Fargo, JPMorgan and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, Nathaniel Yap turned to Democratic political activism. The Pittsburgh-based strategist has been a force in recent campaigns as well as local affairs – getting out the vote, serving on the City of Pittsburgh’s community task force on police reform and, more recently, as an appointee to the personnel committee for Gov. Josh Shapiro’s transition team.
80. Joe Khan
Since 2020, Joe Khan served as the chief legal officer for the commonwealth’s fourth-largest county – but he stepped down last month amid rumors of a run for state Attorney General. As Bucks County solicitor, Khan spearheaded the state’s first used-car lemon law, regulated massage parlors to combat trafficking, and promoted policies around voter protection, prison oversight and equal pay. For his accomplishments, Khan, who ran unsuccessfully for Philadelphia district attorney in 2017, was named 2022’s Government Lawyer of the Year by the Pennsylvania Bar Association.
81. Itha Cao
When she’s not whipping up Chinese specialties with The Hungry Cao – a culinary business that fundraises for racial and social justice causes – Itha Cao expands internet access with Neighborhood Allies, where she is digital inclusion and innovation director. In that role, Cao launched digital inclusion centers in underserved Pittsburgh neighborhoods and steered a collaboration with the Greater Pittsburgh Digital Inclusion Alliance. The State College native previously worked for former Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and currently serves on the Pennsylvania Commission for Women, chairing its strategy subcommittee.
82. Jasper Liem
Drag queens and queer storytelling are under fire on many fronts these days, but at the Attic Youth Center, executive director Jasper Liem ensures they’re celebrated. Liem oversees a 30-year-old Philadelphia community hub devoted to LGBTQ youth, with programs ranging from mental health counseling and HIV testing to songwriting and sex education. With family origins in Hong Kong, Liem brings intersectional sensitivity as well as experience as a behavioral health manager, a needle exchange program coordinator and a psychotherapist with the Mazzoni Center.
83. Stephen Kulp
As his term as the first-ever AAPI chair of the Philadelphia LGBTQ Bar Association wound down last fall, Stephen Kulp launched one of the city’s few LGBTQ- and AAPI-owned civil and commercial litigation firms. Kulp is used to being a trailblazer for representation: He was also the first LGBTQ Asian to be elected to the Philadelphia Bar Association Board of Governors, where he is vice chair. A Korean American adoptee, Kulp also co-chairs the Asian American Adoptee Network at the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association.
84. Anne Ishii
From erotica readings to standup comedy, queer performance art to Japanese drumming, Anne Ishii makes sure Philadelphia’s Asian Arts Initiative represents a creative community in full flower. Ishii oversees an organization that is equal parts cultural center, social justice movement and community hub – hosting fairs, sponsoring resident composers and artists, and celebrating marginalized identities. Issues of gender and sexuality in the Asian diaspora are a priority for Ishii, who is a writer, editor and marketer as well as a bilingual Japanese translator.
85. Nancy Nguyen
Sensing the need for an organization uniting the Vietnamese and Southeast Asian communities of metro Philadelphia, Nancy Nguyen co-founded VietLEAD in 2015 and serves as co-executive director. Her vision empowers the community through social justice-informed programs and organizing around issues that include health, civic engagement and community-building projects. Nguyen, a longtime organizer and nonprofit leader, also serves on the boards of Folk Arts-Cultural Treasures Charter School and the Asian Pacific Islander Political Alliance.
86. Don Lee
Over 15 years at WSFS Bank, Don Lee has cultivated myriad commercial and community ties. He joined as a corporate banking trainee in 2008 and is now vice president and relationship manager for commercial banking. As a member of WSFS’ select markets team, Lee draws on his own experience to work with minority-owned businesses. He is also a member of the bank’s diversity, equity and inclusion advisory group and an advisory board member of the Asian American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia.
87. Ravi Rajan
Bucks County urologist Ravi Rajan has an entrepreneurial and community role that goes far beyond the exam room. Rajan, a pioneer of laparoscopic surgery for urologic tumors, is president of the Princeton Physicians Organization, an independent group that fosters partnerships between health providers, insurers and community stakeholders. In addition, he’s an investor and adviser for early-stage health care technology companies and is active with the Temple University College of Public Health Board of Visitors.
88. Chi-Ser Tran
At Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, Chi-Ser Tran assists some of the city’s newest and most vulnerable residents with government benefits. She also leads CLS’ linguistic advocacy around greater access to legal services and government agencies, and is a frequent speaker on equity, limited-English-proficiency communities and culturally competent lawyering. An immediate past president of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Pennsylvania, Tran also serves on the SEAMAAC board and has worked on voting rights for the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund.
89. Khara Timsina
Whether working as an interpreter, translating documents or teaching English to fellow newcomers, Khara Timsina has always connected people across cultures, forming webs of community. His current role is leading the Bhutanese Community Association of Pittsburgh – ensuring his fellow Himalayan immigrants and others can access citizenship and language classes, technology training, food and after-school support. Timsina previously worked at the BCA in civic education and outreach, and has served as an interpreter with the U.N.’s International Organization for Migration.
