You're passionate about global health, but can't travel outside the United States. Can you still become meaningfully involved in global health work? Yes!
Immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers are dispersed in communities across the country. These populations share backgrounds, cultural practices, and languages with the people in their home countries. They also present with unique social, psychological, and medical needs and risk factors, making their care complex and challenging, yet interesting and rewarding to many clinicians. You may encounter patients from other countries during your training or in daily practice, particularly if you work in a federally qualified health center (FQHC).
Sign up to work or volunteer at a local refugee clinic. Refugees are people who are forced out of their country due to war or persecution for political, ethnic, or religious reasons. Contact your state’s refugee health coordinator
Volunteer with a U.S.-based nongovernmental organization (NGO) or faith-based organization that provides services to refugees and immigrants domestically. Options include the following:
Work with migrant farm workers. More than 70% of farmworkers are foreign born; most are from Mexico. Their health care is complicated by access issues, their transitional status, and work-related exposure to dangerous equipment and harmful pesticides. The following resources provide information about medical work with migrant farm workers:
Civil surgeons are physicians (including those specializing in primary care) who have been designated by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to conduct mandatory immigration medical examinations according to specific Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. Newly arriving refugees and some immigrants are required to have these specialized medical examinations during their naturalization process. Civil surgeons are not volunteers and may get paid for their services. To become a civil surgeon, you must be an MD or DO licensed and authorized to work in the United States, and have at least four years of post-residency professional experience. Information on applying to become a civil surgeon is available at www.uscis.gov/i-910.
Asylum seekers (i.e., men and women who fled their country because of persecution and are now seeking legal status in the United States) often require a medical evaluation during their legal proceedings to provide documentation of torture and ill treatment.
Physicians and mental health professionals are needed across the country to conduct these evaluations and provide expert advice. These evaluations can be time consuming, but they are also extremely rewarding. The following organizations offer periodic training and have established networks of health care professionals who provide evaluations to asylum seekers: