Our members know their states! Learn more about Virginia from our member, Ellie!
Name: Ellie Wilson
City, State: Glen Allen, Virginia
Organization: Virginia Department of Health, Office of Health Equity
How long have you lived in Virginia?
I’ve lived in Virginia for over 22 years. I was born in Richmond, Virginia and grew up in Glen Allen. My childhood was fun and included lots of time outdoors! I really appreciate the fact that I was able to get a strong public education with friends who started school with me in Kindergarten. My love for the state and its exceptional educational opportunities led me to apply to in-state Virginia colleges and eventually attend the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. After graduating from college I have remained in Virginia, working in Richmond.
How is 3RNet impacting Virginia?
The incentive programs’ goal is not only to place health professionals in underserved areas but to also match health professionals to communities they are comfortable working in to enhance their experience and encourage them to continue working in their practice sites long after they have met their service obligation. 3RNet is a vital recruitment tool in facilitating a broader distribution of primary care providers in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
What are the best cultural events that happen in Virginia?
Virginia residents celebrate the state’s history and diverse population through cultural events such as historical reenactments, festivals of all sorts, concerts, learning series, and theatrical performances. My personal favorites are exhibits at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA), the Richmond Folk Festival, Field Day of the Past, and the Lebanese Food Festival.
Why should a health professional choose Virginia over the surrounding states?
Virginia offers health professionals the best of both worlds, ample professional opportunities, and an enjoyable, exciting, reasonably priced lifestyle.
What loan repayment programs does Virginia have?
The VA-SLRP addresses the shortage of primary care providers in Virginia by recruiting and retaining providers and increasing access to care in medically underserved areas.
How is the J-1 Visa Waiver program utilized in Virginia?
The Conrad 30 Waiver program is a crucial resource for the Commonwealth of Virginia. The Virginia Conrad 30 Waiver Program will reserve five slots out of the 30 to use as discretionary slots. The discretionary slots will be allotted at the discretion of VDH based on the prevailing critical needs for specific health care professionals. We have consistently filled all of our slots!
Are healthcare professionals valued in Virginia?
It is impossible not to feel appreciated when you not only witness but share in the accomplishments of a client that just a few months ago was reliant on opioids or heroin to get through the day but just finished the first semester of college on the A/B honor roll or listen to a young mother explain how different and wonderful her and her children’s lives are now that she is not worried about experiencing dope sickness without opioids. It is difficult not to feel enthusiastic and energized when you observe a client that has spent their entire adult life going in and out of jail wants nothing more than to share the achievement of living a drug-free life with former fellow inmates and friends. These clients inspire and challenge me to become better and know that each of us is capable of realizing dreams and overcoming overwhelming obstacles. I am humbled to have a small role in the success of my clients but I am honored to also support setbacks and failures and know that each success including my own is at least in part due to the actions and the help of others. These clients do not realize that with each expression of gratitude for the life-changing experience medication-assisted treatment (MAT) offers, I am encouraged to do more, be better and work even harder because I am the one most grateful for the personal reward and satisfaction my patient’s hard work and success affords me as a healthcare provider. "As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them." -John F. Kennedy
-- Dianna Jones
My name is Dr. Jed Duensing, and I would like to share some of my stories, and thanks for the help I have received from the State of Virginia and the Office of Health Equity. I moved to Virginia just over five years ago with my wife who was pregnant. I started working in a rural FQHC in 2015 with daunting loan debt. The loan repayment I was offered allowed me to be of service to an underserved population, and not have to seek higher-paying positions to pay off my debt. I am thankful for the loan repayment, professionalism, and kindness, which I have received.
Working at a crisis stabilization unit means that we often do not see the long-term benefits of the work we do. However, recently, I was called to the lobby because I had a visitor, which is a fairly uncommon event. I must admit that it was a hectic day and I was a bit overwhelmed. When I got to the lobby, I was surprised to see a client I had treated 6 months ago. She stated that she wanted to stop by to thank me for everything I had helped her with and reported that she is doing well: she has her own apartment, is employed, and is working on mending her relationships with her family. Her smile lit up the room when she saw me. That smile made all the challenging work that I do worth it. It is these experiences that remind me that I do make a difference.
