Poarch doctor receives U.S. citizenship in Pensacola, Fla.

Published 11:34 am Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Dr. Stella von Troil (right) is shown here at her citizenship ceremony on Feb. 17. | Submitted photo

When Dr. Stella von Troil held her hand up and recited the oath to be a United States citizen on Feb. 17, she got a bit emotional.

Von Troil, a native of Finland, is a primary care physician at the Poarch Creek Indian Health Clinic, and has been in the country for 20 years.

She was granted citizenship during a ceremony at the city hall in Pensacola, Fla.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Von Troil was one of 85 representing 38 different countries who became U.S. citizens.

She said the ceremony was more like a court proceeding.

“At times, it was quite formal,” von Troil said. “It was very nice. The colors come in, and everybody stands. There were a lot of speeches from judges and invited guests.”

Von Troil said some eighth graders gave speeches on what it was like and the value of being an American.

While reading the oath, Von Troil said she got emotional, but felt something else, too.

“It’s emotional,” she said. “It took 20 years to get there. There was a little bit of pride to it as well. That’s what the judges said; a lot of people want to get to that point. A lot of people in the entire world want to become U.S. citizens. I never looked at it as an achievement itself, but maybe to some degree it is an achievement.

“You have to work for it,” she said. “In many ways, it was the natural progression (for me). I knew it was going to come.”

Von Troil has spent most of her time in the U.S. on various visas, whether as a student while attending junior college and the University of Hawaii or working during her residency.

She came to the U.S. on a tennis scholarship, and later graduated from UH.

It was during her time as a college student while traveling around the country with her tennis team that von Troil decided America is the place for her.

“When you do five years of undergraduate work in the U.S., and you’re 18 years old, you’re very impressionable,” she quipped. “I just love the sports life in the U.S. Everything about it.

“In Hawaii, it was mainly college sports,” she said. “Here, everything from high school to college to professional sports. I enjoy sports so much. You really didn’t have that in Finland. There weren’t any college sports. I just enjoyed the American lifestyle.”

Von Troil eventually went to medical school in Germany, and did her residency in Tallahassee, Fla. Doctors have to do three years in an underserved community.

Vont Troil worked her residency in southwest Georgia and the Tallahassee region. She was then offered a job at West Florida Hospital in Pensacola, where she worked for six years. She went on to do local work, filling in temporary jobs and found her way to Poarch’s health clinic, where she’s been since January.

Von Troil said applying for U.S. citizenship isn’t as bad as applying for some of her visas.

“If you take all of the different visas and applications, the citizen application was the easiest and shortest application by far,” she said. “The most difficult one by far was getting out of residency and that first job, the H1B1, where you have to prove there is a need for your job, that you do medical school and you’ve kept your nose clean. That was the most difficult part.”

In addition to being a citizen of the U.S., von Troil is also a citizen of her native, Finland.

She said it’s been surprising to see the amount of support she’s gotten from others.

“I’ve been a little bit surprised at how congratulating everybody has been,” Von Troil said. “I didn’t quite expect that. Everybody embraces it.

“I really appreciate that,” she said. “It makes you appreciate it more yourself when you can see others excited for you.”