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Healthcare professionals share career advice with young refugees

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On September 19, the IRC in Atlanta’s Connect 2 Success (C2S) program hosted its second Virtual Career Panel of the year—this time concentrating on the healthcare professions. The IRC’s C2S team provides holistic support to refugee youth and young adults ages 16-24, to help them reach their long-term education and career goals through one-on-one coaching and group workshops.

The panel was moderated by IRC Youth Career Readiness Coaches, Robyn Lau and Olivia Kemp, and featured a physician, an occupational therapist, a dental school student and a registered nurse. Our generous panelists provided key insights on the education and training required for their respective careers, their day to day duties at work, and how COVID-19 has impacted their work.

Our panelists: Dr. O, Naomi Kiangonyo, Pauline Atem and Taeyoung Lee.

The Panelists

Dr. Alawode Oladele—known by most as Dr. O—is a physician at DeKalb County Board of Health and a long-time partner and supporter of the IRC. Dr. O shared his personal experience of first coming to the U.S. as a young man and facing challenges—something C2S students could deeply relate to. He elaborated that his career in the medical field has been a lifetime of dedication, filled with opportunities and satisfaction. Dr. O also discussed his recent work with the IRC in Atlanta and Core Response to provide free COVID-19 testing in the Metro Atlanta area.  

Naomi Kiangonyo is a registered nurse (RN) at Emory Healthcare. She shared how she began her career as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) before becoming a RN—a popular career pathway for many of our C2S students and one that many panel attendees were interested in. Nurse Naomi emphasized the importance of networking with medical professionals who could become mentors or connect them to future job opportunities.

Pauline Atem is an occupational therapist at HealthSouth. She offered unique advice to participants who were preparing to apply to medical school: “Take a creative writing class! As part of your application, you’ll need to write a statement of purpose and a creative writing class will help you express yourself better through writing.”  

Taeyoung Lee is a student at the Dental College of Georgia at Augusta University. He discussed different paths participants would need to take depending on their career focus. “If you are going to become a doctor, you’re looking at 10 or more years of schooling but that doesn’t mean you can’t change your mind while you’re getting your education. Maybe you decide that you do not want to become a surgeon and want to become a technician instead. That’s okay.” It was reassuring advice for attendees to hear, as many of them worry about making the wrong choice for their career.

Our young attendees were highly engaged throughout the panel and had great feedback for their Career Readiness Coaches afterwards! One C2S student described the panel as “powerful” and an IRC Youth Futures student said the panel was “very interesting and helpful.” Another C2S student shared, “Thank you so much for letting me join the Zoom meeting, I learned a lot from the doctor, nurse, dentistry student and the occupational therapist.”

We are so grateful to our panelists for taking time to provide encouragement and support to our young clients. The IRC in Atlanta’s C2S program plans to continue hosting career panels on a regular basis so we can continue to expose our students to a variety of career pathways.


To learn more about the work of the IRC in Atlanta and for information on how you can get involved with the IRC as a donor or volunteer, please contact Development Manager, Kalie Lasiter, at Kalie.Lasiter [at] Rescue.org or 678-636-8941.

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