Refugee Health and Well-being in Buffalo

Courtesy of Jewish Family Services of Buffalo and Erie County

From 2003 to 2014, Erie County's four resettlement agencies resettled 9,723 refugees from Iraq, Somalia, Burma, Bhutan, and now Syria. Refugees receive resettlement support for three months time but post-resettlement face barriers to good health and well-being due to limited english proficiency coupled with a scarcity of interpreters and translators, mental health issues related to trauma and torture, lack of transportation, and a derth of culturally-engaged health professionals, pharmacists, and emergency care providers.

Our Working Solutions


Of the many barriers for newly resettled refugees in the United States, receiving quality healthcare is particularly challenging due to several factors including refugees’ limited English proficiency (LEP), cultural differences between the mainstream American culture and home countries, a lack of health literacy, and confusion in navigating the labyrinth of the U.S. healthcare system. 
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that the “number of people forcibly displaced at the end of 2014 (has) risen to…59.5 million persons” due to global conflicts and a “world at war”.  
At the end of 2014, 19.5 million people were reported to be refugees in the world, and the number has continued to rise.  In 2014, 4,085 refugees were resettled in New York State, with Erie County receiving the highest number. Resettlement is meant to be a durable, long-term habitation solution so refugees can lead full, healthy lives. However, refugees are often resettled in neighborhoods that expose populations to a variety of health risks. 
In partnership with refugee resettlement agencies and public/private development organizations, students and faculty in architecture and urban planning are exploring prototypes that improve economic, social, and civic participation.


Our Team

Faculty Fellows

Kafuli Agbemenu

Assistant Professor

School of Nursing

201 D Wende Hall

Phone: Phone: 716-829-6023


James Bono

Associate Professor and Chair, History; Associate Professor, Medicine

Department of History

546 Park Hall

Phone: 716-645-2181 x553


Ying (Jessica) Cao

Assistant Professor

Division of Health Services Policy and Practice, Epidemiology and Environmental Health

268G-H Farber Hall

Phone: 716-829-5369; Fax: 716-829-2979


Colleen Culleton

Assistant Professor of Spanish

Romance Languages and Literatures

910 Clemens

Phone: 716-645-0861


Thomas Feeley


Department of Communication

354 Baldy Hall

Phone: 716-645-1160


Kim Griswold

Associate Professor

Department of Family Medicine

77 Goodell Street, Suite 220U

Phone: 716-816-7247


James N. Jensen

Professor; Director of Undergraduate Studies, Environmental Engineering

Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering

232 Jarvis Hall

Phone: 716-645-4007


Alex Judelsohn

Research Associate

Food Systems Planning and Healthy Communities Lab

Isok Kim

Assistant Professor

Social Work

667 Baldy Hall

Phone: 716-645-1252


Wooksoo Kim

Associate Professor

School of Social Work

685 Baldy Hall

Phone: 716-645-1227


Melinda Lemke

Assistant Professor

Educational Leadership and Policy

470 Baldy Hall

Phone: 716-645-1090


Li Lin


Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering

412 Bell Hall Buffalo

Phone: 716-645-4713


Shaanta Murshid

Assistant Professor

Department School of Social Work

Baldy Hall

Phone: 716-645-3381


Erkin Ozay

Assistant Professor

Department of Architecture

Hayes B 06C

Phone: 716-829-6912


Gina Prescott

Clinical Assistant Professor

Department of Pharmacy

215 Kapoor (John) Hall

Phone: 716-645-2828


Samina Raja


Urban and Regional Planning

233C Hayes Hall

Phone: 716-829-5881


Jessica Scates

Administrative Coordinator

Global Health Equity

220 Hayes Hall

Phone: 716-829-5371


Kory Smith


Department of Architecture

Phone: 716-575-2874


Edward Steinfeld

SUNY Distinguished Professor

Department of Architecture

382 Hayes Hall

Phone: 716-829-5899


Karen Zinnerstrom

Coordinator for Training and Evaluation

Clinical Competency Center

211 Cary Hall

Phone: 716-829-3455


Student Associates

Nicole Little

Graduate Student; Graduate Assistant

Architecture and Urban and Regional Planning and Community for Global Health Equity

Biplab Bhattacharya

PhD Candidate; Graduate Assistant

Industrial and Systems Engineering and Community for Global Health Equity

Danielle Vasquez

Graduate Student

Management and Public Health and Health Professions