Logo for the Center for Victims of Torture
Notes from the Ground

CVT Georgia’s Push to Maximize Global Talent

Published February 28, 2024
Darlene Lynch pictured with panels and the moderator from 2024's Maximizing Global Talent

On January 18, CVT Georgia, lead of the BIG Partnership, held its second annual Maximizing Global Talent event focused on Georgia’s healthcare workforce crisis and how experienced refugee and immigrant doctors, nurses, counselors and other healthcare professionals should be part of the solution.

What is the BIG Partnership?

BIG, or Business and Immigration for Georgia, was founded in 2021 by Darlene Lynch, head of external relations for CVT Georgia as an initiative of the Coalition of Refugee Service Agencies, the state’s oldest and largest coalition serving Georgia’s refugee and immigrant communities.

BIG is the state’s first partnership of business and civic leaders committed to strengthening Georgia’s economy by tapping into the deep pool of talent in its refugee and immigrant communities. The goal of the partnership is to create a more inclusive Georgia landscape.

“I joined CVT Georgia to work on policy five years ago, and one of my goals was to build a more welcoming and inclusive community – a place where CVT clients from around the world could thrive – and to make our policies here in Georgia friendlier and more accessible to refugees and immigrants, no matter where they come from.”

This goal is what prompted the first Maximizing Global Talent event last year. This year’s event also highlighted innovative ways to integrate refugee and immigrant Georgians into the workforce, but focused on the gaps within Georgia’s healthcare workforce and the barriers immigrants and refugees with healthcare backgrounds face when attempting to continue their practices in the U.S.

“We learned pretty early on that this is something that is very important to our clients – the ability to do meaningful work, the right to either return to the work that they did in their home country, or to get an education so that they can enter a different field in the United States. And, there are a lot of barriers to that,” Lynch said.

By creating a streamlined pathway to re-licensure for internationally-trained health professionals, “…we thought we could do two things at once: We could help address the workforce shortage and we could help experienced refugee and immigrant clinicians get back into their field,” Lynch said.

The State of Georgia’s Healthcare Workforce

“Georgia, like most of the country, is in a healthcare workforce crisis. “The shortages are dire,” said Lynch.

This is no exaggeration. Out of the 159 counties in the state:

  • 90 counties have no psychiatrist
  • 65 counties have no pediatrician
  • 82 counties have no OB/GYN
  • 9 counties have no doctor

The lack of healthcare providers is, “…particularly bad for folks who need culturally and linguistically responsive care. And as I mentioned, we have a huge population in Georgia coming from other countries, and they are deserving of adequate healthcare care just like everybody else.”

Lynch underscored what the event showed in real-time: The talent is already here. It’s just been overlooked.  Many clinicians that have immigrated to the U.S. are already equipped with the understanding of varied cultures and languages.

In fact, Georgia already relies heavily on internationally-trained physicians, particularly in rural and other underserved communities.

  • Foreign-born Georgians make up nearly 20 percent of all Georgia doctors and home health aides and 14 percent of healthcare workers overall.
  • 10 percent of Georgia’s population is foreign-born.
  • 14 percent of the labor force is foreign born.

Refugees and immigrants who are living in Georgia are contributing to the economy in a host of ways and they have much more to offer, if given the opportunity. The BIG Partnership’s goal is to help create these opportunities by bringing Georgians together at events like the Maximizing Global Talent convening, and advocating for policy that supports the success of all Georgians.  

The Talent is Already Here

In addition to representatives of the BIG Partnership, opening remarks for the January event included Latin American Association, the City of Atlanta and the Georgia Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger.

Raffensperger spoke about the importance of streamlining Georgia’s licensing process, sharing how he hopes to use his position to help Georgia’s experienced refugee and immigrant communities get into the positions they’re qualified for.

The panel was moderated by Rose Scott, Emmy-award winning host of WABE’s Closer Look, and speakers included Dr. Pierluigi Mancini of the Multicultural Development Institute, Inc. and the U.S. chair-elect of Mental Health America, Dr. Paulina Rebodello of Emory University School of Medicine, Shane Jackson, president of Jackson Healthcare and Prabodh Devkota, the director of community support programs for New American Pathways.

Lynch didn’t stop at the star-studded panel – the reception also featured coffee and tea from Clarkston’s Refuge Coffee – a business that serves as a platform for job training and personal development of resettled refugees and other immigrants.

During the event, a video created by Aaramba LLC, featured several healthcare professionals with years of education and experience who immigrated to the U.S. from different countries around the world. They came in hopes of a better future, only to be met with boundaries and barriers to continuing their careers.

Lynch spoke about CVT employees who’ve experienced similar issues, including Dawood Azeemy, M.D., an ICU physician that is now project lead for the Arman Project, also featured in Aaramba LLC’s video. “We also have a wonderful interpreter, who is a PhD psychologist from Syria with decades of experience working with people with trauma.”

“We also have amazing clients who were doctors, journalists and business people and they come here and they’re not always working in the areas where they have expertise and where they have a passion,” Lynch said.

Standing Room Only

The event had a great turnout, attracting more than 130 people from the worlds of healthcare, business, academia and government, all in one room, sharing their experiences and hoping for nearby solutions.

“The event was really exciting because it was a bipartisan event, it was standing room only and I think it shows a lot of interest in among Georgians from those three categories –  business, government and refugee communities — in this innovative solution,” Lynch said.

“I loved that we had a room full of refugee and Immigrant doctors, nurses, psychologists and medical students from every part of the world –  we’re talking about Ukraine, Afghanistan, Sudan, Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Syria.” 

Lynch also shared that she received positive feedback from the participants, sharing that they were happy to have had a seat at the table and have their voices heard.

It makes me proud to be part of CVT and that we’ve started to carve this pathway where talented refugees and immigrants in Georgia – including the many survivors of torture that CVT  serves —  can really live full independent lives and pursue their career interests.

“And, we’re creating a new conversation around health care that will continue into the legislative session.”

Share this Article

Related Articles