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.

The Annual Western New York (WNY) Refugee Health Summit unites clinicians, resettlement representatives, community health workers, researchers, students, municipal leaders, and refugees to highlight innovative university-community partnerships that have resulted in research, programming, and solutions to improve health and wellbeing for refugees living in Buffalo and Western New York.

RHS flyer.

8th Annual Refugee Health Summit - Saturday, September 10th, 2022

A coalition of community leaders and researchers in Buffalo, NY invites you to the 8th Annual WNY Refugee Health Summit. To thrive as individuals and members of society, youth need to be viewed as whole beings by their families, communities, and institutions. To promote a whole-person approach for optimal youth development in Western New York, the 8th Annual WNY Refugee Health Summit highlights the spirit and adaptability of youth who arrived as refugees. The event will address challenges and responses to a variety of issues that youth face, including mental health challenges, cultural barriers between older and younger generations, difficulty navigating higher education, and accessing culturally appropriate care. 

Having fled war and persecution, Buffalo’s population of people that arrived as refugees are revitalizing and diversifying Buffalo, yet challenges remain for both Buffalo and its newest residents. In this context, youth face unique challenges as they navigate different cultures and environments, growing up in a different society from their parents. A whole-person approach to health for refugee youth addresses more than physical health, extending to mental health, education, employment, societal engagement, and more. A variety of programs exist in Buffalo to support refugee youth, which will be highlighted at the Summit. 

The Summit, which is free and open to the public, will be held on Saturday September 10th from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm. Co-produced by community and university partners, the summit creates a space for conversation among refugee communities, clinicians, resettlement agencies, community health workers, educators, researchers, students, and municipal leaders. The event will consist of three panels focused on new American contributions to the workforce, a cultural humility training for healthcare providers, and a youth-designed session. Panels will be followed by a workshop to identify actionable changes in Buffalo and Western New York.

The WNY Refugee Health Summit is co-sponsored and organized by UB’s Community for Global Health Equity, School of Architecture and Planning, the School of Public Health and Health Professions’ Office of Global Health Initiatives, Providence Farm Collective, Grassroots Gardens of Western New York, HEAL International, Burmese Community Services, the Karen Society of Buffalo,  the Human Rights Initiative at the Jacobs School, and the Immigrant and Refugee Research Institute at the School of Social Work.

If you would like a certificate of completion for this event, please let us know at the sign-in desk. 

Registration for the event is now closed. 

Location & Arrival

The Summit will be at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo. It is located on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus at 955 Main Street, Buffalo, NY 14203. You must enter the building from the door located at High and Main streets. Please then proceed to the registration table. Registration opens at 8:30 AM. 

Transportation and Parking

If possible, please carpool or take public transit. If you take the NFTA Rail you can get off at Allen-Medical Campus Station. 

If you are driving, off-street and on-street parking is available near the building. On-street parking is free on Saturdays. 

If on-street parking is not available, we encourage you to park in the 854 Ellicott Street Ramp behind Oishei Children’s Hospital. The parking ramp under the Conventus building is closed on Saturdays. We are unable to validate parking. 


ASL Interpretation will be available. 

For more information, to table at the event, or to be involved with planning, contact Alex Judelsohn at ajudelso@buffalo.edu



9:15 | WELCOME


Dilli Gautam, President of the Bhutanese Community of Michigan and Associate Director of Community Engagement at Bethany Christian Services


Facilitator: Isok Kim, Associate Professor, UB School of Social Work

Panelists: Ting Lee, Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Sanctuary Consulting, Ali Kadhum, Mental Health Counselor, BestSelf Behavioral Health, Amela Soteli, School Social Worker, Lockport School District, and Jennifer Haak, Faculty member in the UB Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the Division of Community Psychiatry

11:00 | BREAK

11:15 | PANELS 2 & 3

Panel 2: Whole Communities For Youth, By Youth


  • Samina Raja, Professor, UB School of Architecture and Planning
  • Neena Hussey, Youth Education Director at Massachusetts Avenue Project
  • Maheen Akram
  • Insha Akram
  • Poushali Bhattacharjee
  • Usman Itoo
  • Mazhar Shapoo


  • Caroline Mwanba, freshman at Canisius College and MAP youth
  • Dalia Alsayadi, high school student and MAP Youth
  • Parveen Attai, MPH

Panel 3: Culturally Responsive Healthcare: Best Practices for Healthcare Providers (room 1225)


  • Jessica Scates, EdM, Coordinator of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives, UB School of Dental Medicine


  • Chan Myae Thu, MD, Community Health Worker, Neighborhood Health Center
  • Noor Kadhum, Biology Student, Niagara County Community College and Medical Assistant, WNY Medical
  • Abdirahman Farah, MPA, BA, Practice Manager, Community Health Center of Buffalo
  • Kim Griswold, MD Professor Emerita of Family Medicine and Faculty Advisor, Human Rights Initiative, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, University at Buffalo

