Ukrainian Neurologist Rebuilds Career and Finds Community in the U.S.

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Sofiia, a Ukrainian neurologist, and her daughter

Upwardly Global alum Sofiia flees war and gives back in both the U.S. and Ukraine

In February of 2022, Sofiia’s six-year-old daughter was brushing her teeth when explosions first shook their home in Ukraine. Ten days later, they fled the country as Sofiia feared for her daughter’s safety.

“My kid, she remembered those explosions for months,” says Sofiia, who resettled in the U.S. through the Uniting for Ukraine sponsorship program. “I remember on the Fourth of July, we were here [in the U.S.]. She couldn’t sleep during the night because she thought war was also here.”

Restarting her career with Ukrainian credentials

Now in Pasadena, California, Sofiia faced a whole new challenge: restarting her career in neurology with a young child under her wing. Back in Ukraine, she had the equivalent of both an M.D. and a Ph.D. in neurology. In the U.S., it felt like starting from zero, as the U.S. system doesn’t recognize foreign credentials.

When she found Upwardly Global, her story changed completely. The program requirements, including English proficiency and proof of higher education, assured her that “this was serious.” After joining the program, Sofiia’s job coach supported her through every step of the job search process, from resume building to interview prep.

“I put everything in my resume, because I thought ‘the more, the better,’ but [my job coach] explained to me how it works here,” says Sofiia, who then cut her resume down to the most important qualifications. “I would say it’s almost perfect now.”

Working hand-in-hand with Upwardly Global

By December, Sofiia had weekly meetings with her job coach, who walked her through the U.S. medical system and all its nuances. With Upwardly Global’s consistent check-ins and support, Sofiia says that, more than anything, “I didn’t lose belief in myself.”

Within a few months, she found work in a neurology lab conducting clinical trials on multiple sclerosis (MS) medications. Her employer, Dr. Regina Berkovich, is a Russian immigrant herself.

“We have similar stories — she was an Assistant Professor when she moved here,” Sofiia says. “She understands the situation, and I believe she sees herself in me.”

Giving back and supporting Ukrainian soldiers

Despite working in her field again, Sofiia still wants to do more. Every Saturday, light pours into the volunteer center where she and her now seven-year-old make medical kits for Ukrainian soldiers alongside a nurturing community.

“It’s a miracle in my life,” Sofiia says, lit up. Not only does she provide critical medical care for those in Ukraine, but also through her MS research in the U.S. One day, she hopes to regain licensure and become a practicing neurologist once again.

Find out more about Upwardly Global’s career resources for immigrants and refugees here.

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