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International Biographic - Vesna Durkovic

From White Coat to White House

I worked for CHS in Iraq as a Chief Clinical Laboratory Scientist from 2011-2013.  As my contract ended these were my parting words as posted on my Facebook and they still apply today:

“Goodbye to Iraq and Iraqi people and to everyone I worked with during last year... it was good, it was bad, it was funny and it was sad, it was unforgettable, at times scary, but most of all it was crazy and it was amazing... I am very honored and proud to have been part of this great mission and gave it everything I had and would do it all over again if I had too... thank you all, and please be happy, be good to each other and stay safe... you are all forever engraved in my heart...”

Returning to my life in the U.S. was scary. I had nothing to return to after selling everything before leaving for Iraq. The worst part was I had no job. However, even before I stepped foot back in the U.S., I received unexpected phone call! I was offered a position as the Senior Medical Policy Advisor to a major government agency. That was five years ago and I am proud to say that I succeeded in making them HIPAA Compliant!

About 2 years ago there was another job offer, but this time via email. At first, I ignored it because I thought it was a joke. A couple of weeks later I received a follow up email and this time they asked me to call them ASAP. I did and it was not a joke, it was the real thing! To make a long story short, along with my full-time position as a Senior Medical Policy Advisor, I am also serving as a Serbo-Croatian Linguist to the highest-level office in federal government!

Am I a success story? In many ways YES! I was a very shy young woman who moved to the U.S. from Yugoslavia in 1980 with a degree in Clinical Laboratory Science (CLS), but no US medical license. I had $20, a Green Card in my pocket, the clothes on my back, and not knowing a word of English. From there I took a leap of faith, changed career paths and spent 4 years as a Linguist and the Political Cultural Advisor to NATO High Command during the Balkan crisis. My personal life took a turn and the next thing I knew I was serving in Iraq on CHS contract with the State Department; eventually moving on to my current positions.  I am considering retirement in five more years, but who can know where life may lead then? Something tells me this is not end of my story. 

- Vesna Durkovic

July Cover photo - International Biographic - Vesna Durkovic