5th Annual WNY Refugee Health Summit

UB - Community Connections to Improve Refugee Health and Wellbeing

Co-sponsored by the University at Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions, Office of Global Health Initiatives and the Community for Global Health Equity

2017 Refugee Health Summit

Friday, April 20, 2018 | 8:30a-4p

Educational Opportunity Center, 555 Ellicott St., Buffalo, NY

  • Cultivate cultural competency
  • Innovate mental health care provision
  • Advocate for changes in Medicaid
  • Improve clinic operations

From 2000 to 2010, Buffalo saw a 33% rise in its foreign-born population, growing from 4.4% of the total population in 2000 to 6.0% in 2010. A high percentage of these families were refugees. Coming from countries such as Burma, Iraq, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Afghanistan, refugees contribute to the diversity of Buffalo’s neighborhoods, schools, and businesses. Their health and wellbeing is affected by many different factors including culturally and linguistically appropriate services, social networks, systemic barriers, and economic opportunities. 

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 5th 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. 

2018 Summit Agenda

8:30-9 am | Registration

Collect your name tag, grab some refreshments, and connect with local service providers who will be sharing information related to the many programs and services that aim to improve health and wellbeing for refugees in Buffalo.

9 am | Welcome

Jo Freudenheim, Chair and Distinguished Professor, Epidemiology and Environmental Health

Jo Freudenheim

Jo Freudenheim, UB epidemiology and environmental health, received a doctorate degree in nutritional sciences and a master's degree in preventive medicine from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She subsequently came to UB for postdoctoral training in cancer epidemiology and was appointed to the faculty in the Department of Epidemiology and Environmental Health in 1987. Freudenheim is also adjunct professor of oncology at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center and affiliated scientist at the Research Institute on Addictions. Her research focuses on breast cancer epidemiology and prognosis including an examination of breast tumor characteristics, of factors related to disparities in breast cancer among Puerto Rican women, the role of exposures during the life course and breast cancer risk, and the role of the microbiome in cancer risk.

Pavani Ram, Co-Director, Community for Global Health Equity

Pavani Ram

Pavani Ram, MD, is an associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Environmental Health. An internist by training, she began her career in public health as an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2001. Ram served as a medical epidemiologist at the CDC from 2003 to 2005. During her public health career, she has conducted numerous outbreak investigations, participated in the CDC response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, as well as the anthrax bioterrorism events of that year. She is also co-Director of the Community for Global Health Equity at the University at Buffalo.

Lina Mu, Director, Office of Global Health Initiatives

Lina Mu

Lina Mu, PhD, MD joined the department in June 2008 as an assistant professor. She was promoted to associate professor in August 2013. Previously she was an AACR scholar in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at Yale University School of Medicine. Dr. Mu was named the Director of the Office of Global Health Initiatives in the School of Public Health and Health Professions in the fall of 2017.

9:30-10:40 am | Townhall Discussion: Building Culturally Competent Environments

Clinicians, Office Managers, Front Desk Workers, Security Guards, Pharmacists, and many other health care providers work directly with refugee patients. Their buildings, offices, and examining rooms, as well as the resources and trainings available to patients and employees play a role in ensuring employees can provide patients with quality care. What resources exist in the community that ensure all service providers are equipped with a toolbox to deliver culturally competent care to diverse patients? How do we ensure these resources are available and accessible?


Samina Raja

Dealing with Disparities in Food Acquisition among Refugees

Samina Raja, Ph.D.
School of Architecture and Planning
University at Buffalo


Kafuli Agbemenu

The Impact of Treatment Perspective on the Reproductive Health Decisions of African Refugee Women

Kafuli Agbemenu, PhD, MPH, RN, CTN-A
Assistant Professor
School of Nursing
University at Buffalo

Expert Panelists

Alexandra Burger, Director, WNY Center for Survivors of Torture
Joe Gambacorta, Assistant Dean for Clinical Affairs, University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine
Sara Safarzadeh-Amiri, Medical Provider, Jericho Road Community Health Center
Merlyn Vilma, Director of Public Health, Neighborhood Health Center

10:50 am-12 pm | Townhall Discussion: Improving Clinic Operations

Cultural and linguistic diversity complicates quality clinical care and operations. Clinic staff may schedule more patients than can be seen; medical histories and immunizations may not be available or accurate; front desk employees may not have interpreting resources; patients may not speak English and the facility may not have the funds to pay for interpreters. How do we maintain good doctor/patient interactions while ensuring efficient clinical operations? What strategies can medical directors incorporate into their offices? What strategies can clinicians incorporate into their practices? How can we educate patients or provide them with resources that empower?