12:15 | LUNCH


Faustina Palmatier, Executive Director, Karen Society of Buffalo


Preserving Culture While Acquiring Language Skills and Engaging in Workforce Development: Learning from 1.5* Generation Refugees


  • Fardowsa Nor, Clinical Outcomes Coordinator at Jericho Road
  • Jeff Good, Professor at UB Department of Linguistics
  • Jennifer Foster, Coordinator of UB Office of Global Health Initiatives 
  • Melinda Lemke, Assistant Professor at the UB Graduate School of Education


  • Fatima Nor, Graduate Student in Global Public Health and NYU and Patient Navigator at Jericho Road
  • Dao Kamara, Community Engagement Coordinator, Providence Farm Collective
  • Saw Meh, Multilingual Assistant, Buffalo Public Schools
  • Fardowsa Nor, Clinical Outcomes Coordinator at Jericho Road



New American and Refugee Health Summit Speakers

Speakers at the 8th Annual Refugee Health Summit bring a variety of experiences and interdisciplinary expertise. Panelists include community leaders, service providers, educators, and researchers and scholars. More speakers will be added to this list over the coming weeks. 

Dilli Gautam

Dilli Gautam is a former refugee from Bhutan who immigrated to the US in 2008. Dilli serves as the President of the Bhutanese Community of Michigan, a non-profit organization that was started by and continues to be operated by resettled Bhutanese refugees. He also works as the Associate Director of Community Engagement at Bethany Christian Services, a resettlement agency based in Grand Rapids. He has an extensive background working with refugee and immigrant communities, leaders, and local elected officials and is passionate about building the capacity of refugee-focused organizations and new American leaders. In an effort to increase former refugees in leadership positions, Dilli helps to better equip and connect them to not only achieve their personal success, but contribute to the greater community. He believes that one of the best ways for the meaningful integration of refugees and immigrants into society is by changing the policies, practices, and mindset from helping refugees and immigrants to empowering them. He holds a Master’s in Public Health from Eastern Washington University with graduate research focused on mental health among immigrant youth.

Faustina Palmatier

Originally from Myaungmya-Yangon, Burma. Faustina Palmatier serves as the Executive Director for Karen Society of Buffalo (KSB), after serving several years prior as Program Coordinator. She oversees and manage a team of staff that helps the refugees and immigrants from Burma who needs services such as DMV, DSS, court, insurance school and many others. She also oversees the afterschool program that focuses on Karen literacy for youth as well as helping with their academic needs. She was hired into a new Program Coordinator position in 2020 to bring needed administrative capacity, help to plan programming, oversee program participant recruitment, conduct home visits with families, coordinate transportation, assist in building processes and procedures for KSB, implement evaluative measures and reporting, build collaborations, oversee special projects, and strategize with the Board.

Faustina has a Masters of Social Work from the University at Buffalo. Prior to that, she earned a Diploma in Liberal Arts and Science-Humanities from Erie Community College, a Master in Education from the Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies (AIIAS) in the Philippines, and a Bachelor in Education from the Myanmar Union Adventist Seminary in Burma.

Since arriving in the United States, she has worked as a Teacher’s Aide (Buffalo Public Schools), a Community Educator (International Institute of Buffalo), and an Interpreter, as well as many internship and volunteer roles. She also has experience working in Jericho Road Community Health Center’s Behavioral Health team, conducting screenings, education, and referrals with Burmese, Karen, and other diverse patients.

Faustina has gained a lot of experience while working for and amongst her community for the past 14 years. She has volunteered countless hours to assist her fellow community members with reading mail, filling out forms, giving directions, taking people to appointments, providing interpretation, helping to learn and navigate our country’s many systems (DSS, schools, court, hospitals, counseling, DMV, insurance, taxes, voting, citizenship), organizing events, and leading in her community. Her personal mission is to help people who are in need of help; she is especially passionate about addressing mental health issues and promoting mental wellbeing.


New American and Refugee Health Summit Leadership, Facilitators and Organizers

Kafuli Agbemenu

Kafuli Agbemenu, an Assistant Professor of Nursing at the University at Buffalo, is a global health expert who focuses on reproductive health of immigrants and refugees. She earned a MPH with a focus on behavioral and community health science and global health, as well as her MS and PhD in Nursing from the University of Pittsburgh. Within the Community for Global Health Equity, Kafuli co-leads the Refugee Health and Wellbeing Big Ideas team (with Melinda Lemke). Her research areas of interest include adolescent reproductive health and women's health in the African immigrant population. Read more about her work and perspective here

Samendy Brice

Samendy Brice is a faculty member in the Department Architecture and Planning at The University at Buffalo. Teaching sophomore studio and an undergraduate Seminar as an Adjunct Instructor.  Her research focuses on urban space bot at a local and global scale around food policy , housing, and equal access to spaces . Her current work is examining the border market between Haiti and Dominican Republic.

