Savage Capitalism!

November 21st, 2015 by Nick Jacobs No comments »

I’ve been getting emails from my more conventional friends regarding a small inanimate object that has been upsetting them for the last few years. It’s fascinating to me that they are so distraught over what I consider to be a touch of creative genius that has generated millions of dollars, no tens of millions of dollars, maybe even hundreds of millions of dollars for its creators.

Their contempt feels like it is against all good things relating to capitalism. You know, every child dreams of growing up, getting that one good idea that has never been commercialized before, and retiring to Fort Lauderdale at the age of 39 to just play around on their 120-foot yacht with that helicopter on board for short shopping trips.  

When you take the guided inter-costal waterway tour, guides will point out some $30 million mansion and say, “This is the house that’s owned by the guy who invented the scratch off lottery ticket.” and “That next 75 million dollar house on your right was built by the guy that came up with Post-it Notes.” It’s the American dream: The Pet Rock, the Chia Pet, Rubik’s Cube, the Hula Hoop, and the Slinky. No one ever seems to be upset over these items.

Of course they say that Pet Rocks are stupid, but what they mostly say is, “Gosh, I wish I had invented that.” Remember the Mood Ring, those rubber band bracelets, the Barbie doll? Like I said, it’s the American dream!  

You come up with something that’s simple, can be mass produced, is a catchy idea, can easily be manufactured in China, and is within the price range of every American, and you’ve got it made for the rest of your life.    

Okay, so the problem is when you cross old beliefs with new attitudes to get similar results. For example, you break the law and instead of being incarcerated, you get to wear an ankle bracelet and only are permitted to leave your home for church and funerals. What’s wrong with good ole prisons? (Especially a good old for-profit prison owned by Uncle Bill.)

How about this one, you go to school, you act out, and instead of going to the assistant principal’s office to be paddled, you are given a week’s detention. Remember The Breakfast Club?

I’m sure by now that most of you have figured out that I’m talking about that vigilant, 1984-ish character that lurks around the home from November until Christmas Eve, the enforcer, the seer and know it all, Columbo, the little one who will bust small children for missbehaving during this very tense time of the year, The Elf on the Shelf.

One of the protestor’s favorite sayings is that they never needed an Elf on the Shelf to behave because they always had a belt on the shelf, and that belt was available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for 365 days a year. If you didn’t obey the rules, that belt would keep you in line. It was the old beat-you-into-submission rule of child raising that they embrace.

Truthfully my dad hit me with his belt once when I was six or seven years old, and he used his hand on my backside a few times. But once I got past age seven, I grew up in a generally peaceful environment. I do remember my Italian grandmother constantly telling me that “Goda is watching you, and if you don’t takea the garbage out for you momma, you will burn ina hell.” That was a really good motivator.

So I say that the little creative genius that hangs off the cupboard door, the fireplace, or wherever you want to put him or her is amazing. When the kids are bad just say, “The elf is watching you.” 


From a Director’s Point of View

November 15th, 2015 by Nick Jacobs 1 comment »

After 30 plus in health care, it hit me that my job is exactly the same now as it was my first year of teaching: putting it all together. Actually, it started when I was just eight years old, and I entered the world of music. I learned to participate in an ensemble, a group of musicians who worked tirelessly to make the most amazing music they could possibly make.

It became clear to me a few weeks ago that the group in which I am currently serving, the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine, is attempting to do exactly the same thing: put it all together.

Try to imagine, if you will, a group of musicians that just has three types of instruments: a tuba, a bassoon, and a pair of cymbals. Now that combination would make some pretty strange sounds. Then try to hear in your head a full orchestra with every instrument playing the theme from Star Wars. What a difference.  Each individual musician adds his or her amazing talent and skill to the effort to perfect the sounds they are producing.

Similarly in sports, professional football teams are not just made up of the players. There are coaches, dietitians, strength trainers, psychologists, surgeons, chiropractors, physical therapists, and even financial advisors involved in producing winning teams. Why should life changing healthcare efforts be any different?

When we are children, we are taught things that, in many cases, stay with us for life. We are corrected by our parents, teased and sometimes tortured by our siblings, and challenged unmercifully by our playmates. During this time we also learn what it takes to please our parents, our teachers and our elders.

