Our Board of Directors

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Hope Ferdowsian, MD, MPH, FACP, FACPM

President and Co-founder

Hope Ferdowsian, MD, Phoenix Zones Initiative PresidentHope is co-founder, president, and CEO of Phoenix Zones Initiative. She is a double-board certified physician in internal medicine and preventive medicine whose expertise spans the fields of medicine, public health, and ethics. Having worked internationally with people and animals who have experienced systemic abuse, Hope is uniquely positioned to recognize how social structures that enable violence cause suffering to disenfranchised humans and nonhuman animals alike, and how people and animals can recover in environments that promote resilience.

Over the past two decades, Hope has worked across six continents in an effort to advance human and animal rights, health, and wellbeing. In the United States, she has provided healthcare and advocacy for homeless, veteran, immigrant, and other vulnerable populations, while also working to end the exploitation of animals in laboratories and food production. Hope’s global health work has included collaboration with the Office of the Surgeon General of the United States and the development of resources for nongovernmental organizations, national governments, and the World Health Organization. She has authored highly cited publications and spoken at academic institutions and through media outlets across the globe. Many of her publications, including her critically acclaimed book Phoenix Zones: Where Strength Is Born and Resilience Lives, focus on the link between human and animal rights, health, and wellbeing.

Hope received a bachelor of science degree from the University of Southern California, a doctor of medicine degree from the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine, and a master’s degree in public health from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. She completed a medical internship at Yale University-Griffin Hospital, a preventive medicine residency at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and an internal medicine residency at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. She served as an assistant professor at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, associate professor at Georgetown University School of Medicine, and she now serves as an associate professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine.

Nik Kulkarni, MD

Vice President and Co-founder

Nik KulkarniNik is a board-certified anesthesiologist whose interests encompass animal protection and the care and protection of other vulnerable populations including children. He has served on several hospital committees throughout his career and has led anesthesiology teams for Operation Walk, a charitable organization that provides joint replacement surgeries for patients in the United States and abroad. He has staffed free back-to-school clinics for children in the northern Virginia area, and he has also volunteered with Wolves and Warriors, a program dedicated to helping military veterans and to rescuing wolves and wolf dogs from abusive situations.

Over the years, Nik has provided philanthropic support to a number of organizations focused on the promotion of human rights, animal protection, and compassionate conservation. As a result, he has become increasingly interested in the combination of grassroots action, systems-level change, and measurable impact.

Nik is a graduate of the Johns Hopkins University and the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, and he completed his physician anesthesiology training with an advanced clinical track in pediatrics at the State University of New York Downstate Medical School in Brooklyn, New York. He is currently a partner at an independent anesthesiology practice.

Kavita Rajasekhar, MD, MPH


Kavita RajasekharKavita is a board-certified preventive medicine physician. After completing medical school at the University of Florida College of Medicine, she worked in Washington, DC, where she was active in plant-based nutrition research and animal advocacy. Kavita later completed a preventive medicine residency at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and she also practiced occupational medicine for several years at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine.

After a fellowship in public health practice at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Kavita joined the Barry Commoner Center for Health and the Environment. She works with the Worker Health Protection Program, joining several other Commoner Center physicians in reviewing medical screening results from former and current workers at US Department of Energy nuclear facilities.

Kavita first became aware of the interdependence of animal-human-planetary health as an undergraduate student, and she carried her interest in this area into her medical studies. She has also completed the chef training program at the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City, which specializes in plant-based, health-supportive cooking. Kavita hopes to use what she learned in the program to teach others about chronic disease prevention through food as medicine and about the joy in cooking and sharing a meal.

Sonia Silva, MPA


Sonia SilvaSonia is director of International Students and Programs at California State University Bakersfield, where she is also on the faculty in the Department of Biology. Her responsibilities include international student and scholar services, cultivation of community partnerships, leadership on campus immigration policies and procedures, and coordination with the US Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security; she also collaborates with the university’s Title IX Coordinator. In addition, Sonia oversees the university’s National Student Exchange Program, and she fosters partnerships around the globe as the institutional liaison for accepting Fulbright scholars.

Prior to her current role, Sonia served as a student programs advisor at the University of Southern California, and as an adult school teacher and substitute teacher for elementary, junior high, and high school students in the Compton Unified School District.

Sonia serves as a member of the Kern County Behavioral Health Board, a founding member and treasurer for the Phi Beta Delta Honor Society, Theta Theta Chapter (for international scholars), and as a board member for the California State University, Bakersfield, Center for Global Outreach, and the Alumni Association. She is a graduate of the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business, and she received a master’s degree in public administration from the California State University Bakersfield.

Ayanna Buckner, MD, MPH, FACPM

Ayanna BucknerAyanna has committed her career to addressing the needs of underserved communities. Trained in preventive medicine, public health, and internal medicine, Ayanna’s professional time is divided between working in an outpatient clinic and serving as the principal of Community Health Cooperative, a consulting firm that assists organizations with program design, implementation, evaluation, and other activities associated with community-based health programming.

Ayanna previously served as chair of the Gulf Region Health Outreach Program Coordinating Committee, which coordinated a five-year, $105 million initiative developed as part of the Deepwater Horizon Medical Settlement and designed to strengthen primary and behavioral healthcare services in oil spill-impacted communities in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and the Florida Panhandle.

Ayanna received a bachelor of science degree from Xavier University of Louisiana and a doctor of medicine degree from Meharry Medical College. She completed a combined residency program in internal medicine and preventive medicine at Griffin Hospital in Connecticut, during which time she received a master’s degree in public health, with an emphasis in health management, from Yale University. Ayanna is a fellow of the American College of Preventive Medicine and she was a Marshall Memorial Fellow.

Allan E. Kornberg, MD, MBA 

Allan KornbergAllan is a pediatrician who has practiced primary care and emergency pediatrics. He is medical director and executive director for Physicians Association for Nutrition USA, an international nongovernmental organization committed to educating health professionals and students, the general public, and policymakers about the value of whole-food, plant-based nutrition in promoting good health, and in preventing and treating disease.

Allan has held a number of healthcare leadership roles, including CEO of Network Health, a health plan in Massachusetts serving individuals living with poverty. Allan has also advocated on behalf of survivors of child abuse and sexual assault. He co-edited the textbook Child Abuse: A Medical Reference, and he has authored peer-reviewed articles on child abuse and on emergency pediatrics. Additionally, Allan has led animal protection organizations, serving as executive director for both World Animal Protection-USA and Farm Sanctuary. In addition to serving on the board of Phoenix Zones Initiative, Allan is a hands-on board member with Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries; Animal Defense Partnership, which provides pro bono legal consulting services to animal charities; and Dharma Voices for Animals.

Allan received a bachelor of science degree from MIT, a doctor of medicine degree from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and a master’s degree in business from the University of Rochester. He has served as vice chair of Pediatrics, associate professor of Pediatrics, and associate professor of Emergency Medicine at the University of Buffalo, and as associate professor of Pediatrics at Brown University.