Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Sam Vorkpor, June 27, 2014

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:01 - Family and education

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Partial Transcript: Today is June 27th, 2014.

Segment Synopsis: Vorkpor grew up as one of six sons and one daughter of illiterate farmer parents in a village. Like his older brothers, he went to live with an uncle who was a teacher. He lived in Zorzor with his uncle to finish elementary school and later went to live with an older brother who had become a teacher after graduating from Cuttington College. His father died when he was 14. He studied hard at the Lutheran Training Institute and graduated as valedictorian. He got scholarships to both Cuttington College and University of Liberia and chose University of Liberia to have an urban experience. He started there in 1979 in the pre-medical program and graduated from medical school finally in 1989 because of political unrest.

Keywords: Cuttington College; Family; Giligansiasu; Lofa County (Liberia); Lutheran Training Institute; Medical school; Salayea; Samuel Doe; University of Liberia; Zorzor (Liberia)

Subjects: Childhood; Education; Families.; Medical education

GPS: Zorzor, Liberia
Map Coordinates: 7.783333, -9.433333
GPS: Cuttington College
Map Coordinates: 7.04, -9.554167
GPS: University of Liberia
Map Coordinates: 6.299167, -10.794722
00:11:18 - Liberian civil war

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Partial Transcript: Then, uh, in 1989, December, there was, uh, rebel activities at the border.

Segment Synopsis: Vorkpor was doing his residency at JFK Hospital when in 1990 the war/rebel activities reached Monrovia. He describes the government and rebel sides and why he stayed on the government side -- his brother was superintendent/governor of a county. He describes how he and his wife, who was from a different tribe, and their two children escaped to the Freeport for a time. Later after peace-keeping troops came he oversaw a clinic for Church World Service and then for Medecins Sans Frontieres as medical coordinator from 1992 to 1995.

Keywords: Charles Taylor; Church World Service; Doctors; Force; Freeport of Monrovia; Gio/Mano; JFK Hospital; Kpelle; Medecins Sans Frontieres; Samuel Doe; U.S. Embassy; USIS

Subjects: Civil war; Physicians; Refugees.

GPS: Monrovia, Liberia
Map Coordinates: 6.313333, -10.801389
GPS: Freeport of Monrovia
Map Coordinates: 6.34, -10.795
00:26:41 - Leaving Liberia for the U.S. and further medical training

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Partial Transcript: The point is, I couldn't even leave.

Segment Synopsis: Vorkpor got a visa for the U.S. in September 1995 and came to Pecos,Texas where he had a cousin who was also a doctor. He began to take medical exams to get a residency but that was difficult. In 1996 when the war heated up again he persuaded his wife to come to the U.S., too. She got qualifications for nursing and got a job. They moved to Nashville, Tennessee in 2001 where he got into a master's program in public health at Meharry Medical School. He worked as a pharmacy tech while going to school and also worked in research. He talks about the problem of getting a green card and his delayed first day start of his residency in preventive health. Then in 2006 he applied for a Family Medicine residency at University of Connecticut and graduated in 2008.

Keywords: Asylees; Family medicine; Green cards; Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS); Medical residencies; Medical residency; Meharry Medical School; Nashville (Tenn.); Pecos (Texas); Preventive medicine; Public Health Program; U.S. medical exams; University of Connecticut

Subjects: Emigration and immigration.; Immigrants; Medical education; Physicians; Residents (Medicine)

GPS: Pecos (Tex.)
Map Coordinates: 31.415556, -103.5
GPS: Nashville (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 36.166667, -86.783333
GPS: Meharry Medical College
Map Coordinates: 36.167, -86.807
GPS: University of Connecticut
Map Coordinates: 41.807167, -72.2525
00:41:06 - Jobs

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Partial Transcript: Then I got an offer from an HMO, uh, Wellmont Health Care.

Segment Synopsis: Vorkpor worked as doctor for Wellmont Health Care from 2008 to 2012, then in the ER for a year. Then he wanted to find a community where his children could finish high school. His son was interested in the University of Kentucky. He got a job at Manchester Memorial Hospital and they decided to come to Lexington in 2013. His son plays high school football and has 3.8 GPA.

Keywords: Children; Jobs; Manchester Memorial Hospital; Wellmont Health Care

Subjects: Education--Kentucky; Employment; Physicians

GPS: Manchester Memorial Hospital
Map Coordinates: 41.7821, -72.5255
GPS: University of Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 38.033333, -84.5
GPS: Lexington (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.029722, -84.494722
00:45:28 - Acculturation

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Partial Transcript: So, so tell me how, um--what kinds of ways do you feel you have been--come acculturated into the United States?

Segment Synopsis: Vorkpor has lived in different parts of the U.S. like Pecos, Texas where almost everyone was Hispanic. He worked in prison for awhile and learned Spanish from inmates. "Knowing language means you get respect." He lived in the South (Tennessee) then Northeast in Connecticut. Now he works in Clay County, Kentucky, one of the most under-served counties in the U.S.

Keywords: Adjusting to different U.S. cultures; Hispanic culture

Subjects: Clay County (Ky.); Culture and customs of North America; Culture.; Physicians--Kentucky

GPS: Pecos (Tex.)
Map Coordinates: 31.415556, -103.5
GPS: Tennessee
Map Coordinates: 36, -86
GPS: Connecticut
Map Coordinates: 41.6, -72.7
GPS: Clay County (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 37.16, -83.71
00:48:34 - Good and bad experiences in the U.S.

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Partial Transcript: Can you, can you tell me, uh, an anecdote or story about what you would consider a really good experience in the U.S. and maybe on the flip-side of that, what you would consider a--

Segment Synopsis: Vorkpor talks about people who helped him. "If you are really serious to go to school someone will help you." But sometimes people judge him because of his different accent.

Keywords: Accents; Help; Helpful people

Subjects: Emigration and immigration.; Immigrants--Kentucky

00:50:36 - Family

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Partial Transcript: Uh, tell me, uh, something a little more, uh, or for this, about your family.

Segment Synopsis: Vorkpor talks about adopting his daughter in 1999 when her mother died in childbirth, and another boy he brought to the U.S who is on his own in Texas now. His two biological children were born in Texas. He has cousins and nieces and nephews in the U.S. and Canada. He has built a home in Monrovia and the whole family went there for Christmas. He wants his children to appreciate what they have. His children were born American but relate to Liberia.

Keywords: Adopted children; Biological children; Home in Liberia

Subjects: Emigration and immigration.; Families.; Immigrants--Kentucky

GPS: Texas
Map Coordinates: 31, -100
GPS: Liberia
Map Coordinates: 6.5, -9.5
00:56:08 - Identity

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Partial Transcript: How do you identify yourself today with somebody new that you meet?

Segment Synopsis: Vorkpor identifies himself as citizen of the U.S. but of African descent.

Keywords: African descent; Citizenship

Subjects: Emigration and immigration.; Identity.; Immigrants--Kentucky

00:57:53 - Commitment to poor people and others

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Partial Transcript: So you are now settled in, uh--as a family you've settled in Lexington--

Segment Synopsis: Vorkpor feels an obligation to serve the needy because people helped him. And in Clay County very rarely do doctors stay there long. It's an option to move to Lexington. He talks about his struggles, the need for perseverance, and losing two brothers because of the war.

Keywords: Asylum; Visas

Subjects: Clay County (Ky.); Physicians--Kentucky; Poverty

GPS: Clay County (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 37.16, -83.71