The African Bridge Network (ABN), a non-profit in the Greater Boston, Massachusetts, area, seeks to create a supportive community that values the credentials and experiences of immigrants. ABN achieves its goal by supporting internationally trained workers through career coaching, networking opportunities, job placement, and more. In 2018, ABN participated in WES Global Talent Bridge’s Skilled Immigrant Integration Program (SIIP) and has continued to stay engaged in the SIIP alumni network. In 2021, the organization was selected to be part of the SIIP Demonstration Opportunity, a two-year program that provides customized technical and financial assistance to groups that are developing innovative approaches to workforce inclusion. The program has supported one of ABN’s key initiatives, the Immigrant Professionals Fellowship.
The three-month training and job placement program for internationally educated health care workers provided workforce readiness training to its most recent cohort, eight talented, diverse, and multilingual immigrant fellows in the Greater Boston area. The cohort also completed a research administration course at Emmanuel College as part of the fellowship. The fellows were then matched to paid internships at Boston’s top hospitals. The fellows obtained U.S. health sector work experience, increased their confidence, and made connections in the health care and research administration field. Read more about the graduating fellows of the 2022 cohort below.
Profiles of ABN’s 2022 Immigrant Professionals Fellows
Anna Ngwananogu holds a bachelor’s degree in organizational management and administration from Makerere University in Uganda. Before she became a fellow, Anna had challenges accessing information and lacked experience working in the United States. The fellowship has allowed Anna to acquire firsthand experience in the research administration field at Massachusetts General Hospital where she interned. She says, “Research administration is a course I was planning to do before the fellowship, so the fellowship made my dream come true.” After completing the fellowship, Anna secured a full-time job with Massachusetts General Hospital.
Choarina Paul holds a bachelor’s degree in law, linguistics, and business administration from a university in Haiti and has 14 years of experience in auditing. However, when she moved to the U.S. three years ago, she encountered barriers to employment and could not find work commensurate with her skills and education. She saw the fellowship as an opportunity to obtain further training. Choarina interned as a Grants Specialist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), where she has since been promoted to full-time Research Administrator.
“If I had this opportunity the first year when I came here,” Choarina says, “I would have been further in my career. [ABN] gave me a hand of hope. I can see the light. I can see what the future has for me.”
Cissy Kinaaway Ayebi worked for many years as a trainer and advocate. She is a former Human Rights Officer for the United Nations and an HIV/AIDS Advisor for Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO). She came to the U.S. from Uganda as a refugee with hopes of pursuing a career in public health. After receiving training and completing the coursework through the fellowship, she interned as a project coordinator in the Clinical Trial Office at Boston Medical Center. Cissy hopes her story will inspire others.
“We have so many skilled immigrants here. I wanted to get into this fellowship and show these people that yes, you are a professional with professional experience. You can penetrate the workforce.”
Jessie Ling obtained a law degree in China and has over 10 years of banking experience, but encountering language barriers and having a limited network have made working in the U.S. challenging. After completing the fellowship’s training and coursework, Jessie interned at Boston Medical Center’s Sponsor Programs Administration. She now has U.S. work experience and additional training and education to support her career goals. Jessie is grateful to ABN for hosting this fellowship.
Jessie notes, “I wouldn’t have such a good opportunity to build my career here without them.”
Jung aha Shin holds a master’s degree and has experience in the health care and science fields in Korea. She moved to the U.S. 12 years ago when her husband relocated here for work, but Jung’s own career has stalled without the support of a local network. Seeing the fellowship as an opportunity to refine her skills and learn more about the U.S. health care sector, Jung completed the training ABN provided and interned as a Research Administrator at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Jung says she appreciates how “this fellowship helped me not only earn knowledge and skills but also build up my professional network and gain the confidence [needed] to resume my career.”
Keevens Nepius holds bachelor’s degrees in accounting and law from Haiti and is currently pursuing a master’s in business administration in Massachusetts. As an immigrant worker in the U.S., Keevens struggled with language barriers and a lack of community. The ABN fellowship provided an internship placement at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center where Keevens worked as a Grants Specialist conducting much of the department’s financial reporting, grant reviewing, and budget managing. Keevens valued his fellowship experience, particularly the opportunity it offered to meet other fellows and expand his network. “This network is the best thing you can have in the U.S. when starting a new job,” he says. He plans to continue working in the health care field.
Miguel Barbosa has many years of experience as a supervisor with large telecommunications companies in Cape Verde. However, seeking greater opportunity for learning and professional growth, he decided to move to the U.S. and find a position here. When he arrived, however, Miguel faced many obstacles to commensurate employment and had to “take what was available.” The fellowship helped Miguel to change his career trajectory and introduced him to a related field of work. He interned as a Grants Specialist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center where he assisted with the pre-award process for research grants. Miguel says, “this program … can help a lot of people. Not only immigrants but the companies who hire them. They [immigrant workers] bring new perspectives to these businesses and industries. They have a lot of talent that deserves to be recognized.”
Noran Amir has a master’s degree and experience in the pharmaceutical field in Egypt. She came to the U.S. in 2019, hoping she and her daughters could “enjoy the freedom and have options in their careers, and live a happy life.” In spite of her education and experience, Noran faced many barriers to relicensure such as equivalency tests, employer bias, and language barriers. Although she did eventually obtain a license hoping to attain more U.S. work experience in health care. Through the fellowship, she interned as a Research Administrator in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Massachusetts General Hospital. She was offered a full-time position at the end of the fellowship.
Noran encourages others to apply to the fellowship, saying, “Go for it. Don’t be afraid. You are going to get all the support you need from ABN. It really helps change the lives of many families.”
ABN’s Immigrant Professionals Fellowship offers participants a comprehensive support system along with training, skills, and coaching to set participants up for success, both in their fellowship placements and their future professional goals. Fellows are provided access to much-needed work experience in the U.S. health sector, as well as additional skills training to open more employment opportunities in the field. In December, WES Global Talent Bridge Program Manager Mikaela Santos was able to participate in ABN’s fellowship graduation along with the fellows, their supervisors, employer partners, funders, and others.
Mikaela noted, “It was great to witness all the collaboration and effort that goes into making this fellowship a success.”
The eight fellows have been able to pursue their career goals in the U.S. and have proved to be hardworking health care professionals. We want to congratulate the 2022 fellows and cannot wait to see what they do next!