Alyssa Dzik

Jen Foster, PhD

Jennifer Foster, PhD, is the Coordinator of the Office of Global Health Initiatives in the School of Public Health and Health Professions (SPHHP). Jen coordinates program activities engaging faculty, staff, students and community partners in advancing sustainable solutions to global health problems.

Mary Glenn

As Assistant Dean of Community Engagement, Mary Glenn directs engagement and outreach activities focused on advancing the School of Public Health and Health Profession’s (SPHHP) reputation, facilitating accreditation, and building and fostering mutually beneficial partnerships with organizations in the community. She works to ensure that the school builds purposeful relationships within the community, including with the non-profit, grassroots, public and corporate sectors. Mary started this newly created position in March of 2020, and for almost seven years prior she served as Senior Director for the Advancement of Health Sciences at UB, building a successful advancement program for SPHHP and the schools of Nursing and Social Work.

Jeff Good, PhD

Jeff Good is a faculty member in the Department of Linguistics at the University at Buffalo. His research focuses on linguistic diversity, with a particular focus on endangered languages of West Africa. His current work is examining patterns of multilingualism in rural West African regions in order to understand the factors that lead individuals to develop distinctive multilingual repertoires and that lead them to use one language over another in different social contexts.

Alexandra Judelsohn

Alex Judelsohn is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Michigan and the Programs Manager for the Community for Global Health Equity. Her dissertation examines how resettlement cities impact resettlement outcomes for those that arrive with refugee status. Broadly, her interests include how the built environment impacts health, particularly for immigrant and refugee populations. Alex holds a Masters in Urban and Regional Planning from the University at Buffalo and a BA in Media Studies from Emerson College.

Wooksoo Kim, PhD

Dr. Wooksoo Kim is an Associate Professor and the Director of the Immigrant and Refugee Research Institute (IRRI) at the University at Buffalo School of Social Work. Using the community-based participatory research (CBPR) framework, Dr. Kim is keenly aware of the intentional use of research activities that directly and indirectly contribute to the well-being of the populations. Dr. Kim’s research studies include the Karen health literacy study, economic integration of refugee communities, and a program evaluation of Erie County’s workforce development program. She is a founding member of the Buffalo Region Immigrant and Refugee Roundtable (BRIARR) and invited to serve as a member of the Erie County New Americans Advisory Committee.

Melinda Lemke, PhD

Melinda Lemke is an Associate Professor of Educational Policy in the UB Graduate School of Education. She also is a co-lead of the UB Refugee Health and Well-being Big Ideas Team at the Community for Global Health Equity and Fellow in the UB Undergraduate Honors College. A former public high school teacher, Melinda has worked in public education for twenty-five years and also has a background in sexual assault prevention. She is an interdisciplinary, qualitative educational policy researcher who examines the politics of education, neoliberal educational reform, and how public education addresses structural and gender-based violence to center the well-being and rights of women and girls. Drawing from critical and feminist theoretical traditions, Melinda’s body of work interrogates questions concerning the intended and unintended consequences of policy, gaps in implementation, and ultimately for whom do policies work and to what ends for collective futurity. Read more about some of her work here

Lina Mu, PhD

Lina Mu, Associate Professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Environmental Health. She is the director of the office of global health initiatives, the school of public health and health professions, and the co-director of the WHO PAHO UB collaborating center on housing and health. Dr. Mu’s primary research focuses on studying environmental exposure, health effects, and related biological mechanisms. She has led multiple research projects to study air pollution exposure associated health impacts, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, birth outcomes, and child development, and understand the underlying mechanisms. She also examines lifestyle factors, gene-environment interaction, and cancer development, identifies factors and biomarkers to predict cancer prognosis, and explores various measures in cancer prevention. In addition, her team has investigated mental health issues associated with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Fardowsa Nor

Fardowsa is a former Somali/Indian refugee born in Pakistan. In 2000, Fardowsa and her family migrated to the United States and have called Buffalo their home since. After graduating from high school, she took multiple gap years to understand herself, her community, improve cultural awareness and gain experiential learning skills outside of the classroom. She then earned a BS and MPH in Public Health at the University of Buffalo. During that time, Fardowsa has volunteered for a few refugee-supportive organizations such as HEAL International and formerly known Vivé la Casa. These separate but similar organizations help support newly arrived individuals by easing their transition into America. She has started working at Jericho Road Community Health Center as a Clinical Outcomes Coordinator, a clinic serving a predominately underserved and marginalized community in the city of Buffalo. She is interested in researching strategies to reduce the underlying issues in population health as it relates to social and behavioral sciences and health disparities found in refugee and low-income communities.

