Zhanlin Chen, a first-year medical student at Feinberg, has been awarded the 2023 Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans, a prestigious scholarship granted to immigrants or children of immigrants.
Chen is one of just 30 students nationwide to be awarded the fellowship, which is awarded to new Americans chosen for their potential to make significant contributions to U.S. society, culture or their academic field.
Founded in 1997 by Hungarian immigrants Paul and Daisy Soros, the two-year fellowship provides up to $90,000 to cover graduate education expenses.
After immigrating to the U.S. from China at 11 years old, Chen’s interest in medicine was sparked by his mother, who worked as a scientist investigating cancer genes at Vanderbilt University.
But it wasn’t until he started volunteering at a local children’s hospital that he saw first-hand the impact that science and medicine could have.
“I would play with the kids at the children’s hospital, and unfortunately some kids did die from cancer,” Chen said. “That’s when I first understood what all this research is for. That we, humanity, are trying to find cures for these debilitating illnesses. That’s when I knew I wanted to go into medicine, and the more I learned about cancer, about genomics, the more I wanted to know.”
Chen said he hopes to use his Feinberg education to provide personalized healthcare which incorporates machine learning, genomics and data science.
“In genomics, we’re generating large amounts of data. I think the key is to design intelligent algorithms with machine learning to parse through that vast amount of data to better predict health outcomes,” Chen said. “Right now, I’m getting involved in cardiology research, which I think is at the intersection of those fields.”
Chen said he’s grateful for the community he’s found at Feinberg and plans to keep sharing his experiences in hopes of encouraging other medical students who are first- or second-generation immigrants.
“It can be hard to navigate through the healthcare system as an immigrant,” Chen said. “I know what it is like to advocate for my family as the sole English speaker, and I am ready to do the same for my patients in the future.”
The Northwestern University Office of Fellowships offers resources for Northwestern students and alumni to discover and apply for fellowships.