Poor pay, substandard working conditions, understaffed and undersupplied hospitals, and long hours. This is the reality that drives nearly 40% of medical graduates away from Bulgaria every year. According to the State of Health in the EU report for 2019, shortages of health professionals are particularly stark in underserved and remote areas in Bulgaria.
The shortcomings in the Bulgarian healthcare system became particularly obvious during peaks in the COVID-19 pandemic, when some coronavirus wards around the country relied in large part on the help of young medics volunteering for the high-risk jobs.
The Young Medics for Bulgaria Foundation has made it its mission to stem the exodus of medical graduates by providing scholarship support for early career professionals pursuing residencies and specializations at Bulgarian hospitals. In recognition that a good healthcare system is a prerequisite for developing a strong economy and attracting foreign investment, in June, the America for Bulgaria Foundation donated 100,000 levs toward the organization’s efforts to keep medical professionals in the country.
In announcing the Foundation’s donation, ABF Executive Director Desislava Taliokova said: “In Bulgaria’s past, philanthropists helped build some of the most respected institutions in the field of health care, education, social care, community building, and many others. But giving is not just history; it is not a one-time act, but a long-term investment in society. I believe that together we can ensure that more young medics can stay and develop in Bulgaria. Giving responsibly is modern Bulgarian patriotism.”
In partnership with Tokuda Bank, ABF provides additional support to young medics in the form of low-interest loans. For every year after graduation young doctors stay in Bulgaria, ABF will pay back one-fifth of their loan.
The Young Medics for Bulgaria Foundation was established in July 2020 by Dr. Dinko Mladenov, an internist with 37 years of experience, founder of one of Bulgaria’s first private hospitals, and founding member of the National Association of Private Hospitals. To date, Young Medics for Bulgaria has approved support for 120 medical students and recent graduates from 24 towns working in 49 healthcare facilities nationwide.
Young Medics for Bulgaria is accepting applications on a rolling basis and will provide further support as funds become available.
“It is clear that young medics’ career development prospects in Bulgaria are not good. As general manager and chief consultant at Medicus Alpha, I have always supported my young colleagues — professionally, morally, and financially. The establishment of Young Medics for Bulgaria was a natural culmination of this longstanding effort,” said Dr. Mladenov.
“More than 350 young medics submitted applications for financial aid, sending their CVs and moving motivational letters. I met each one of them in person or online, and my conviction grew that we have wonderful young professionals whom we must support,” he added.
Dr. Mladenov and his team have raised nearly 270,000 levs from over 150 individuals and companies. They are also working with the Ministry of Health and have submitted a list of recommendations for improvements in the conditions for pursuing medical residencies and specializations.
“I would like to thank every donor to the Young Medics for Bulgaria Foundation! Every contribution is important if we are to achieve our goal of more young medics staying and working in Bulgaria,” Dr. Mladenov said.
Invest in your own health in Bulgaria by supporting а young medic through the Young Medics for Bulgaria for Foundation.
In their own words: Testimonials by young medics
“After my graduation in November 2019, I was faced with the choice that thousands of medics make every year — to stay in Bulgaria or to look for career opportunities abroad. I chose not to run away from problems. Currently, I work on the frontlines of the fight against SARS-Cov2 pursuing a general medicine residency in Bulgaria.”
“At a time when our healthcare system is in a deep crisis and is severely underfunded, being a medical professional in Bulgaria is a bold undertaking. Despite it all, I will stay and work here. The more of us young doctors stay here, the sooner we will change the system for the better.”
“Everyone is talking about change, but change won’t come from abroad; it comes from inside! We are the change!”
“During my studies I acquired a lot of knowledge, both academic and practical, which I hope to be able to use for the benefit of the Bulgarian people for a long time. I think that we, young people, must be at the heart of the change for a better future, both for us and for our parents, children, and grandchildren.”
“Despite my diploma from a UK university, I chose to stay here. I am working and specializing in the town of Pazardzhik, and I believe that Bulgaria offers good opportunities for career development. It is in the medical field that we need to have good professionals staying, professionals who offer competitive enough services that people will not seek treatment abroad but have confidence in Bulgarian doctors.”
The year in review: ABF contributions to Bulgarian health care
Early in the pandemic’s outbreak, the Foundation donated 300,000 Bulgarian levs to the Sofia-based Pirogov Emergency Hospital and Alexandrovska University Hospital in support of their efforts in the fight against COVID-19 at the national level. In addition, through the United against COVID-19 Response Fund, an undertaking led by the Foundation in partnership with the US Embassy, Bulgarian Donors’ Forum, and American Chamber of Commerce in Bulgaria, more than 1 million levs was donated to 112 medical establishments, non-governmental organizations, municipalities, community centers, schools, and micro and small enterprises reaching 700,000 people. In November 2020, the US Embassy and ABF launched Healing Together, a $1 million initiative to fight the spread of COVID-19 in Bulgaria.