Refugee Health and Well-being in Buffalo

Courtesy of Jewish Family Services of Buffalo and Erie County.

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

Identifying Needs Testing Options Scaling Up
Buffalo, NY has a century long history of welcoming immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. For many years now, refugees and immigrants have contributed to the prosperity and diversity of WNY. However, numerous cultural, religious, educational, economic, language, social, and political barriers affect their health and wellbeing. Nationalistic ideologies are breeding fear and persecution of the ‘other’ leading to overt and subtle degrees of discrimination. Some fear what they do not know.
Largescale displacement, both within and across international borders, has occurred on a scale not witnessed since the Second World War.  
Dr. Kafuli Agbemenu, assistant professor of nursing, conducts innovative community-based research to improve the reproductive health of vulnerable and marginalized populations of women living in the U.S. Her most recent study, Reproductive health decision-making among US-dwelling Somali Bantu refugee women: A qualitative study, published in the Journal of Clinical Nursing, aimed to explore Somali Bantu refugee women's reproductive health decision-making, as influenced by their resettlement in the U.S. The study revealed that children are, for Somali Bantu Women, considered as wealth. If health care providers are equipped with a more culturally nuanced understanding of factors that influence reproductive health decision-making, they can provide person-centered care that meets their patients needs and is appropriate.
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. 
Co-sponsored by the University at Buffalo’s Community for Global Health Equity and School of Public Health and Health Professions’ Office of Global Health Initiatives, the annual Refugee Health Summit unites clinicians, resettlement representatives, community health workers, researchers, students, municipal leaders, and refugees. The 5 Annual WNY Refugee Health Summit will highlight the innovative university-community partnerships that have resulted in research, programming, and solutions to improve health and wellbeing for refugees.
The world is amidst the largest humanitarian refugee crisis since WWII. This affects not only refugee populations and the nations that border conflict areas but cities and countries around the world. For example, approximately 1,500 refugees arrive in Buffalo each year – making it one of the top resettlement sites in the U.S.

Our Team

Faculty Fellows

Kafuli Agbemenu

Project Lead, Reproductive Health Decision-Making; Assistant Professor

School of Nursing

201 D Wende Hall

Phone: Phone: 716-829-6023


James Bono

Associate Professor and Faculty Emeritus, Medicine and History

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

Associate Professor of Spanish

Romance Languages and Literatures

910 Clemens

Phone: 716-645-0861


Roberto Diaz Del Carpio

Clinical Assistant Professor

Department of Medicine

Hertel Elmwood Internal Medicine Center 900 Hertel Ave. Buffalo, NY 14216

Phone: 716-871-1571


Thomas Feeley


Department of Communication

354 Baldy Hall

Phone: 716-645-1160


Joe Gambacorta .

Joseph Gambacorta

Assistant Dean, Clinical Affairs

School of Dental Medicine

325 Squire Hall

Phone: 716-829-2836


Kim Griswold

Project Lead, Standardized Patient Project; 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

UB Alumna

Food Systems Planning and Healthy Communities Lab

Isok Kim

Associate Professor

School of 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

Founding Co-lead, Community for Global Health Equity; Professor

Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering

412 Bell Hall Buffalo

Phone: 716-645-4713


Shaanta Murshid

Associate Professor

Department School of Social Work

Baldy Hall

Phone: 716-645-3381


Heather Orom

Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies

Department of Community Health and Health Behavior

304 Kimball Tower Buffalo, NY 14214

Phone: 716-829-6682; Fax: 716-829-6040


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

Co-Director and Founding Co-Lead, Community for Global Health Equity; Co-Lead, Food Equity Team; Project Lead, Plan REFUGE; Professor

Urban and Regional Planning

233C Hayes Hall

Phone: 716-829-5881


Dorothy Siaw-Asamoah

Clinical Assistant Professor

Organization and Human Resources

251 Jacobs Management Center

Phone: 716-645-3234


Jessica Scates

Administrative Coordinator

Global Health Equity

220 Hayes Hall

Phone: 716-829-5371


John Stone

Clinical Associate Professor

Department of Rehabilitation Science

416 Kimball Tower

Phone: 716-829-6739


Kory Smith

Founding Co-Lead, Community for Global Health Equity; Professor and Chair

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.

Nicole Little

Graduate Student; Graduate Assistant

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


Biplab Bhattacharya in Uganda.

Biplab Bhattacharya, PhD

UB Alumnus; Former Graduate Assistant

Industrial and Systems Engineering and Community for Global Health Equity

Danielle Vasquez.

Danielle Vasquez

Graduate Student

Management and Public Health and Health Professions