Indian Americans who made headlines in 2020

Dr. Sanjay Gupta

Sanjay Gupta

As the host of the CNN show “Sanjay Gupta MD” and co-host with Anderson Cooper of global town halls throughout the pandemic he came into our homes and gave us wisdom and truth. 

As CNN’s celebrity chief medical correspondent, the Atlanta-based neurosurgeon has covered everything from the war in Iraq to the rising popularity of medicinal cannabis but in 2020 he was preoccupied by the novel coronavirus from tweeting the latest on the vaccines to receiving it live on-air to inspire confidence in the public.  

Pramila Jayapal 

Pramila Jayapal

Indian American House member Pramila Jayapal hogged headlines throughout the year for a number of reasons. From writing along with seven other influential lawmakers to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo against the farm laws introduced by the Indian government to tabling legislation condemning India’s Citizenship Amendment Act this Chennai-born firebrand left liberal Democrat was also recently elected Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC).

A group of progressive lawmakers led by Jayapal also wants the incoming Biden-Harris administration to reverse Trump’s “xenophobic policies” and transform US immigration system into a just and humane one.

She got re-elected to the US House of Representatives for the third consecutive term. She won the 2020 election by defeating Republican Craig Keller by a massive 70 percentage points. 

Sara Gideon

Sara Gideon

Indian American Sara Gideon, who came up short in the US Senate race in Maine against Susan Collins, made news when she received nearly $75 M for her campaign. 

Earlier as Speaker of the Maine State Assembly she won the Democratic primary for the US Senate seat to challenge incumbent Republican Senator Susan Collins in the November elections.

After entrepreneur Rik Mehta, she was the second Indian-American to have won a Senate primary race in the 2020 election season. 

Daughter of Indian-American father and Armenian mother, Gideon attracted the attention of the entire Democratic Party from across the nation for raising a massive $75 M which is a Maine record.

And few weeks back she again hit headlines for announcing her intention to donate $350,000 of $15 M left in campaign funds to two charities Full Plates, Full Potential and Keep ME Warm.

Priyanka Chopra Jonas

Priyanka Chopra

Quarantined and all yet Priyanka along with husband Nick Jonas kept us entertained through the year with their loved up Instagram feeds.  The couple enjoyed date nights, exercised together, while PeeCee also hosted her mini-MET Gala with her niece. While they kept themselves busy with all kinds of activities, including work, Priyanka and Nick also adopted a Husky Australian Shepherd mix rescue who they named Panda. Later with some relaxations in place the couple took their favorite pets for drives around LA and kept us glued to social media. On the work front too Priyanka created a lot of buzz with her Netflix productions and Hollywood ‘Matrix 4’ runs. 

Gitanjali Rao

Gitanjali Rao

15-year-old Gitanjali Rao was chosen as the first-ever ‘Kid of the Year’ by Time magazine and recognized for her astonishing and ground-breaking work as a scientist and innovator who used technology to tackle issues from contaminated drinking water to opioid addiction and cyberbullying.

Gitanjali was selected from more than 5,000 nominees as she “stood out for creating a global community of young innovators and inspiring them to pursue their goals.”

Neera Tanden

Neera Tanden

President-elect Joe Biden’s pick as budget chief ran into controversy from day one with her critics digging up her social media accounts for her past comments. If the senate confirms her nomination shee will be the first Indian-American and the first woman of color to serve as director of the US Office of Management and Budget.

Previously too she has often been a newsmaker being featured on the list of the most powerful people in the US capital, from Elle’s 10 most powerful women in DC, to Politico’s 50.

Raja Chari

Raja Chari

Indian-American US Air Force Colonel Raja Chari was selected as the Commander of the SpaceX Crew-3 mission to the International Space Station (ISS) by NASA and the European Space Agency.

Raja Chari, 43, will serve as the commander for the SpaceX Crew-3 mission to the ISS, which is expected to be launched this year.

This will be the first spaceflight for Raja Chari, who became a NASA astronaut in 2017. 

Sonia Syngal 

Sonia Syngal

Sonia Syngal is an Indian -American businesswoman. In March 2020 she was appointed as the CEO of retail giant GAP Inc. With this appointment she became the highest ranked Indian American female CEO of a Fortune 500 company after India Nooyi. Earlier, Syngal had headed the old navy unit of the company since 2016. She is responsible for taking the sales of Old Navy from $7 Billion to $8 Billion in just three years. As Gap Inc CEO she is tasked with strengthening the retailer’s portfolio during a time when it was forced to temporarily close stores due to quarantine orders.

Arvind Krishna

Arvind Krishna

The IBM board of directors elected Arvind Krishna chairman of the board, effective January 1, 2021. Krishna, who is IBM’s chief executive officer and a member of the board, succeeded IBM executive chairman Virginia M. Rometty, who retired on December 31, 2020. His appointment as CEO placed him in the league of other prominent Indian American tech CEOs who are leading some of the largest corporations such as Google, Adobe and Microsoft. 

Recently, he announced the spin-off of IBM’s $19 billion Managed Infrastructure Services business, to be completed in 2021, which will create two industry-leading companies and enable IBM to focus on its leading open Hybrid Cloud and Artificial Intelligence Platform. 

Suyash Mehta

Suyash Mehta

Suyash Mehta became the first-ever Indian-origin official to officiate in the National Basketball Association (NBA) league.

Mehta, who has been part of G League and Summer League Games’ officiating teams, was named in the officiating staff for the 2020-21 season of the league.

He has previously refereed in 13 games but worked under the tag of ‘non-staff officials’. He was one of the six to be part of the staff for this season.

The Baltimore resident also has coaching experience at various collegiate levels including the Atlantic 10, Big South, Colonial Athletic Association, Conference USA, NCAA Division III.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Vivek Murthy

President-elect Joe Biden selected Dr Vivek Murthy for a senior role to help fight COVID-19.

Murthy returned to his role as Surgeon General but with a broader portfolio as the pandemic rages through the country,  Murthy previously served as surgeon general from 2014 to 2017, after being nominated by President Barack Obama. He is currently co-chair of the COVID-19 Transition Advisory Board created by Biden.

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