These thoughts, actions and reactions often start out as tiny strings connected to us that continue to grow in both strength and influence in our minds into ropes that eventually become chains. These chains become steel cables that can wrap around our belief system and our self-images like metal strait jackets.

These issues often reinforce our insecurities, and throw us into meteor showers of self-doubt. They can deprive us of happiness, and sometimes they deprive us of love, but they most definitely deprive us of true health.

These beliefs often contribute to things like working ourselves to near death. Even when we realize that we need help to change, that change is incredibly difficult. The truth is that we often can’t make these changes without help, lots of help, but accepting help is also something that we’re not used to doing. So, we continue to flounder and stagger along our tortured paths.

Who can we turn to? And who has enough knowledge, information, training, and skill to help us?

Integrative medicine practices put together groups of professionals that include individuals from all areas of healthcare expertise, ranging from dietary advice, to attitude advice. Their job is simply defined: to assist you in achieving or regaining your own happiness, health, and well-being by supporting you in recapturing balance in your life.

They provide you with a menu of modalities and experts from which to choose, and you will be nurtured in body, mind, and spirit by professionals who specialize in life-changing work. It’s not about business. It’s about YOU. And it is intended to do one thing: help you find your way back to balance. It’s designed to help you by providing unconditional love while you find your way home, wherever that home may be. It will help you break away those chains and reach deep into the pools of strength that will free you to love and enjoy life.  

The challenge is that our current system is still deeply immersed in sick care. Health and wellness is not yet on their radar screens, but it’s coming to a neighborhood near you. Integrative Medicine is the future of healthcare. 


AIHM – Who can? American.

November 1st, 2015 by Nick Jacobs 1 comment »

Growing up, I remember phrases from commercials like, “Who can? AmeriCAN. The American Heating and Cooling Company.” Or “800-325-3535” sung to a melody that will forever be locked in my mind.  It’s still a functional 800 number for Sheraton Hotels. How about “There’s a Parker made by Jotter with a T-Ball Tip.” Some things just never leave our memories.  They are implanted deeply in our conscious and subconscious minds. Here’s another list of memories that will never go away. “Eat some fruit or “You’re not leaving this table until you finish your vegetables.” And this one, “Go outside and play!”

These were all phrases that we Baby Boomers heard regularly as kids growing up in our “Leave It to Beaver” homes.

Seven years ago a prominent, San Francisco area based physician, Dr. Lee Lipsenthal, invited me to become a member of the American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine.  This was an organization made up entirely of physicians. In fact, as the only non-physician on the board, there were plenty of meetings where we simply looked or listened to each other in wonderment where they were thinking, “What is he doing here?” And my thoughts went something like, “Wow, these are brilliant people, but we’re never going to get anything done if we don’t get out of the weeds.”

That group has now grown into the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine and is an inclusive group that has representation from every modality of healers in the Integrative fields from nurses to acupuncturists and from energy workers to holistic nurses and Naturapaths. There are over 400,000 practitioners now represented in some manner in this group, and they are striving to become the world’s leader in wellness and prevention. Their primary focus is not dissimilar to the phrases above in that they are devotees of diet, exercise, stress management and group support.

The interesting thing about this collection of humanity is something that is perfectly clear to me yet still sometimes a struggle for you. You see, Lee was a guitar player, and I, of course, was a trumpet player and instrumental music director. In music school you can train to be a Diva or an ensemble player with solo capabilities.  Lee didn’t ask me to be on this board specifically because I ran hospitals. He knew that my background included directing ensembles, and that is exactly what the AIHM is supporting, ensemble medicine.

In a discussion with one of my proteomic scientists years ago, it became clear to me that he was a Diva. He had completed his PhD on one particular complex piece of analytic equipment, and every time we got together in a group, it was as if he was a hammer and the world was all nails. My favorite term for describing him was as a piccolo PhD. The piccolo sounds great in an ensemble, but we never attend solo piccolo concerts. Piccolos are best utilized in an ensemble setting.

The AIHM is moving us from individual Diva practitioners to ensembles of healers where the talents of each and every individual are brought to bear for each patient in ways that could never be singularly captured as soloists. Their work is so much richer, deeper, and more profound and beautiful as an ensemble. Each practitioner brings his or her healing capabilities to the individual patient and utilizes their discrete training and skills in concert.

