Ukrainian Immigrant Appreciates Freedom To Worship Freely And Pursue Her Goals

LOS ANGELES, USA -- After years of giving, Inessa Dombrovsky is on the receiving end of good fortune.

Inessa Dombrovsky

The Jewish Vocational Service gave Dombrovsky a $5,000 scholarship, the highest amount it gives.

Dombrovsky is using the money for medical school so she can continue to do what she loves best: helping others.

"Giving back has always been important to me," said Dombrovsky, a student at Pomona's Western University of Health Sciences.

It's also one of the qualities that helped her win the scholarship.

"We are very interested in (our recipients') interest in giving back to their college family, community, neighborhood, on to what can make a worldwide difference," said Marnie Bodek, the co-chairwoman of the JVS Scholarship Committee.

Bodek explained that in the Jewish faith, there is great importance placed on the tradition of `tikkun olam' a Hebrew phrase meaning "to heal or to repair the world."

"All of our scholarship recipients are amazing, many first-generation American," Bodek said.

"They are outstanding people and students who want to do good and have a great financial need they need to overcome to reach their goals."

According to a news release, the JVS Scholarship Program, since its founding in 1972, has awarded more than $5.5 million to 3,718 students.

Recipients have used scholarships, which range from $2,000 to $5,000, to study fields including visual art, psychology, dentistry, pharmacology, rabbinical studies, law and medicine.

This year, JVS has donated $457,500 to 91 students, 56 of whom are first-time recipients.

Dombrovsky, 24, was born in Ukraine two years after the nuclear catastrophe at Chernobyl.

Always fearing the effects of prolonged radiation exposure, Dombrovsky's mother brought her to Berlin one summer to stay with family.

As a child, Dombrovsky saw children being treated for illnesses related to the radiation from Chernobyl.

Dombrovsky's desire to become a doctor was born.

"I was curious about this awful incident that occurred before I was born," said Dombrovsky, who splits her time living in Claremont and Tarzana.

My parents knew people who were directly affected. I always knew about it and how horrible it was, but there's not a lot about it in the history books.

I knew I wanted to get involved with the victims of Chernobyl and help them in some way.

When Dombrovsky's family arrived in the United States in the early 1990s, they settled in Tarzana.

It was the first time they experienced religious freedom.

"Ukraine was Soviet; my parents had to practice their Judaism in secret," Dombrovsky said.

"Passover, Chabot; it was all in secret. When we came to America, they were so proud to be able to enroll me in Hebrew school."

There are so many things that amaze Dombrovsky about her parents.

"They came here with nothing," she said.

"I have watched them work so hard for everything. Watching them taught me a lot; it taught me to be independent. My parents have always been so supportive, but they couldn't always help me. Like with applying to college, they would help me if they could, but not being from here it was hard for them. I had to figure it out on my own."

In high school, Dombrovsky was committed to raising money and awareness for the Chernobyl Children's Project International, a nonprofit charity that gives support and hope to children living in the aftermath of the Chernobyl meltdown.

"It is something close to my heart," she said.

Once she became a student at UCLA, Dombrovsky wanted to continue helping children globally.

"I read about Operation Smile. I was really interested and learned there was no chapter at UCLA," she said.

"I worked with two other girls and started one."

According to the UCLA chapter's website, Operation Smile's purpose is to increase the awareness of international medical needs and raise money for cleft-palate or lip reconstructive surgery.

Her senior year, the UCLA chapter of Operation Smile raised $16,000.

Dombrovsky graduated with a degree in molecular cellular developmental biology with a minor in anthropology.

When it came time for medical school, she was interviewed and accepted to several including her first choice, Western University and enrolled in its osteopath program.

"They have a great program and do a lot of community outreach," said Dombrovsky who is leaning toward family practice or obstetrics and gynecology. "That's important to me."

Osteopathic physicians are trained to use a hands-on approach called osteopathic manipulative medicine for the patients, in addition to using traditional diagnostic and therapeutic techniques.

Although life was getting busier and more complicated for Dombrovsky, she wanted to stay active, informed and in touch with her campus community and became the president of the American Medical Women's Association.

"I am so thankful to JVS and for more than just the money," Dombrovsky said.

"Giving me this scholarship means that someone else other than myself and my family believes in me and my goals. It means they trust me to give back, and I will."

Source: Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

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