Li Lin

Developing a Health Information Resource Portal for Limited English Proficient and Low Health Literacy Patients

Dr. Li Lin, PhD
School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
University at Buffalo


Gina Prescott

Refugee Medication Health Literacy Program

Dr. Gina Prescott, PharmD
Clinical Associate Professor
School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Practices
University at Buffalo


Cheryl Brown, Buffalo Field Representative, Refugee Health Program, New York State Department of Health
Laura Owczarzak, Medical Case Manager, Catholic Charities Immigration and Refugee Assistance Program
Chan Myae Thu, Community Health Worker, Neighborhood Health Center Northwest

12-12:40 pm | Lunch

Enjoy a complimentary lunch with colleagues and friends.

12:40-1:40 pm | Townhall Discussion: Improving Mental Health Care: New and Innovative Practices

Mental health care provision is complicated for health care professionals who treat culturally and linguistically diverse patients. Refugees who have experienced torture or trauma may have difficulty discussing their past. Many cultures do not use or trust the Western medical model but practice traditional therapies; some cultures believe mental health problems are associated with witchcraft. How do mental health providers care for patients to ensure their dignity as well as their physical, emotional, and mental health, and security? What resources are lacking? What innovative practices in Buffalo can we learn from?


Isok Kim

The Relevance of Ethnicity in Predicting Mental Health Outcomes among Refugees from Burma

Dr. Isok Kim, PhD
Assistant Professor
School of Social Work
University at Buffalo


Ali Kadhum, Care Manager, BestSelf
Grace Karambizi, Care Coordinator, Catholic Charities
Rebecca Simons, Community Health Center of Buffalo

1:50-2:50 pm | Townhall Discussion: Advocating Positive Change: A Focus on Medicaid

Medicaid processing sometimes takes 45 days. This delay creates a gap in services for patients who are seeking care for critical physical and mental health issues. What are some strategies we can develop to ensure a gap in Medicaid coverage does not exist? Are there system operation changes that can streamline this process? At what level must these changes occur (state, regional, or local)?


Gaps in Medicaid

Apple Domingo
New American Director
Jewish Family Service of Buffalo and Erie County


Jacqueline Hall, Executive Director of Social Services Family Independence, Department of Social Services
Karen Welch, Staff Attorney, Neighborhood Legal Services
Dennis Ziolkowski, Paralegal Navigator, Neighborhood Legal Services

3-4 pm | Townhall Discussion: Rising Leaders: A Look toward the Future

What types of programs provide the most support to youth in Buffalo? What is lacking? Do youth contend with bias and fear? What grassroots efforts are gaining traction? In what ways can we improve the social fabric of our communities to ensure their overall wellbeing? This panel features rising leaders in the community who are working to make a better tomorrow for young refugees and their families.


Kim Griswold

Empowering Future Care Providers

Dr. Kim Griswold, MD, MPH
Associate Professor, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences
Research Associate Professor, School of Public Health and Health Professions
University at Buffalo


Sakina Alothman, Care Coordinator, BestSelf
Grace Karambizi
, Care Coordinator, Catholic Charities
Pemba Sherpa, Student and Co-creator United Youth, University at Buffalo
Win Thant, Education Coordinator, Community Academic Center, Buffalo State University

WNY Refugee Health Summit in the News


Speakers and workshop sessions addressed the theme of improving health literacy for Buffalo’s refugee population.


Annual summit convenes scholars, resettlement agencies, service providers, community support centers, municipal agencies and refugees to explore barriers and solutions to promote culturally engaged health care for refugees in Buffalo.


Refugee Health Summit and Global Innovation Challenge highlight offerings organized by two global-focused offices at UB.


She will discuss the work of the U.S. government to address the global refugee crisis and the efforts of cities like Buffalo to welcome refugees.


From refugee housing plans to help spur economic development on Buffalo’s East Side, to a health summit and a symposium, UB faculty and students are actively engaged in refugee efforts.


Issam Smeir is the keynote speaker for UB's third annual Refugee Health Summit, which runs from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 2, at the Arthur O. Eve Educational Opportunity Center, 555 Ellicott St., Buffalo.


The event is part of the School of Public Health and Health Professions' celebration of National Public Health Week.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The University at Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions (SPHHP) will recognize National Public Health Week April 3-12 with a series of events that highlight and celebrate public health efforts locally and globally.

Every year, 1,500 to 2,000 refugees and asylum-seekers come to Buffalo, one of the top refugee resettlement areas in the United States, driven by social and political upheaval, war, economic and agricultural distress, and poverty. To explore these challenges and develop models for exemplary refugee health care systems, the University at Buffalo will sponsor Buffalo’s first collaborative Refugee Health Summit 2014 on April 24.

A History

2014 Summit Objectives:

  • Describe existing barriers of culturally engaged health care provision for stakeholder groups in WNY
  • Learn about successful models to providing engaged health care for refugees in Buffalo and beyond
  • Identify potential linkages and spark collaborations to adapt and implement solutions to expand culturally engaged health care for refugees in Buffalo

2015 Summit Objectives: 

2016 Summit Objectives: 

  • Build knowledge base related to culturally engaged care for refugees by providing CME training opportunities.
  • Understand current programs and projects serving healthcare needs of refugees throughout Buffalo.
  • Provide health education opportunities for community members.