Rev. Mildred M. Best, whose recent appointment to director of the chaplaincy department at UVA Medical Center makes her the first African American and woman to hold that position, says the promotion means really one thing to her: Hard work pays off.

Midlred M. Best Stephanie Gross
"It shows if you work hard that you can achieve the goals you want to achieve," Best says. "It demonstrates that UVA recognizes its own folks and that you can move up—if you earn it. This is my calling, and it helps me live out my own dream."

Best, who came to UVA 14 years ago from Duke University Medical Center, was named director in September. She oversees a unit that includes a team of professional chaplains and roughly a dozen divinity school students who are undertaking their clinical chaplaincy education.

The department is already considered one of the leading centers for pastoral training and education in the nation, but Best hopes to expand its offerings and its reach. Her plans include examining ways the department can offer services to patients and staff at other UVA Health System locations, which include everything from dialysis centers to cancer treatment units across the state.

In addition, she wants to explore funding for a chaplaincy position dedicated to providing care within the pediatric unit of the medical center.

"This is a real opportunity for me to help educate others so they can provide competent spiritual care to people and families and enhance the experience at UVA," Best says. "It's important for people to know that they will be supported as patients here, not just physically, but that the institution cares about the whole person."

Best, a mother of five, is a graduate of Coppin State University and Bryn Mawr College. She earned her master's of divinity degree from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.