“I can see myself here. I can make a difference.”
These were thoughts Elza Mylona, PhD, MBA, had in 2013 when she interviewed at EVMS. Already a researcher with a national reputation and two decades’ experience in the fields of medical education and faculty affairs and development, Dr. Mylona sensed an openness among the EVMS team, a willingness to take risks and try new ideas.
“When you interview in academia, there is often a stiffness and a resistance to change,” says Dr. Mylona, now Vice Provost of Faculty Affairs and Institutional Effectiveness. “You present an idea and you hear 1,000 different reasons it won’t work. I found a different attitude here. It was refreshing.”
Margaret Baumgarten, MD, the Charles F. Burroughs Jr. Chair in Family & Community Medicine, Chief Quality Officer of EVMS Medical Group and Professor of Family and Community Medicine, had a similar experience. She remembers going home from her job interview at EVMS in 1999 with an overwhelming sense of belonging and purpose.
“I told my husband, ‘These are my people,’” she says. “I knew there was no place else I wanted to be.”
In many ways, Dr. Mylona and Dr. Baumgarten couldn’t be more different.
Dr. Mylona spent her childhood surrounded by nature and the arts, first on a verdant island off the coast of Greece and then in the bustling metropolis that is Athens. Dr. Baumgarten was raised in the former USSR. She owned three pairs of shoes and three sets of clothes, exactly enough — and no more — to cycle through the seasons. They both dreamed of something different in their lives. They both harnessed their distinct life experiences and considerable expertise to effect lasting change at EVMS.
In this they are not alone.
EVMS is shaped and made better by the contributions of faculty, staff, students, residents, providers and researchers from around the world. Beyond the school and Hampton Roads, foreign-born healthcare professionals also address a national workforce gap. The Association of American Medical Colleges has projected a shortfall of up to 90,400 doctors by 2025, many of them in primary care. Meanwhile, the Journal of the American Medical Association estimates that nearly 30% of physicians working in the U.S. today were born in other countries. In addition, 42% of researchers at the top seven U.S. cancer research centers are immigrants, according to the National Foundation for American Policy.
On an institutional level, members of EVMS’ international community help bring the school’s mission to life. Traveling from another country to start a new chapter or new life takes confidence and courage. Foreign-born professionals bring their own skills, experiences and perspectives. They introduce new ideas and ways of moving through the world. Their contributions make the school stronger and better suited to serve the people of southeastern Virginia.
Here are some of their stories.