Presidential Leadership Scholars alumni are making a difference in the United States and around the world by applying lessons learned through their time in the program. More than 250 PLS alumni will reconnect at the George W. Bush Presidential Center this month for the 2023 Alumni Reunion. As we count down the days until the gathering, let’s look back at some of our favorite impact stories from the PLS network over the past year.  

Presidential Leadership Scholar leads first known all-woman heart transplant team 

Dr. Amy Fiedler is a cardiothoracic surgeon, an Assistant Professor at the University of California San Francisco, and a 2020 Presidential Leadership Scholar. As Fiedler was finishing up a standard heart transplant last December, she noticed something she had never experienced before: Everyone in the operating room, including the patient, was a woman. Fiedler later learned that she likely led the first all-female team to perform a heart transplant. In this Q&A, she reflects on that moment and how the Presidential Leadership Scholars program has influenced her leadership. 

What will it take to deliver a historic deal for nature? 

Brian O’Donnell, 2015 Presidential Leadership Scholar and Director of the Campaign for Nature, discusses his global campaign to safeguard at least 30% of the world’s lands and oceans by 2030 and at the same time work to advance Indigenous rights and ramp up global financing for conservation. He shares how his PLS colleagues Rachael Watson (2015), Brian McPeek (2015), and Neil Vora (2023) have been instrumental in this initiative, which was agreed upon at the U.N.’s Convention on Biodiversity COP15.  

How to become e pluribus unum 

Michael Cooper, a journalist, attorney, Senior Director of Advocacy at NC Child, and 2020 Presidential Leadership Scholar, reflects on how an incredibly diverse group of 60 strangers from across the country formed friendships through the PLS program and how tolerance for different backgrounds, views, and beliefs is key to strengthening our democracy.  

Supporting Afghans two years after the Taliban takeover    

Sloane Davidson, a 2020 Presidential Leadership Scholar, is working through her organization, Hello Neighbor, to improve the lives of refugees and immigrants through mentorship, resettlement, and community-based programming. Two years after Afghanistan’s fall, she discusses how the U.S. government, private philanthropy, the nonprofit sector, and everyday Americans can continue to support our Afghan neighbors.  

For Dallas Fire-Rescue Deputy Chief, emergency response time is personal 

Steve Lopez, a 2023 Presidential Leadership Scholar who oversees training, professional development, and fleet maintenance as Dallas Fire-Rescue Deputy Chief, discovered a shortage of mechanics was threatening the department’s ability to respond to emergency situations. Through his personal leadership project, Lopez and his Fleet Management Team are working to minimize the impact of the labor shortage on Dallas by overhauling the mechanic recruitment and training process.