Mu Paw

Mu Paw, MPH, CHES, TTS Mu Paw is a former refugee from Burma from a Karen ethnic group. In 2008, she migrated to the United States. Mu Paw attended Laffayee High School and graduated as a Valedictorian and received a 10 years scholarship from the Bill Gates Foundation. Mu Paw attended Houghton University and Daemen University where she earned her BA in Global Studies and a Master in Public Health (MPH). Mu Paw served as a board member of Karen Society of Buffalo from 2018-2021. Mu Paw organizes youth activities and plans youth develoment programs for Karen youth to feel connected to their cultural heritage. Mu Paw is the founder of the Karen Health and Wellness Center. She tries to educate and influences diaspora Karens to live a healthy lilfe styles by using the social media platform. Mu Paw has traveled back to her home courntry to do medical outreach and provide medical care for people in remote villages, where there is no clinic or hospital available. Mu Paw is also passionate about starting the Refugee Wellness Center in Bufalo.

Samina Raja, PhD

Samina Raja is a Co-Founder of the Community for Global Health Equity and is the Founder and Principal Investigator of the Food Systems Planning and Healthy Communities Lab, which focuses on research and action to promote food equity through local planning and policy. With a team of scholars and community partners, Dr. Raja recently authored a report on ways in which local governments in the Global South can create more equitable and sustainable community food systems through planning and policy. The report is published by the FAO, and can be downloaded here.

Alyssa Reese

Alyssa Reese is a third year medical student at the Jacobs School of Medicine. She is a member of the UB Human Rights Initiative and UB Refugee Health and Wellbeing Team. Alyssa holds a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Sciences and a Bachelor of Arts in Social Sciences Interdisciplinary with a concentration in Legal Studies from the University at Buffalo. She is fascinated by the connections between law, public health, and health policy, and intertwines her interests through research and advocacy work.

Steven Sanyu

Mr. Sanyu was born in Burma/Myanmar and has resided in Buffalo since 2000. He is the Founder and President of Burmese Community Services, Inc. (BCS), which was incorporated in 2013 as the first Burmese-led Independent non-profit organization in WNY. Their mission is to assist refugees and immigrants with issues including but not limited to language barriers, cultural adjustment and to provide other services and resources. Mr. Sanyu currently serves as a member of the WNY COVID-19 Vaccine HUB Advisory Committee, ambassador to the New York State Vaccine Equal Task Force, a member of the Erie County New Americans Advisory Committee, the Buffalo State Collage President’s Community Advisory Committee, the Buffalo Region Refugee and Immigrant Roundtable’s Steering Committee, and the Partnership for Public Good’s Language Access Working Group.  Mr. Sanyu has received awards and recognitions for “Extensive Work and Leadership in the Development of the Buffalo Police Department’s Language Access Plan” Mayor Byron W. Brown in 2016 and the “Standardized Patients in Inter-Professional Education” by the University at Buffalo, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in 2017.

Jessica Scates

Ms. Jessica Scates is the Coordinator for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives at the University at Buffalo (UB) School of Dental Medicine (SDM). In this role she has the opportunity to work with colleagues from across SDM and UB to launch programs, policies, and practices that increase equity, diversity and inclusion in the profession. Prior to her role at UB SDM, Ms. Scates was Programs Manager for the UB Community of Excellence in Global Health Equity. She also served as an Agroforestry Extension Agent with the United States Peace Corps in Senegal, West Africa from 2008-2012. Ms. Scates received her Master’s degree in education from the University at Buffalo. She lives in Buffalo, NY with her husband and three kids.

Monica Stage

Monica Stage is the External Affairs Program Coordinator for the UB School of Architecture and Planning. Monica supports event and program management for a diverse range of initiatives, including the School’s lecture series, Commencement, professional boards, and special events. With more than a decade of experience in event management with high-profile organizations in the Buffalo region, Monica works collaboratively with the Dean's Office, faculty and staff, and related offices across the University to leverage existing programs and coordinate new engagement opportunities.

Previous Summits

  • 7th Annual WNY Refugee Health Summit
    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.
  • 6th Annual WNY Refugee Health Summit
    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.
  • 5th Annual WNY Refugee Health Summit
    Buffalo is among the top locations for refugee resettlement in the United States. Coming from countries such as Afghanistan, Burma, Iraq, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, and Syria, refugees add to the diversity of Buffalo’s neighborhoods, schools, and businesses. Refugee and immigrant populations contribute to population growth, high rates of workforce participation, large tax contributions, and spending power. 

WNY Refugee Health Summit in the News