Does your gut hurt? Why not have a Naturopath assist you in clearing up your candida with probiotics, herbs, and specific foods while your physician, acupuncturist, and massage therapist works on your other physical challenges to help you achieve optimal health and wellness? It just makes sense and is the first real effort to make wellness and prevention the center of our universe.

Take a step back and listen to the music from a team of incredible professionals working together to help you.



October 18th, 2015 by Nick Jacobs 1 comment »

It’s all relative My headset, those little white earbuds for my iPhone, is lost. OK, maybe lost is too strong; it’s misplaced. My personal form-fitting earbuds, those high tech pieces of plastic that bring audio pleasures to my grey matter are missing. They could be in a jacket, suit, or sport coat pocket, or they could even be neatly wedged between the pillows on the couch or on the floor underneath the front seat of my car. Let’s put it this way. As soon as I buy another set, I’m sure that I’ll find them.

That’s called the theory of relatively. Once you pay out the cash for two earbuds connected to some 13-cent wire, the originals will show up. You can bet on that just as sure as that you’ll be slipping on ice and falling on your butt in Pennsylvania by December. This is where the relativity part comes in; because once you buy another set, you’ll find the old set, and feel relatively stupid.

Let’s add a couple more layers of stupid to that list by shopping for a new set. It seemed like a good idea to pick up a spare pair just in case, and since there are airport specialty shops that deal in electronics, my first, worst instinct was to look around there. Of course it was no surprise to see those magnificent Bose earphones that cancel out all known sound on earth and take you to places that, before you put them on, existed only in some audiophile’s mind. These gems can cost around $300.

Today’s surprise, however, came from the three other displays of hundreds and hundreds of earbuds that cost that much, too. What could possibly be in those little finger-tip-sized pieces of plastic that cost that much? What could be that amazing, that magnificent, that expensive, and that valuable? Did they have titanium base wires powered by little tiny Tesla electric engines with gold dust blown into acoustically modified speakers? Are they hand crafted from the teeth of ancient mammals, or did someone make them from your own very personalized and altered DNA? Is it possible that the folks who make those hearing aids that are wired directly to your auditory sensors through your skull are now in the music business? Could the engineers who designed the Hubble telescope and the Moon Rover now be playing inside your ear canals as well? It seemed incomprehensible that something so small, so plastic, so vulnerable to being misplaced could cost that much. It felt almost sinful that, while people are homeless and hungry, my fellow business travelers might have the equivalent of Audi or Lexus earbuds shoved in those two little ear openings. How, in a world filled with suffering and pain could such extravagance exist?

That was a redundant question because right in front of my eyes, I saw a set of ear buds that cost more than $1,000, sound isolating earphones with quad high definition micro-drivers and a true subwoofer. That’s when my brain flashed back toaconsultant in 1991 who sat at my conference table with a Mont Blanc fountain pen, Mont Blanc flair tip, Mont Blanc highlighter, and Mont Blanc mechanical pencil, those fancy plastic writing tools that cost collectively over $1,000, stuffed in his pocket. It made me grasp tightly to my Bic.

It’s kind of sad that we, as human beings, desperately try to prove our value to ourselves, our peers, and our families through material things. I’ve always admired those strong folks who are so confident and secure that designer accoutrements mean nothing to them. Unfortunately, that’s a struggle for me on an ongoing basis.

So what did I do? I bought a $10 headset to get me through the week until I returned home, and when I did, my daughter called to tell me that she found the originals on the nightstand.


Random Thoughts About Things That Confuse ME

October 12th, 2015 by Nick Jacobs 1 comment »
 People have often asked me, “Where were you when Kennedy was shot?” In fact, I was in gym class. Six years after that, on April 4, 1968, I was in Pittsburgh when Martin Luther King was shot. I was back again in Pittsburgh on June 5, 1968 when Bobby Kennedy was killed. Finally, as a young teacher in Johnstown, on May 4, 1970, four students were killed and nine more were wounded by the Ohio National Guard at Kent State University. Between the riots and civil unrest that followed these events, I was pretty sure that our world was spinning out of control, and I had just graduated from college.

