Refugee resettlement may be a hotly debated issue on the presidential campaign trail but the health care of refugees is both a service provided by and a benefit provided to the University of Louisville Global Health Initiative.

Ruth Carrico, PhD, and Rahel Bosson, MD, will address the “The State of Refugee Health in Kentucky: From Flight to Resettlement” at noon, Thursday, Dec. 10, in room 103 of UofL’s School of Public Health and Information Sciences, 485 E. Gray St. Admission is free.

Carrico, a registered nurse and family nurse practitioner, and Bosson are among the staff who practice in UofL’s refugee health care and vaccine clinics that see approximately 3,000 refugees annually. These services are provided through a partnership with the Kentucky Office for Refugees, Catholic Charities Inc. and Kentucky Refugee Ministries.

While Syrian refugees are currently most discussed in news reports, the UofL clinic is the medical home for people seeking resettlement in Louisville from approximately 30 countries and who speak more than 20 languages.

Perhaps not surprisingly, most of the refugees come from a country with which the United States has recently relaxed sanctions and resumed diplomatic relations: Cuba.

“Most of our refugee patients today come from Cuba,” Carrico said. “The next largest groups are Iraqis, the Butanese and Somalis.”

The wide variety of nationalities is illustrated by the most prevalent condition seen in each group, Bosson said. “Women from Cuba most often have reproductive health concerns,” she said, “while PTSD is prevalent among people from the Middle East. In the Somali population, non-active tuberculosis is most often what we see.

“But we also  provide and facilitate care in  virtually every other health specialty – dentristy, vision, oncology, cardiovascular care, mental health services and vaccines – we arrange it all.”

The health care providers focus on exactly that – health care – not politics. The refugee patients need the services provided by the clinic, and in turn, the care provided is integrated in the health sciences schools’ education and training process. The care is interprofessional with medicine, nursing, dentistry and public health faculty and students partnering with faculty and students from engineering, business, arts and sciences and law.

“Before they can come to the United States, refugees are required to have an overseas medical exam,” Carrico said. “When they arrive, there is an eight-month window for them to make major strides toward self-sufficiency.

“Health is part of that self-sufficiency; how can you work and support yourself if you are sick? We can wait for health issues to occur and see them present in the emergency room,” Carrico said, “or we can care for them upfront. Preventive care is always less expensive and produces the best outcomes.”

The providers work with staff at the two resettlement agencies in Louisville to coordinate care for the newly arriving refugees, allowing a global health experience for faculty, staff and students.

“The care we provide in turn gives our resident physicians and medical, nursing and public health students important education and training in conditions not always seen in Louisville,” Bosson said. “Combined with interactions from students across the entire university, these experiences are unique to education and training at UofL and can be found in few other places across the United States.”

Added Carrico, “Many of our residents and students want a global health experience as part of their training; we provide it right here in Louisville.”

For information about the refugee clinic at UofL, call 502-852-3324.

Jill Scoggins is Director of Communications at UofL's Louis D. Brandeis School of Law. She has been at UofL since 2010.