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Yale Psychiatry faculty help to recruit medical providers for refugees

April 06, 2016
by Christopher Gardner

Yale Department of Psychiatry faculty are helping to recruit doctors and other medical providers to screen some of the hundreds of refugees from the Middle East and Syria who will settle in Connecticut this year.

Aniyizhai Annamalai, MD, MBBS, assistant professor of psychiatry and of medicine; and Maya Prabhu, MD, LLB, assistant professor of psychiatry, head the resident-run Yale Adult Refugee Clinic, which provides medical care to refugees who settle in Greater New Haven and elsewhere in the state.

The clinic sponsored a conference March 31 at The Anlyan Center for clinicians and clinicians-in-training who want to perform physical and mental health screenings for refugees.

Officials estimate that 500 refugees will relocate to the state this year, nearly double last year’s number, and Annamalai, the clinic’s director and attending physician, said the effort now is to identify new providers in the community who will accept refugees as patients.

The clinic will continue to provide the first domestic health screenings and referrals for the refugees, and will be available to help providers with any challenges they may face now and in the future.

“The plan will be to establish care for refugees in the health system and then smoothly transition them to other providers,” Annamalai said. “Our vision is that Yale will serve as a center for educational and clinical care for refugees in Connecticut.”

Approximately 80 people attended the March 31 conference, and some people expressed interest in taking refugees on as patients, Annamalai said.

She said the clinic will continue to work with New Haven-based Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS), a state-contracted non-profit refugee resettlement organization, to engage new providers. She also hopes the clinic can hold more conferences on refugee health.

“Good health, as you can imagine, is necessary to be able to learn English and find and work in jobs that are often physically and mentally demanding,” she said. “IRIS has coordinators for housing and employment just as they do for health, and all these elements have to come together for successful resettlement and acculturation. The good news is we do see that a majority of refugees are resilient and succeed in their new country.”

The clinic was established in 2008, but has been doing more outreach in the past year because Connecticut is now taking in more refugees. Most are coming from the Middle East and Syria, but the clinic has seen refugees from Cuba, Congo, Liberia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Lebanon.

Yale Internal Medicine residents provide the first health screenings, with in-person translators, for refugees after they arrive in the United States. Mental health screenings are also performed, and refugees who need additional services are evaluated by Prabhu, the clinic’s attending psychiatrist, who finds providers willing to continue their care.

Internal Medicine residents rotate through the clinic, which is open Wednesday evenings, but volunteer residents and attendings are welcome to help.
Submitted by Christopher Gardner on April 06, 2016