It was during that time of the Vietnam War, the escalation of the Cold War, the race riots and political rallies, that a chasm began to appear between those men who still had crew cuts and white socks, and conservative hippie kids like me with my wire-frame glasses, sideburns, and mustache.

In fact, at my very first job interview, the department head, a man who was still firmly planted in the 50’s, asked me if because I was my college class president, I’d ever been involved in a campus riot. Meanwhile, there had only ever been one small demonstration at my university, and I wasn’t even on campus when it happened. But his question offended me so much that I replied, “Only the one.” Needless to say that job went to someone with a crew cut and white socks.

Throughout my life I held profound optimism that because we were a country that embraced education, espoused Judeo-Christian love, and incorporated tolerance and diversity in our stated beliefs, our philosophies would prevail and the world would become a better place. Wrong.

Because I spend much of my time on the road, Facebook is often the way I keep in touch with my virtual and real families. It keeps me apprised of changes, challenges, and the daily activities of those I both care about and want to be connected to through this last quarter of my life.

Of course, Facebook is filled with puppies, kittens, babies, and opinions, and many of those opinions remind me of the Archie Bunker character who so famously dominated the airwaves in the All in the Family sitcom of the 1970’s. That series, along with MASH and The Jefferson’s attempted to challenge the way Americans dealt with race, war, and general closed-minded prejudices.

It makes me sad when my friends, people that I love and most often respect, write posts that are passionately in support of social beliefs that embrace continued gun violence, racial prejudice, twisted religious beliefs, intolerance, greed and hatred. It would be easy to unfriend them, to write them off, and forget about them, but the teacher in me wants to try to educate them and to help them find their way. That never works because most of them are Archie Bunker’s age and older. All I’m asking is for tolerance, the embracing of diversity, and a non-violent philosophy of loving others. It’s the Golden Rule. Unfortunately, it’s often the Rule of Gold that seems to prevail.

I can tell you where I was on April 20, 1999, April 6, 2007, December 14, 2012: Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Sandyhook. Unfortunately, I can’t even tell you the name of the school or how many kids were killed on January 4, September 14, September 30 of this year. October 1, 2015, however, became more tangible because the hospital that cared for the wounded in Oregon is run by a friend, and Troy Polamalu’s cousin Brandon, a teacher at Umpqua Community College, was on campus at the time of the shooting.

Minimally, as a country, can’t we invest in behavioral health initiatives and enforce background checks.

Meathead really was the voice of reason on so many levels


Speaking on this at AIHM Conference San Diego on October 24th

August 28th, 2015 by Nick Jacobs 1 comment »


We’ve all heard the expression that we are products of our environment, but that doesn’t really explain our decisions in life. For example, the first decade of my youth was spent in poverty. It was not Appalachian, dirt floor, poverty because we lived in my grandmother’s house, but it was powdered milk, government cheese, patches on my clothes poverty.   Then my dad got a job that literally thrust us into the middle class overnight. Some kids who were raised poor want to help their fellow man. Others want to show everyone that they are superior.   Who does which and why?

After teaching for nearly a decade in City Schools where children from low socio-economic backgrounds, were the rule, I became sensitized to their problems and lack of privilege. My last two years of teaching, however, were spent in a school where the average family income was much higher. The problems were still there, but in different packages. Some of those kids, both rich and poor, have made it big and have dedicated their lives to helping others. Which ones were they and why?

When I went to Europe for the first time, I experienced a different philosophy that fascinated me. It was a form of humanism. As a population they were taking care of each other.

That opinion was reinforced during my first trip to Toronto. There were no people living on the streets in Toronto. The both the ill and the mentally ill were being cared for, and, most importantly, there seemed to be much less violence, a type of peace in the form of mutual respect.

In the mid-2000’s, I made a trip to Africa. In one of the largest oil producing countries in the world, I saw poverty that was incomprehensible. It was clear that the only thing that was trickling down to the masses there was sadness, sorrow, and early death.

When I began working in the Netherlands a few years later, the vast majority of the people were middle class. Beggars were not visible on the streets, and a few years later, at the height of the world economic collapse, a trip to Spain reinforced this. With a 26% unemployment rate, I saw only three beggars in a major city.

