Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Valuable Impact of Human Rights Clinic Volunteers

“Those who can, do.  Those who can do more, volunteer.”

The medical professionals who volunteer for HealthRight's Human Rights Clinic (HRC) make our impact possible.

HealthRight trains and deploys volunteer physicians and mental health professionals to conduct clinical, medical and psychological exams of torture survivors and to document and bear witness to the scars and signs of torture and abuse.  Offering their valuable time to conduct these exams, HRC volunteers also play a critical role by offering expert testimony in immigration court proceedings.  An affidavit from a HealthRight-trained health care professional attesting to evidence of torture raises an asylum seeker’s chance of success: 91% of HRC clients were granted asylum or other immigration protection, compared to the national average of 23%.  

Through the leadership of the visionary Dr. Doug Shenson, Healthright launched HRC in New York in 1993. It was the nation’s first residency training program for health professionals. HRC has since expanded to over ten states, and has trained over 700 volunteer clinicians.  

The HRC volunteer clinicians inspire HealthRight's global community through the personal testimonies of what they give -- and receive -- from volunteering, not to mention the deep commitment they bring to their work. For example,  Dr. Eva Metalios who has been volunteering with HRC since its early days recently shared the following: 

In the early ‘90’s, as  I was completing my training to become a doctor, and doing my residency in the Primary Care Internal Medicine at Montefiore Medical Center, Dr. Doug Shenson was establishing the Human Rights Clinic (HRC) in the Bronx.  All the Primary Care residents had to rotate through the HRC, so I did.  And it was a life-changing experience.

I was in awe.  I was stunned.  I had never had any professional experience like working with applicants at the HRC—hearing about their lives, bearing witness to their stories, touching and being touched by their physical and emotional scars, witnessing their hope and resiliency.  And the thought that I could, even in some small way, participate in their journey to find healing and safety was really powerful.


Dr. Coleen Kivlahan, who  has been a volunteer physician, mentor,and trainer with HRC in both Virginia and Arizona since 2003, shares the following:

Performing asylum evaluations allows me to combine my expertise in forensics, clinical care and human rights. It is my favorite part of my career and I hear many volunteers say the same thing. I make fewer assumptions now; I see more complexity in daily and in extreme behaviors. There is less black and white. Each time I meet with a new client, I am opened up to a new way of seeing humanity.






Please click below to read more profiles of Human Rights Clinic volunteers that we recently profiled on our blog.

Renee Behinfar

Ann Bortz

Kathy Brock

Alan Brown

Terri Edersheim

Regina Germain

Michael Holtby

Monica Indart

Bonnie Keeler

Steven Luel

Stuart Lustig

Rafael Olivares

Lila Rosenthal

Daria Salimzhanova

Nicole Sirotin

Gary Stadtmauer

John Toma