From all walks of life, 32 college students selected as Rhodes Scholars for 2007

Monday, November 20th 2006, 6:36 am
By: News On 6

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Washington University student Leana S. Wen's childhood asthma was so severe that part of her lung was removed. Her frequent hospitalizations led her to pursue a career in medicine while she was still a teenager.

``I wanted to help the world,'' Wen said.

Her work toward that goal helped her become one of the 32 men and women across the United States selected Sunday as Rhodes Scholars for 2007. The students will enter Oxford University in England next October.

Wen, 23, was born in Shanghai, China, and her family sought political asylum in the United States when she was 8. She started college at 13 and will finish medical school in May.

She has served as the national president of the 65,000-member American Medical Student Association and as a global health fellow for the World Health Organization in Geneva.

In January, she will travel to Rwanda to develop treatment programs for women who contracted HIV as a result of genocide-related rapes.

Wen envisions a career that combines developing health care policy and working as an emergency room physician. ``I would be able to see patients that often society neglects,'' she said.

The scholars were selected from 896 applicants endorsed by 340 colleges and universities, and will join scholars selected from 13 other jurisdictions around the world. Approximately 85 are selected each year. The scholarships provide two or three years of study, with the total value averaging about $45,000 per year.

Rhodes Scholarships were created in 1902 by the will of British philanthropist Cecil Rhodes. Winners are selected on the basis of high academic achievement, personal integrity, leadership potential and physical vigor, among other attributes.

Many of the recipients have already spent time overseas.

Maria Repnikova arrived in America from Latvia at 14 without knowing English but immersed herself in language classes and graduated this year from Georgetown University.

She has blended an interest in China, after studying in Beijing, with her curiosity about Russia _ a subject she was prevented from studying while in Latvia _ to produce her current research focus on Chinese immigrant labor in northeast Russia.

``I feel personally connected to the field of migration because I experienced it myself,'' Repnikova, 22, said in a telephone interview Sunday from her parents' home in Burlington, Vt.

Whitney Haring-Smith spent the summer working for a U.N.-funded disarmament program in Afghanistan and also spent time with the U.N.'s refugee agency in Sri Lanka.

``It was really good to see the nitty-gritty of international relations,'' said Haring-Smith, 21, a Providence, R.I., native and senior at Yale University.

Zachary Manfredi, a senior at Atlanta's Emory University, interned in the democracy program of The Carter Center, working on civil society building programs and election monitoring in the Congo, Ivory Coast and Haiti.

``As a Rhodes Scholar I'll get to work on important political causes and also to keep asking important philosophic questions. It's a synthesis of my two greatest loves: justice and knowledge,'' said Manfredi, 21, of Rochester, Mich.

Kevin Shenderov immigrated with his family from Ukraine in 1990; he and his brother suffered health problems as a result of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster.

Now a 19-year-old senior at New York University, Shenderov has already been involved in conducting cancer research and was an organizer of a conference that dealt with problems affecting health services in developing nations. Like his older brother, Eugene, also a Rhodes Scholar, Shenderov plans to study for a doctorate in immunology at Oxford.

``I want to be able to help create a more effective cancer vaccine,'' he said.

Harvard senior Parvinder Thiara's grandfather died of infectious diarrhea from drinking tainted water in India while Thiara prepared to begin his second year in college.

Thiara, 21, of Rochelle, Ill., co-founded an organization dedicated to improving water sanitation technologies, particularly in impoverished regions.

``We're trying to develop natural products that can be grown and easily processed,'' said Thiara, who plans to study theoretical chemistry and water science policy and management at Oxford. ``We're just trying to develop the means to make it effective on a rural, local scale.''