It was at that time that the Affordable Care Act was being discussed, and my hopes began to rise.   Finally, we would prioritize wellness and prevention and behavioral health with parity for all other forms of health. We would take care of our fellow man in some way other than imprisonment. We would not have one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world, and we would begin to care for each other in a way that would be three times less expensive than our last two wars.

We would find the money that would allow us to take care of our fellow man and things would begin to get better; less obesity, less diabetes, less domestic terrorism from mentally ill, young white men. We would help those people who needed help the most.

The Accountable Care Organization, a result of the Affordable Care Act, seemed to be one way to finally shift the resources from a Sickness to a Wellness and Prevention based venue. We would be reimbursed for quality not quantity.   We would convert from a case by case sickness to a root-cause humane oriented, wellness based system.

Then it struck me that our medical profession has not been trained to function in this system, and as long as the rewards for sickness were greater than those for wellness, making that change would be incredibly difficult. So, I’ve spent the last seven years investing my energy in a philosophy that embraces evidence based, world medicine. It’s my dream that we can integrate world health modalities for wellness and prevention, and save our country from economic ruin while protecting our future generations from premature death.



The Windber Journey

August 16th, 2015 by Nick Jacobs 3 comments »

As a Vice President at Mercy Hospital, the Chief Communications Officer at Conemaugh (now Duke Lifepoint) and finally a CEO at Windber Medical Center, I became a frontline recipient of the knowledge needed to help change our system from sick care to wellness and prevention care.  The problem was that we had directed all of our country’s resources to sickness.   It became increasingly apparent that if we didn’t create massive changes in the system, the Baby Boomers would bankrupt the country and create a generation of children that would not live as long or be even as healthy as their parents.

Four critical stepping stones that appeared along my journey.

  1. As a 27 year old band director, I had personally experienced integrative medicine as a patient and saw the incredible value that those modalities could provide to patients.
  2. Another fortuitous event that occurred along my journey was that I was interviewed for a CEO position at Boys Town National Research Hospital. I was shocked and amazed when the former president of Boys Town, Father Val Peters, a Jesuit priest, introduced me to the concept of having a genome center as part of the hospital. This was in 1992, about a decade before the mapping of the genome.
  3. When I arrived as CEO of Windber Medical Center, I was informed by a former employee that because they had mastered a surgical technique that was unique, Windber surgeons had performed thyroid surgeries on several luminaries back in the 50s and 60s. It showed me that anyone would travel for the appropriate care.
  4. This last step came when Congressman John Murtha took an interest in our work, and he gave us an opportunity to become involved with the healthcare within the Department of Defense.

It was the confluence of those opportunities and ideas that merged in my mind, and when we received financial support for breast cancer research though the Congressman, Dr. Craig Shriver appeared on our campus and said to me, “What do you want to do here?”

The next stream of words flowed freely out of my mouth, “I want to create the genome center for the Department of Defense for Breast Cancer.”  His response was, “If you’re going to do genetics, we might as well do proteomics as well.”  To which I said, “We might as well because I’m not sure what either one of them are.  I’ll be the administrator you can be physician and principal investigator.”  And our partnership began.

When I asked him how we would get PhD’s to come to Windber, Pennsylvania, he smiled and said, “Let me help you work on that.”  When the first PhDs arrived I asked them why they had not won the Nobel Prize. Interestingly enough, they had a list of reasons that identified some of the dysfunctionality of basic science.

It was Dr. Richard Somiari who understood and embraced our vision for the Windber Research Institute.   As a musician I told him that I wanted to have ensembles of scientists, not divas and he and his wife, Dr. Stella Somiari, had told me that we also wanted tissue collected in a manner that would produce the finest results.

They also said that we needed to collect patient demographic information in a way that would give the scientist the needed information to do their work.  This resulted in Col. Shriver creating a 40 page protocol on how to collect tissue, and then he, Richard, and Dr. Hai Hu created a 500 question survey of demographic information to be collected from each donor.

This tissue repository, managed by Dr. Stella Somiari and managed by Jim Bombatch with over 60,000 donated breast tissue ended up being used as one of the resource centers for mapping the human breast cancer genome, and with an 84% acceptance rate, nearly triple the acceptance rate of the other major medical organizations that were involved, Windber was rated by the National Cancer Institute as the only platinum quality tissue repository in the United States.

