2013 Honorees

The U.S. Immigrant Entrepreneurs Leadership Award

Tej Dhawan, Principal, Startup City Des Moines

Tej Dhawan, a principal of StartUpCity Des Moines (a technology incubator in downtown Des Moines) and co-founder of Pikuzone CEO, recalled his childhood that “As early as an 8-year old, I knew that I’d be in business for myself at some point in my life.” In the 34 years since he has been involved with a number of ventures including running a comic-book rental store in India, programming a display for Delhi’s first computer retailer, selling  and computers, programming/consulting for small & mid-sized businesses, co-owning and running a company that makes correctional software. Currently, Tej has a business where technology startups are incubated and mentored.

Tej has invested his time and energy on a full-time basis to the needs of the community with a specific focus on immigrants, education, and the startup and technology related fields.  Tej truly gives back to the community in a multitude of ways.

Tej came to the US in 1987 to pursue an undergraduate degree at Central College in Pella. Upon graduation, he began a career at Principal Financial Group, leaving it to start his IT services company. He merged the company with a friend’s in 1995 and successfully exiting it in 2010. Since 2010, he has directed his focus to fostering the entrepreneurial ecosystem for Central Iowa, focusing on technology startups, immigration reform, entrepreneurship and education.  He serves on the Board of Trustees of Central College, on the Governor’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Council, the Board of Ballet Des Moines, and the Board for SIKH (Sikhs of Iowa Khalsa Heritage), Inc.


Outstanding Immigrant Business Award

Comercializadora Del Midwest (CDM)

Co-Owners:  Marco Miranda and Roberto Gomez

Comercializadora del Midwest (CDM) was formed on a vision generated by two business partners who saw the need and opportunity to distribute Central and South American products in Minnesota.  Not only is there a 20 year gap between these two partners but they have different skills, experiences, and talents.  However, that did not stop them frombuilding a successful distribution company that now operates in multiple Midwestern states.

Roberto Gómez Ortiz graduated with a Business Administration degree and brings experiences in imports, administration, negotiation, sales and marketing.  Marco Miranda is a systems engineer who offers experience in the financial market, negotiations, sales and administration. By personally visiting local supermarkets and learning about their food and culture, these two South Americans were able to better understand their Central American products.

After seven denials and rejections for capital funding, their perseverance paid off and they were able to make their first delivery in October, 2007.  In April of 2008, CDM expanded into Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, Kansas and Missouri.  By July, 2010 their routes increased throughout the Midwest and saw tremendous growth in the company.

Today, CDM serves six states across the Midwest and offers more than 900 products between Central Americans and South Americans to over 200 Latino customers and supermarkets.  With a team of 13 employees, the goal of CDM is to also help their clients by offering coaching and support with credit lines, access to capital and  payment options tailored to  their needs. Learning from their past experiences, they are excited to give back and help new entrepreneurs who are interested in opening a supermarket.  Not only does CDM provide financial assistance to other companies, but also offers advise that is based on the company structure and location of these companies.


Immigrant Spirit Award

Dr. Chirantan Ghosh, Founder, The Ghosh Center for Oncology & Hematology

Dr. Chirantan Ghosh was born in 1955 in Calcutta, India, to a large family of modest means. The 9th of 10 children, little Chirantan learned the most important lessons of his life from his parents. His mother taught him to always remember the poor and to care for them. From his father he learned to stand for what he believed no matter the cost.

After medical school, Dr. Ghosh followed his brother Sam to the United States. He worked in a small Chicago hospital for a few years and thencompleted his residency at Hines Veterans Hospital. It was a regional hospital to which complicated cases were referred and Dr. Ghosh thrived in the challenging environment. After three successful years in internal medicine at Hines, he took a position as a fellow at Case Western Reserve University. It was the beginning of his career in oncology and hematology.  He found his greatest skill and satisfaction came from working directly with patients and he sought a position that would allow him to continue the clinical research he was doing at Case within a patient based practice.  Although he thought he might land in California, it was Oncology Associates in Cedar Rapids that ultimately turned out to the best fit for him and his wife Sima.In 1990, they packed all their belongings into their aging Sentra and moved to Cedar Rapids.

The first years in Cedar Rapids were rewarding but difficult. It took five years before he won over the community with his innovative style of practicing medicine. From that time to the present he has had the largest oncology practice in Cedar Rapids.

In 2002, Dr. Ghosh left Oncology Associates to establish his own practice, Iowa Blood & Cancer Care. He wanted a practice that would focus first and foremost on the patient.

He encouraged his patients to look after their mental and physical health and their fitness. He offered them Y memberships and yoga classes. He added a nutritionist and social worker to his staff. He established a foundation that helps patients fill in the gaps in their insurance. The foundation buys wigs for breast cancer patients and pain medication for those whose insurance doesn’t cover them. Privately he helped patients meet financial obligations.  Patients are given his personal cell phone number and encouraged to call whenever they need to. He visits his patients at their homes when it is difficult for them to come to his office.  And he promises each patient that he will be with them on every step of their journey wherever that journey takes them.

Each year Dr. And Mrs. Ghosh give away much of their income – to the foundation, to flood victims and to educational programs in the high schools and colleges.

In his native India he purchased and outfitted an ambulance to take medical services into the community surrounding Calcutta. He has established a school for homeless boys and has plans to open a similar school for girls.

Those are the lessons he learned from his parents a half century ago. They are the lessons that continue to guide him in his private life, his practice of medicine and his spiritual life.


Karen Evans Immigrant Champion Award

Iowa Center on Health Disparities (Director, Dr. Michele Devlin)

The Iowa Center for Immigrant Leadership and Integration (DirectorDr. Mark Grey)

In order to address the obvious and rapidly growing need for health disparities research, training, and community outreach, the University of Northern Iowa received a highly competitive grant from the National Institutes of Health to establish the Iowa Center on Health Disparities. The Iowa Center provides statewide academic leadership in addressing and reducing health disparities among minority, immigrant, and medically underserved populations in Iowa.

The Iowa Center for Immigrant Leadership and Integration (ICILI) guides and prepares Iowa communities and businesses as they accommodate immigrant and refugee newcomers living and working in Iowa. ICILI provides tailored consultation for community leadership, conducts research relating to issues facing newcomers and communities, develops innovative training programs for business and industry, and educates Iowans concerning the needs, challenges and opportunities of their new immigrant neighbors, co-workers and employees. All ICILI programming incorporates a strong appreciation for the critical role newcomers play in ensuring the long-term social and economic vitality of Iowa’s businesses and communities.

Together, these agencies have extensive ties with many minority and rural populations in the state, as well as an outstanding record of conducting innovative research that positively impacts immigrants and refugees who are among the most vulnerable and disenfranchised individuals and families in Iowa.