Physician and active community member Dr. Manju Sheth is INDIA New England's 2011 Woman of the Year. She was crowned at the newspaper's 9th annual Woman of the Year award banquet on June 1 at the Burlington Marriott, which was attended by 325 people. During the event a seven-member panel of judges voted Sheth this year's winner from among a field of 20 South Asian women.
Sheth, nominated for last year's Woman of the Year award, was surprised by the honor. "I'm nearly speechless," she said.
"What a great community we live in and I get paid to do a job I love," she added, saying that there was no other place she would rather have been at that moment than onstage receiving the award. "I don't think heaven could be better than this. If I'm dreaming don't wake me up," said Sheth.
Sheth, a Lynnfield resident, is a practicing physician at Beverly Hospital. She co-founded the Indian Physician Women's Forum, is an executive committee member of the Indian American Forum for Political Education, and is the secretary at the Indian Medical Association of New England, as well as serving as its cultural committee chair.
Sheth is also on the board of directors for the Asian Task Force for Domestic Violence. She co-chaired the first fundraiser women's rights group Saheli. India New England readers recently voted Sheth as a winner of a Readers Choice Award for Best Doctor 2011.
Sheth ranked receiving the award high on her list of personal accomplishments, including getting married and becoming a mother.
"It doesn't get much better than that ... to get an award for something you're so passionate about," she said.
Sheth, who often takes her daughter along to community functions, said she will use her title to hopefully inspire the community at large into becoming more active. "If everybody gives a little bit it becomes a stronger community," said Sheth.
Raj Sharma, managing director of investments and head of The Sharma Group of Merrill Lynch Private Banking and Investment Group, chaired the panel of judges. Other judges included: Ravi Ika, founder and chief executive officer of computing company ikaSystems; Indira Patel, president and CEO of New England Office Supply Inc.; Vishnu Shukla, principal technologist at Verizon; Jay Srinivasan, senior vice president and the manager of the SAP business unit for Pyramid; Dr. Rekha Tadepalli, board-certified child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist; and Amrita Dhamoon Sahni, assistant principal and director of instruction at Edwards Middle School in Boston, and India New England 2010 Woman of the Year.
Although Sheth won the evening's top honor, all 20 finalists were honored with awards reflective of their contributions to their respective fields.
The award winners are: Sangeeta Ahuja, Health Services Council chair of the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin, won the Global Leadership Award; Hanishi Ali, founder of the Network for South Asian Women, won the Professional Organization Development Award; Aniyizhai Annamalai, director of the Yale Refugee Clinic, won the Refugee and Immigrant Services Award; Seema Arora, vice president of the United India Association, won the Cultural Promotion and Heritage Preservation Award; Shahana Basu Kanodia, partner and chair of the South Asia Practice Group, Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge LLP, won the Corporate and International Law Award; Amulya Deepak, director and founder, Vividha School of Dance, won the Excellence in Teaching of Bollywood Dance Award; Gita Desai, documentary filmmaker, won the Film and Documentary Award; Neela Gandhi, general practice dentist at Rofe Dental Associates, won the Excellence in Dentistry Award; Aditi Hazra, founder and president of PinkSari Inc., won the Breast Cancer Prevention Award; Gopa Kumar, head of In Banitirtha, Institution for Bengali Language and Indian Culture, won the Promotion of Language and Culture Award; Deepa Mangalat, youth group coordinator of The India Association of New Hampshire, won the Youth Leadership Award; Mouli Pal, director of Upasana Odissi Inc., won the Excellence in Teaching of Odissi Dance Award; Falguni Patel, chief financial officer of Ignition Technologies, won the Business Excellence Award; Kesha Ram, State Representative at the Vermont House of Representatives, won the Political Leadership Award; Eshani Shah, vice president of Gurjar, won the Promotion of Music Theater and Drama Excellence; Vanita Shastri, executive director of TiE-Boston, won the Business Networking and Support Award; Kalpana Shetty, realtor at Keller Williams Realty, won the Real Estate Excellence Award; Mahima Subramanian, executive director of the Center for Hope and Healing, won the Rape and Sexual Assault Prevention Excellence Award; and Usha Vakil, founder and president of Saheli, won the Community Service Excellence Award.
Sheth was also honored with the Community Ambassador at Large Award.
In keeping with the evening's theme of accomplished women, India New England and publisher Upendra Mishra asked attendees for their continued vigilance towards discrimination against women. "Tonight I really want to challenge all of you to think about discrimination and challenges faced by women everywhere," he said.
The prescription to ensure equal treatment of women is simple, but it may take some time in order to fully reap the benefits, according to Mishra. "All we need to do is start paying attention to how we treat women, how we respect their ideas and accept them. And just start with your wife, your daughter, and your co-workers. And if you do that, your kids will do the same." said Mishra.
The Burlington Marriott and Subu Kota sponsored the event. DJ Yogz kept the evening going with danceable beats while Binita Patel provided photography and Bombay Club catered the event. Aarati Naidu, who works for the City of Boston's auditing department, served as the evening's emcee.