Finally, we decided to create one central data repository to hold all of the collected information.

Fifteen years later, Tom Kurtz, CEO of both the Research Institute and Medical Center made one phone call which captured the imagination of Dr. Patrick Soon Shiong that has led to a remarkable partnership, the first of many that will launch Windber and the Johnstown area into one of the top ranking centers of excellence and cancer care in United States and the world.

Congratulations, Tom and the Board members who embraced this opportunity and to Dr. Soon Shiong for your amazing vision.  I love it when a plan comes together, and I couldn’t be more proud of my friends and former colleagues.


Ambassador Rich Verma . . . Doing What He Does Best – Excelling

July 31st, 2015 by Nick Jacobs 2 comments »

Dear Friends:

Just six months ago, President Obama came to Delhi as the Chief Guest for India’s Republic Day celebrations, and 10 years ago this month, the United States and India launched our historic cooperation on civil nuclear technology.  Over this decade, our relationship with India has soared.  Our partnership is broader and deeper than it has ever been before.  We are working on over 80 initiatives coming out of the President’s visit, and we’ve launched or reinvigorated over 30 working groups since Prime Minister Modi visited Washington last September.

In light of this historic cooperation, I am providing you with further background on the growth of the relationship between our countries.  I recently co-wrote an op-ed with my friend, Arun Singh, the Indian Ambassador to the United States, explaining how India and the United States, working together, will be a powerful force for peace and prosperity in the 21st Century, available here:

Our Embassy team also prepared a short video blog documenting our last six months of progress and activities here in India.  It’s been a busy time, as you can see here:

If you want to know our stance on a wide range of issues, from climate change to defense cooperation to commercial matters, you can find a collection of speeches and remarks on our Embassy website:

Finally, my Embassy team and I have reflected on this decade of growth since we launched our negotiations for the landmark U.S.-India civil nuclear agreement, and we collected some facts and figures that might help put in perspective how far the United States and India have come.  I would like to share a few of these highlights and illustrative facts and figures:  


  • S. investments in India have grown significantly – from a total of $7.7 billion in 2004 to $28 billion today.  Over the past few years, India has become the fourth fastest growing source of foreign direct investment into the United States.
  • Two-way trade has nearly tripled from $36 billion in 2005 to $104 billion in 2014, as we work towards $500 billion in trade.
  • Today, there are over 500 U.S. companies active in India, while the number of Indian companies operating in the United States has increased from roughly 85 companies in 2005 to over 200 companies today.
  • Travel for tourism, business, and education has skyrocketed:  We have seen a 152% increase in overall visa applications for Indians wishing to travel to the U.S. from 398,931 in fiscal year 2005 to 1,007,811 since this fiscal year started in October 2014.  Visa applications for Indian students have seen the strongest increase, of 202% (30,513 in FY 2005 to 92,156 in FY 2015).  U.S. visitors to India have nearly doubled from 611,165 visitors in 2005 to 1,123,444 in 2015.

Defense Cooperation:

  • Ten years ago, the United States and India barely conducted any defense trade.  Over the last few years, the United States has signed approximately $10 billion in defense sales to India. Our defense cooperation has helped promote India’s role as a security provider in the Indian Ocean region with direct benefit to third countries. For example, the Indian Air Force used C-130s and C-17 aircraft to evacuate Indian and third country nationals from Yemen and speed relief supplies to Nepal after a devastating earthquake.
  • S. and Indian businesses have partnered on the co-development of defense equipment, establishing a base from which to launch new Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) co-development and co-production efforts in the future and expand the Indian defense industrial base.
  • The complexity of military exercises has increased in the last 10 years.  The annual bilateral training exercise ‘Yudh Abhyas’ has grown from a squad and platoon-level exercise to a company/battalion-level maneuver exercise, including a brigade-level computer simulation exercise where the U.S. and Indian Armies operate together.  This year, the U.S.-India naval exercise ‘Malabar’ will welcome the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force for the second consecutive year, along with other countries.


