Refugee-assistance group honored at UT Health Science Center

SAN ANTONIO (April 18, 2012) — A group of medical, dental, nursing and physician assistant students who volunteered more than 7,000 hours to assist immigrant refugees living in Northwest San Antonio will be honored Thursday evening [April 19] at The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio.

The members of Physicians for Human Rights, a national organization that focuses on protecting human rights around the world and preventing atrocities, will receive the Student Government Association 2012 Community Service Award at the Health Science Center.

San Antonio is home to a growing refugee population with an estimated 800 to 1,000 refugees relocating to the city each year. Currently an estimated 5,000 refugees live in the vicinity of the South Texas Medical Center, including families from Burma, Bhutan, Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Burundi, Congo, Cuba, Afghanistan, Armenia, Iraq, Iran and Nepal.

The local members of Physicians for Human Rights established the San Antonio Refugee Health Clinic, a student-run free clinic held two Wednesday evenings a month at St. Francis Catholic Church on Bluemel Road. The clinic addresses basic medical complaints such as ear infections, and refers families and individuals to existing medical resources.

Refugees also receive materials and counseling resources regarding the health care system, providers and locations, and bus line routes. Translated informational sheets educate the families about preventable or treatable medical conditions and appropriate filling of prescriptions.

The Center for Medical Humanities & Ethics at the Health Science Center played a significant role in facilitating, funding and mentoring the projects. The center creates multidisciplinary programming that involves faculty and students from medicine, dentistry, nursing, health professions and biomedical sciences.

“The Center for Medical Humanities & Ethics is proud to have sponsored the award-winning student chapter of Physicians for Human Rights,” said Ruth Berggren, M.D., center director and professor of infectious diseases in the School of Medicine.

Student members of the group, including Anna Haring, Emily Watters, Rachel Sosland and Neelima Navuluri, traveled to Michigan in March for a national conference of Physicians for Human Rights. The students won first place for their poster presentation concerning a refugee needs assessment survey. Dr. Berggren and staff at the Center for Medical Humanities & Ethics provided mentoring for this.

The refugee clinic is made possible by many partnerships, including seven mini- and midi-grants funded by the Center for Medical Humanities & Ethics for individual projects within the clinic.

The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, one of the country’s leading health sciences universities, ranks in the top 3 percent of all institutions worldwide receiving federal funding. Research and other sponsored program activity totaled $231 million in fiscal year 2011. The university’s schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and graduate biomedical sciences have produced approximately 28,000 graduates. The $736 million operating budget supports eight campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. For more information on the many ways “We make lives better®,” visit

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