-- Polly Boone
I didn’t tell my spouse that I applied for the VSLRP. We have been struggling to pay off over $100k in student loans since I got my masters in 2012 to be a counselor. Having gone through a traumatic premature birth and my own mental health journey, I knew I wanted to work with the underserved population at the Richmond Behavioral Health Authority. I was hired in 2013 and never looked back. When the VSLRP opportunity arose, I was excited to think that my years working with those who need it most might be noticed. I was also excited to see, instead of a lottery prize, the VSLRP was a merit-based award that would take volunteer work and leadership roles into consideration. In the Spring of 2020, I was awarded a $40k repayment from the Commonwealth of Virginia. You should have seen my spouse’s face when I surprised him! This makes such a huge difference to our family, especially with our daughter almost at college-age herself. It feels so good to know that my work matters and that I have support from Virginia to continue providing opportunities for others to succeed. Thank you.
-- Rebecca Kaderli
I have been a nurse for eight years, and a nurse practitioner for four years. I absolutely feel valued as a healthcare provider in Virginia. Currently working in an underserved, rural area, I see first-hand how factors such as socioeconomics, race, and education impact medicine. I stress the importance of preventative care and managing chronic conditions with medications and lifestyle changes with my patients and their families. I became a nurse in order to use my passion for science to serve those in need. Fortunately, I am able to do that in my career. I value all my patients and feel they appreciate my efforts to provide them with competent, compassionate care.
-- Keysha Ahmad-Winborne
As a foreign medical graduate, after passing the boards, securing medical residency was not possible due partly to its competitive nature and requiring some sort of connection. My next step as plan B was to rightly choose the nursing path and was able to graduate from NP school with MSN. In the process, I incurred significant debt in the form of a student loan. I started working as a primary care provider (PCP) with an NP license here in northern Virginia. Three years later, I joined Neighborhood Health of Alexandria, which is an FQHC. In less than a year, I applied for a student loan repayment program through VA-SLRP. I, then, became one of the awardees and was able to pay off a significant portion of my student loan. Thanks to the Virginia Department of Health, I feel valued health care provider, and cannot be any prouder than working and residing in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
-- Hassen Seid, FNP
Why do people travel to Virginia?
There are two very compelling reasons for people to visit Virginia. First, Virginia’s landscape and natural environment attract both Virginia tourists and residents alike. The state experiences all four seasons with blooming flowers in the spring, hot summers, cool and colorful falls, and snowy winters. Similar to the seasons, Virginia’s landscape offers great variety from mountain ranges, to open fields, caves, rivers, lakes, and beaches. The seasonal climate and diverse topography offer people the opportunity to participate in a wide variety of outdoor activities all year round. Second, Virginia is a treasure for history buffs. There are many historical sites and museums that help bring our state’s and nation’s history to life.
What sports teams does Virginia have?
While Virginia is not home to any major professional teams, college sports are taken quite seriously throughout the state. Historic football rivalries and nationally ranked basketball teams fuel the state’s desire for competition. Minor league baseball also has a strong fan base in Virginia. My hometown baseball team is the very popular Richmond Flying Squirrels! However, professional sports teams are not far away as many Virginians cheer on the Washington Redskins (football), Capitals (hockey), Wizards (basketball), and Nationals (baseball).
What is your favorite local food?
My favorite local food is Virginia barbecue, a southern staple that originated in Virginia. in Virginia, classic pulled pork is complemented by a variety of barbecue sauce styles that are unique to the state’s different regions.
What is Virginia best known for?
Virginia is best known for being the birthplace of the nation when European colonists settled here in 1607. Virginia’s status as the first English colony in the United States provides citizens the opportunity to both learn from and celebrate different aspects of Virginia’s long and rich history. Historic settlements, towns, and battlefields all over Virginia provide first-hand history lessons to visitors and residents alike.
What is the biggest misconception about Virginia?
As a southern state, Virginia is often perceived by others to operate at a leisurely slow pace which can lead to the underestimation of the hard and diligent work that takes place all over the state. Aside from the renowned educational and research institutions across the state, business in Virginia is booming. From coal mines, to farm fields, to healthcare facilities, and other local, national, and international businesses, Virginians work hard to maintain the state’s thriving industries.
What are the biggest industries in Virginia?
Virginia’s largest industries include agriculture, livestock, coal, military installations, business, and federal and local government. Some of the most demanded Virginia exports include soybeans, tomatoes, coal, tobacco, poultry, and cattle products. Virginia is home to 22 military installations and is a neighbor to the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C.
How is the weather/climate in Virginia?
Virginia has a relatively mild climate with warm springs, hot summers, cool falls, and cold winters. We experience all kinds of weather including sun, wind, rain, hail, and snow. Everyone experiences their favorite type of weather at some point in the year in Virginia.