  • In 2015, India-U.S. bilateral agricultural and food trade is on track to quintuple in value compared to 2005, exceeding $6 billion.  Due in part to sustained USDA Cooperator marketing activities and USDA programs, U.S. agricultural exports to India are poised to achieve a new record high in 2015.
  • Since 2005 USDA has sponsored 112 Indian agricultural researchers under the Borlaug Fellowship Program, and 79 fellows under the Cochran Fellowship Program.  These figures include 21 participants in the two programs for 2015.


  • Indian students account for the second-largest group of foreign students in the United States, with approximately 102,673 students studying in the United States in 2013-14. At the same time, a growing number of Americans are choosing to study abroad in India, with over 4,000 students in India during academic year 2012-13. These students advance innovation and research in our universities and in their communities when they return home.

Fulbright Exchanges:

  • The Fulbright-Nehru program has nearly tripled in size since 2009, when the program became truly binational with joint funding for exchanges, with approximately 300 Indian and U.S. students and scholars now participating annually.  Since 1950, the United States-India Education Foundation (USIEF) has awarded approximately 9,962 Fulbright grants in a full range of academic disciplines.  USIEF has also administered 8,634 other awards, including the U.S. Department of Education’s Fulbright-Hays and the East-West Center grants, for a total of over 18,500 awards in the last 65 years.


  • Since 1993, the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) has assigned experts to World Health Organization’s (WHO) regional and country offices in India to support surveillance of vaccine-preventable diseases.  Through this active collaboration, in 2014, India was certified as polio-free and the CDC continues to work with Indian researchers to strengthen the national immunization program and accelerate control of measles and rubella.
  • In 2012, the CDC, through their Global Disease Detection India Center, located at India’s National Centre for Disease Control, helped establish the India Epidemic Intelligence Service program (EIS) – a post graduate field training program modeled after the US EIS – which will help promote public health and support the necessary health workforce to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease threats.
  • India is the second largest exporter of pharmaceuticals to the United States.  In FY 2014, India held a 13% share of the total 64,170 imported lines of pharmaceuticals.


  • Cooperation on space science has soared to new levels – from collaboration on projects that measure aspects of Earth’s oceans and global precipitation, to recent success on a mission to Mars, to working jointly on a satellite project that will help scientists understand climate change and natural disasters.  Our scientists and space organizations continue to look for new areas on which to collaborate.

You can follow us online through these sites:


Embassy and Ambassador Twitter handles:  @USAndIndia and @USAmbIndia




Thank you and best wishes,




Richard R. Verma

US Ambassador





The Furry Convention 2015

July 11th, 2015 by Nick Jacobs 1 comment »

The Anthropomorphic Convention is this weekend in Pittsburgh. Athrocon began in 1997 and is now the largest Furry Convention in the world. Over 5500 Furrys will attend the 2015 Conference at the Pittsburgh Convention. The Anthropomorphic organization is a not for profit corporation dedicated to holding this fun conference each year.  In the nonprofit spirit, Athrocon has raised more than $200,000 for charities since 1997. 

Included in the ranks of participants are professional sports mascots, animators, cartoonist, puppeteers, artists, illustrators, and writers as well as those who simply think that it would be great if animals could walk or talk like we do.  I wanted to know more about the people behind the masks.  My first interview was with John Cole, a.k.a., KP, a famous character and conference organizer. 

John, originally from Texas, is now living in Orlando, Florida where he says that he, “Works to live, and does not live to work.”  KP is a peasant guy with a very welcoming personality.  His real job is in the insurance industry, but his passion is as a puppeteer who performs as a sheep dog.  He volunteers his time with an organization that works with the Make a Wish Foundation in the Orlando area.  It’s an amusement park and nonprofit organization called Give Kids the World which operates in Kissimmee near the other parks.  It operates on 74 acres where children with life threatening illnesses are treated to a free weeklong vacation. KP described it as a place where children can live out their fantasy story. 

He proceeded to tell me all about Jeremiah, a little boy who kept running up to the stage to try to touch KP’s costume.  Finally, when it was his turn, KP asked the little boy why he was grabbing at him.  As it turned out, Jeremiah was blind and wanted to know what the performing animals were.  KP explained he was a large sheepdog with glasses on, and Jeremiah was confused. Why would a dog wear glasses? KP went on to explain that he was Elton John Dog and he was wearing glasses to be cool.  He also explained that there was a ferret and a fox on the stage with him. 

