How do you document torture? UB students, health care providers, social workers and lawyers will learn how

Experts at UB and partner organizations will lead program in conducting forensic evaluations on those seeking asylum in the U.S.

Release Date: October 18, 2017

Kim Griswold with stethoscope.

Kim Griswold, MD, associate professor in the departments of Family Medicine and Psychiatry

BUFFALO, N.Y. – For most Americans, the concept of torture is, thankfully, truly foreign. But for immigrants and refugees, some of whom are seeking asylum in Buffalo, torture has been all too real.

On Saturday, Oct. 21, the Human Rights Initiative, a student group based at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo, is holding “Forensic Evaluation Training for Asylum Seekers.”

When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Butler Auditorium, Farber Hall on the University at Buffalo South Campus.

Where: Butler Auditorium, Farber Hall on the UB South Campus.

The training is being held in conjunction with the group’s partners at the WNY Center for Survivors of Torture, a collaboration of Jewish Family Service of Buffalo and Erie County, Journey’s End Refugee Services and the UB Department of Family Medicine.

The free, daylong session will train physicians and other health care providers in how to perform physical, gynecological and psychological forensic evaluations for individuals who have been tortured or persecuted in their native countries and are now seeking asylum in the United States.

Lawyers, social workers and students are also encouraged to attend because they can work as scribes, taking detailed notes from interviews with asylum seekers and learning to draft legal affidavits to document the findings.

The session will be led by local experts who have been trained by Physicians for Human Rights.

“We have a backlog of asylum seekers who are awaiting forensic evaluations,” said Kim Griswold, MD, associate professor in the departments of Family Medicine and Psychiatry in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB, who is leading the training session.

“These evaluations can be lifesaving for our clients,” she continued, “because individuals are more likely to be granted asylum in the United States with documentation of the physical or psychological evidence of the torture they experienced.”

Griswold added that while the primary goal is to aid the asylum seekers, the UB medical students involved with the Human Rights Initiative are getting a tremendous benefit, too.

“The students are absolutely amazing,” said Griswold. “They have taken to this work because they want to right human wrongs. They are working with these individuals, learning to listen to them and to ask delicate, probing questions. The students also support each other because it is important that they not be traumatized vicariously. Some of our students are still doing this work in residency, so this is laying the groundwork.”

Continuing medical education credits will be provided. Coffee and lunch will also be provided.

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Ellen Goldbaum
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