Grant Will Help Train Clinicians to Improve Refugee Health

Posted on: June 26, 2017 Topics: immigrant, refugee

boy-peaceExperts in refugee health from the School of Medicine and School of Public Health will share in a three-year grant of close to $400,000 to train future physicians to better serve refugee and immigrant populations.

The grant, from the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation, will help faculty leaders to develop and implement an educational program providing diverse opportunities for students to practice and research refugee health. Sondra Crosby, associate professor of medicine and health law, policy & management at MED and SPH, and Suzanne Sarfaty, associate professor of medicine and assistant dean for academic affairs at MED, are co-principal investigators on the project.

Program leaders say that while much of the medical education related to refugee health focuses on issues such as immunizations and infectious diseases, the new initiative will teach about the physical, emotional, and social manifestations of trauma. The majority of medical students and physicians have a limited understanding of their patients’ cultural and trauma histories, they said, and how they impact illness and healing, as well as limited skills to intervene in a culturally sensitive, patient-centered way.

“Physicians who care for refugees are often unprepared to address the serious and complex needs of those who seek their assistance because of lack of experience, training, and mentorship in their medical education curriculum,” said George E. Thibault, president of the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation. “This initiative will begin to fill that void and also prepare students to deal with other patients who have been traumatized and increase their cultural competence.”

The program will be integrated across several health programs at BU, including medicine, dental medicine, physician assistance, public health, and social work. Faculty members from each of the programs will collaborate to develop, evaluate, and disseminate course content. The new curriculum will be required of all first- and second-year students, and students will have the option to participate in research and service learning opportunities.

Crosby has focused her practice on care of refugees and asylum seekers for the last 17 years. She is director and co-founder of the Immigrant and Refugee Health Program at Boston Medical Center and has participated in the Massachusetts Refugee Health Assessment Program for more than a decade.

Lisa Chedekel

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