At the end of their skit, KP felt really bad because Jeremiah had come to the show and not known what animals were performing.  So, they decided to make a music video for him. They sent the video to his home, and in the video they said, “Now Jeremiah go to the box that came with the video and take out the glasses because these are the very same glasses that the sheepdog was wearing, and they are cool. Then KP said, “Have your mom go to the box and take out the fur.  It’s the very same fur that you were feeling behind my ear.”  “Finally,” he said, “Get the little stone from the box.” This stone is a Magic Wishing Stone. It can make our dreams come true.” “Oh, and Jeremiah, we want you to make our dreams come true, too. We want you to get better.”

He teared up a little as he told me this last part.  A year later, Jeremiah came back to the park, ran up to the stage and said, “I’ve got something to tell you. I’m cancer free.”  That’s what makes KP tick. 

In his spare time, KP also works with children with Progeria disease, the aging disease in kids.

Then I met Ned, the amazing musician, a graduate of Berkeley College of Music.  Ned, a costumed bear named Rhubarb, and a master of his trade. I could go on and on, but . . . the convention is open to the public and because it is a Cartoon animal convention, it’s fun for the kids.  There’s even a Furry Jazz Concert on Saturday. Mark it in your calendar for next year! 


July 3rd

July 6th, 2015 by Nick Jacobs 3 comments »

It was July 3rd, an almost National Holiday, and my job that afternoon was to watch, hang out, and play with the six, seven, and eight year old girls before taking them on a boat ride that evening.   They arrived at my building at precisely 1PM, and the entertainment began.  After greeting Ron, the doorman, the two youngest cousins had a passionate discussion over who would get to push which buttons on the elevator to get to my condo.

Once the button pushing pecking order had been established, the chaos began in earnest. There was, of course, the struggle over who would insert the door key, then over who would get to ring the doorbell at least six times, and finally, who would turn and twist that key and turn the doorknob.

Once inside the condo, there was additional chaos as they discussed (for three seconds) who would get to explore the powder room and the bathroom first. They did their thing, grabbed a handful of dark chocolate, Hershey Kisses from my candy jar, and we returned to the elevator for our journey to lunch.

As we walked up the street, I thought it might be fun for them to visit the University bookstore which was only a block away.   Unfortunately, I think they were a few years too early to completely appreciate this grown-up experience. The seven -year-old ran immediately to a clothing rack, and she picked out a cute, pink T-shirt with the school logo on it.  Then she asked me how to pronounce what it said.  When I told her that it said Duquesne.  In a very loud and bellicose voice she declared, “I don’t want to wear anything with that word on cause I don’t know what it means!”

After looking at every single kid book in the store and examining every $44 Vera Bradley IPhone case, we decided that their purchase would be journals. Each girl would get a fancy notebook.  We went to the fancy notebook section of the store where the two oldest cousins selected exactly the same book. That particular selection was made because these books had secret compartments in the back. The youngest one selected hers because she liked the colors on the cover.

We then decided they should go downstairs to the office supply section and each get a pen.  This time all selections were made based on color, after which we proceeded to checkout.  As we left the bookstore, they ran to a table outside, opened their journals and begin writing.  That’s when the youngest one realized that she had purchased, not a journal, but a calendar.  She sure as heck didn’t want a calendar. So we went inside and exchanged it for a notebook.  Then she noticed that she had purchased a highlighter, but since she doesn’t write very much, it really didn’t seem to matter.

We walked another block down the street to a TGI Friday’s.   The youngest girl made a bathroom stop, then another bathroom stop, and after that, another one.  This time, though, she lingered for a long time, and we all began to worry a little, but neither of the other two girls were interested in checking on her because she had previously announced what her bathroom intentions were. This caused her cousin and sister to be fearful that they would be exposed to a potentially hazardous assault on their olfactory senses.

It was at that point that I went to the ladies room door and yelled for her to come out. She exited with a big smile on her face.  I asked her two questions, “Did you do what you said? And did you wash your hands?” She laughed and replied, “Yes, Poppa, yes, I did both, but do you know why I was in there for so long?

I was in there because I was dancin!”

Ah, the simple pleasures of youth.