90. Leah Lizarondo
After repurposing 100 million pounds of food for hungry Pittsburghers over the past decade, Leah Lizarondo is leaving the nonprofit she founded, 412 Food Rescue, to spend more time in her native Philippines. Lizarondo has won global raves for her app, Food Rescue Hero, which connects volunteer drivers with surplus food from restaurants, farms and delis. She leaves an organization with a staff of 40, thousands of volunteers, technology used across North America – and an example of how one woman’s inspiration can transform a community.
91. Anna Thomas
At just 26, Anna Thomas was a fresh Gen Z face on the commonwealth political scene when she ran for the Pennsylvania state House from Northampton County last year. She lost, but with her local roots (she’s Bethlehem-born), multicultural background (her family comes from Malaysia and India) and progressive politics, she remains a promising member of Pennsylvania’s new generation of Asian American Democrats. Thomas earned a chemistry degree at Wellesley and a master’s in public administration from the University of Pennsylvania.
92. Stephen Tang
The son of Chinese immigrants, Stephen Tang has headed numerous life sciences and energy technology companies, nonprofits and government advisory boards over a 30-year career. Most recently, he led OraSure Technologies to explosive growth through the successful pandemic rollout of its InteliSwab COVID-19 rapid test – and also published “A Test for Our Time: Crisis Leadership in the Next Normal.” He serves on the boards of Life Sciences Pennsylvania, the Team Pennsylvania Foundation and Population Services International.
93. Stephanie Sun
Stephanie Sun moved the Pennsylvania election system from bilingual to trilingual, adding the first Asian language, Chinese, in 2022, through successfully organizing the largest AAPI community education and engagement campaign in PA for the 2020 Census. Sun was the first female immigrant appointed Executive Director of the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs. Sun co-founded the first state-wide coalition uniting Jewish and AAPI communities in the U.S., Pennsylvania Asian Pacific American Jewish Alliance. Previously, Sun worked in 3 Fortune Global 100 corporations in 3 countries.
94. Lani Mears
Philippines-born Lani Mears is president of the Filipino American Association of Pittsburgh. She recently coordinated the first-ever AAPI statewide survey, using the data to develop the AAPI Platform for PA, and established the Elevate Her coalition to empower Filipina immigrants. A former member of the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Asian American Affairs, Mears serves as regional co-chair for the National Federation of Filipino American Associations and as a committee member for the AAPI PA Power Caucus.
95. Jason Lam
With anti-Asian hate crimes surging, Jason Lam decided Philadelphians needed to know more about the nation’s fastest-growing ethnic group. So in 2021, Lam opened the American Chinese Museum in a historic Northeast Philadelphia building, with exhibitions covering two centuries of history – from the California Gold Rush to contemporary Chinese American cuisine. Lam has also made the museum a multicultural community hub, hosting literary events, youth activities and public celebrations for occasions like Lunar New Year.
96. Pearl Kim
As a Delaware County prosecutor, Pearl Kim headed the human trafficking unit and secured the first conviction under the state’s trafficking statute. Now a special assistant district attorney in Montgomery County, Kim continues her crusade for victims’ rights, facilitating hate crime reporting on behalf of the AAPI community. Kim, a board member of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Pennsylvania, ran for Congress in 2018 and has also served as a senior deputy attorney general for the commonwealth, leading the College Campus Safety Initiative.
97. Sultan Shakir
Muslim, Black and queer, Sultan Shakir represents a new generation of leadership at Philadelphia’s Mazzoni Center, the region’s most prominent LGBTQ health and education organization. Shakir, who took over the long-open position last year, has reinvigorated the $14 million agency with new collaborations, including a partnership with the School District of Philadelphia to provide sexual education programming. He previously worked for a Washington, D.C. LGBTQ youth services organization.
98. Frank Yamada
Pioneering Asian American Bible scholar Frank Yamada heads a Pittsburgh-based consortium of 300 North American graduate theology programs at the Association of Theological Schools. He was previously the first Asian American to lead a Presbyterian Church seminary and, as a member of the Society of Biblical Literature, has chaired the Asian American Biblical Hermeneutics Group and advocated for greater representation of racial and ethnic minorities in the field.
99. Neeta Patel
Whether mentoring young Asian American voting organizers or celebrating at Chinatown’s annual Mid-Autumn Festival, Neeta Patel is well known in Philadelphia for her community service. As interim executive director of the Philly-based Asian Americans United, she leads activism against a proposed Chinatown-area arena and supports a raft of political advocacy, cultural and youth educational programs. Patel is also a founder of the Folk Arts-Cultural Treasures Charter School, where she was the inaugural operations officer and is currently board treasurer.
100. Amanpreet Oberoi
Since moving from India to Pennsylvania in 2004, Amanpreet Oberoi has worked to raise the visibility of Asian Americans in the Erie region. She leads the Erie Asian American Pacific Association, establishing the organization’s youth division and organizing events like Multicultural Asia Day, Asian Festival and Taste of Asia. A nurse by profession, Oberoi serves as global health liaison for Gannon University, where she coordinated this year’s first-ever Asian Heritage Month celebration. She also served on the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs.
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