2018 40 Under Forty

All photos courtesy of Emory Alumni Association

Alumni from around the world and across industries were nominated for the 2018 class of the Emory Alumni Association's 40 Under Forty. The selection committees culled through hundreds of nominees' files, including journalists, technological innovators, social justice pioneers, and scientists. Choices were tough.

Year after year, Emory graduates impactful leaders who forge partnerships, solve problems, blaze trails, and serve their communities wherever they may be. The criteria for the award include significant impact in business, research, artistic, leadership, community, educational, or philanthropic endeavors. The winners have been divided into five categories—an almost impossible task since these multitalented Emory graduates are a multifaceted group.

The Discoverers

The Discoverers are looking for the new. One is delving deep into the history and mysteries of the flu. Another has devised new ways to treat memory- impaired patients. Others are studying pathology and cell biology. One is perfecting soft drinks served with a side of social justice. Others are balancing the financial side of medicine and cracking glass ceilings out in the wild. Their disciplines differ, but each has a fresh eye and is working to be first.

Jessica Belser 08PhD, a microbiologist and past winner of a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, spends her days at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She recently coauthored The 1918 Flu, 100 Years Later, based on her career focus on influenza.

Carolyn Clevenger 02MSN cofounded the Integrated Memory Care Clinic, where patients receive dementia-sensitive primary care, in partnership with Emory's School of Nursing and the School of Medicine's Department of Neurology.

Raul Gonzalez 04C 12MR, a staff pathologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and assistant professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School, has authored nearly thirty journal articles and coauthored a textbook on liver pathology.

Peng Guo

Peng Guo

Peng Guo 09PhD, faculty member at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, advances biomedical research with microscopy techniques.

Ronald Hunter Jr. 09PhD is an expert in beverage analyses at The Coca-Cola Company's Atlanta-based global headquarters to ensure product quality. He also works to increase diversity awareness across marketing, consumerism, and communications at Coca-Cola and in the wider scientific community.

Melissa Miller 04C 06PH manages a multiyear, multi-million-dollar federal contract charged with conducting research and developing benchmarks for hospitals and clinicians in relation to the quality of care they deliver to patients, closely tied to cost efficiency and Medicare funding.

James Olzmann 07PhD is a professor, an advocate for minority scientists, and a leader in biomedical research whose discoveries are shaping our understanding of cell biology.

Rae Wynn-Grant 06C, a conversation scientist and nature storyteller, works with the National Geographic Society on the Last Wild Places project, aiming to increase the area of the planet under protection. When not working in the field, she serves on the Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity Committee for the Society for Conservation Biology.

The Community Advocates

Did you know an alumna is looking out for your privacy rights? Another is following the HIV/AIDS crisis. One is fighting for the environment and another for India's children. A couple is working for peace and another for fair housing.

With a career focus in emergent privacy issues across areas as diverse as student privacy, the use of drones, and domestic surveillance, one-time US Department of Justice attorney Khalilah Barnes Scott 07C is now guarding your privacy on Facebook.

A career dedicated to mitigating the effects of the HIV/AIDS epidemic has led Jenny Albertini 04PH to travel the world for the past two decades, serving as a volunteer at local HIV/AIDS organizations in Boston and serving as a country director of Global HIV/AIDS programs in Africa, all while running her professional organizing business.

An appellate and regulatory litigator with a focus on novel legal issues, Kurt Kastorf 02C 06L also has a substantial pro bono practice, which has included securing court approval for the first commercial wind farm on federal land and cases before the United States Supreme Court concerning the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act.

Elizabeth Sholtys

Elizabeth Sholtys

The Ashraya Initiative for Children (AIC) in Pune, India, opened its doors to the first group of street children in 2005. Cofounded by Elizabeth Sholtys 07C, AIC enrolls kids while their mothers are pregnant and starts each one in a playgroup at the age of one all the way through secondary school.

A leader in hospital medicine and medical education, Dustin Smith 06M wins Emory accolades and sits on prestigious and competitive industry committees.

Nancy Smith-Mather 08T and Shelvis Smith-Mather 06T 07T are mission partners and co-workers in the Republic of South Sudan providing training in community-based trauma healing, peace studies, and conflict transformation through the Resource Centre for Civil Leadership (RECONCILE).

Maricarmen Smith-Martinez 04C, a one-time Peace Corps volunteer, uses her nonprofit background and global eye to work with government agencies and organizations to create affordable housing by developing the national HUD Housing Counselor in Training Program.

The Innovators

Here's where you will find the problem-solvers and the out-of-the-box thinkers. One shut down hackers and made good on a business mistake. Another forges her own successful pathway to her best life. Another is an MD-turned- MBA. And another often doesn't accept payment. One plans overseas international cultural events. One went from political sports to physical sports, and another juggles seats on a variety of boards.

Recipient of the 2012 Emory Humanitarian Award for building bridges through interfaith dialogue and initiatives, Asad Abdulla 12B continues his service through pro bono consulting work with local community groups while working in product innovation and management.

Author, business owner, and professional networker Darrah Brustein 06C defies clear categorization. Now she's helping others create a life of their own design as well.

Angela Fusaro

Angela Fusaro

ER physician and School of Medicine faculty member Angela Fusaro 01C 17B decided an MBA would accelerate her forward in health care innovation, focusing on the design and commercialization of remote diagnostic tools that empower patients.

