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As they’ve developed and implemented their Schweitzer service projects over the past year, Benjamin Meza, Wazo Myint, Mamie Thant, Mirat Shah have seen firsthand the challenges facing Pittsburgh’s Bhutanese and Burmese communities.

They’ve witnessed the difficulties these refugees face in trying to access health care, as well as the difficulties resettlement agencies and healthcare providers face in trying to deliver it.

So tonight, these four Schweitzer Fellows (all University of Pittsburgh medical students) are holding the first-ever Pittsburgh Refugee Health Forum. They have enlisted the support of the local Bhutanese and Burmese communities, as well as leaders of the agencies that aim to serve them.

“Working at a federally qualified healthcare center that sees a diverse refugee population, I see firsthand the challenges that all parties—refugees, resettlement agencies, and healthcare providers—face in ensuring that everyone receives quality care,” says Pittsburgh Schweitzer Fellows Program Board Chair Andrea Fox, MD, of the University of Pittsburgh & Squirrel Hill Health Center. “The intention of this conference is to keep the lines of dialogue open, so that we can proceed cooperatively in eliminating these barriers.”

The Health Forum aims to help attendees better understand the difficulties faced by refugees, resettlement agencies, and providers; facilitate the sharing of information and resources among these groups; utilize diverse skill sets and problem-solving abilities to formulate feasible solutions; and provide a space to organize collective action.

“Pittsburgh’s immigrants and refugees face many challenges in health care, and by coming together as service providers, we reaffirm our roles as global citizens reaching out to the vulnerable and marginalized,” says Thuy Bui, MD, of the University of Pittsburgh Physicians Division of General Internal Medicine. “At this conference, we will renew our commitment to human rights and social justice through practical solutions to improve access and coordination of health care for Pittsburgh’s newest communities.”

The Pittsburgh Refugee Health Forum will take place tonight (February 17, 2010) from 6-8 pm at the William Pitt Union Ballroom (University of Pittsburgh, 3959 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213). Please RSVP to pittrhlp@gmail.com.

Click here to support the Pittsburgh Schweitzer Fellows Program.