A rising talent in the field of forensic accounting, Teddy Brown 09B spends his free time assisting the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyer's Foundation in representing their clients in pro bono work.

Jason Schutzbank 09B started his first business at fourteen, took his second public at nineteen, and shortly after graduation cofounded Brand Knew, a digital agency focusing on branding and social marketing. Along with serving conventional clients, they also assist select start-up ventures in exchange for equity in the business.

German native and former Fulbright scholar Benjamin Becker 08G now oversees events at Amerika Haus North Rhine-Westphalia in Cologne, Germany, all with the aim of fostering transatlantic relations.

After five years in the Obama White House rising from intern to special assistant to the president and policy adviser, Awenate Cobbina 02C was ready for a change and switched his focus to business, joining the legal team of the Detroit Pistons.

Consistently, Benjamin Yin 02B, owner of Generational Financial Partners, ranks in the top 1 percent of financial advisors across the country, yet he finds time to serve on nonprofit boards including Kate's Club, the YMCA, Asian Americans Advancing Justice Atlanta, and CURE Childhood Cancer.

The Thought Provokers

They start the conversations and keep them going through medical mentoring and works of art. One indulges her interest in the intersection of art and science, another talks to the public five days a week. One is shaping young minds, and another is working to put women at the table. One makes documentaries, and another is rethinking high school.

Efrain Talamantes

Efrain Talamantes

An assistant clinical professor in internal medicine at the University of California, Davis, Efrain Talamantes 07B cofounded MiMentor.org, a national mentoring community for aspiring and current health professionals, and leads various initiatives throughout the country to enhance leadership and diversity in the health care workforce.

Award-winning writer Lauren Gunderson 03C is currently the most-produced playwright in the US. (She also has a keen interest in science and banjo.)

Her day job is at Bionic, guiding traditional companies using start-up growth methods, but Christina Wallace 05C also cohosts The Limit Does Not Exist podcast and founded BridgeUp:STEM at the American Museum of Natural History.

A social media influencer and on-air personality of the nationally syndicated Top 40 morning radio talk show the Bert Show, Cassie Young 07C is an advocate for healthy weight management and body positivity.

Through his job at the Foundation for Economic Education, Richard Lorenc 06C works to open students' minds to the humane values of free market economics.

A committed philanthropist and executive at Deloitte, Melissa Blechman 07C has led a variety of initiatives—including joining the steering committee of the 30% Club, which works to achieve a balance of 30 percent women on S&P 500 boards by 2020, and leading its US public policy efforts.

Between making documentary- style videos for nonprofits and social entrepreneurs, Laura Asherman 10Ox 12C shoots videos for Atlanta's Art on the BeltLine initiative.

Stacy Tolos Kane 10L, cofounder of Washington's Leadership Academy, won a $10 million grant from XQ: The Super School Project "to reinvent the American high school"; fitting because the D.C. school is completely tech-driven, down to the virtual reality chemistry labs.

The Reformers

Actively working for the good of the community, one went back home to create positive change and grant money. One keeps us safe in the sky while working for justice on the ground. Another preaches modern civil rights, and still another puts them into practice. And two look after the kids who need it during the school day and after. Two are in health care, one in a rural setting, and one across the world.

After earning degrees in Atlanta and Edinburgh, Scotland, Austin Dickson 07T headed home to Texas to work with the Community Foundation of the Texas Hill Country, the principal philanthropic institution in the region, giving out $3 million in grants each year.

A key legal resource at the Federal Aviation Administration concerning unmanned aircraft systems (drones), hazardous materials, professional liability, and general issues of aviation safety, Brandon Goldberg 10L is also highly involved in promoting social justice in the Atlanta community.

A preacher, author, and social activist, Kevin Murriel 11T focuses his research on translating the methods of the civil rights movement into a modern-day strategy for social justice and racial reconciliation.

With a keen focus on education, Kyle Shaffer 05C has played an important role as a school leader of several Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) charter schools across the country, whose mission is to provide an excellent education to children with limited access to high-quality schools.

Sara Toering 06L 06T credits the beginning of her path of social justice to the summer she spent at the Candler School of Theology's Youth Theological Initiative. She now spends her time focusing on addressing inequities that systematically deny wealth and opportunity to communities of color.

After Ben Sperling 12C graduated from Emory, he joined Teach for America and went on to teach at a school in southeast Atlanta. Those experiences showed him the need to inspire young students through professional exposure, leadership development, community service, and ongoing support. That's how the organization Next Generation Men & Women was born.

Felicia Warren

Felicia Warren

When she is not managing a health care operation in Liberia, working to track HIV/AIDS around the world, or consulting with the Violence against Children and Youth team, Felicia Warren 99Ox 01C 08PH, a public health professional for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is mentoring Emory students.

Dana M. Weston 04C is the first African American, first female, and youngest president and CEO of UNC Rockingham Health Care. She is dedicated to reviving the struggling community hospital to ensure local health care access in rural North Carolina.

Want More?

As Emory alumni, these 40 Under Forty have used their Emory experience to forge their own paths. Each one has a singular life, but who first inspired these inspirational people? How did their Emory experience help them succeed in the real world? Learn more about this dynamic and diverse group..

Email the Editor

Share This Story