Migration, Health and Environmental Exposure: IIGH at the 2019 Consortium of Universities for Global Health

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From poster presentations to panel discussions, USC faculty and students contributed to another year of stimulating global health research and conversation at the annual Consortium of Universities for Global Health held in March in Chicago.

Migration and Health: The Pitfalls and Promise of Interdisciplinary Research and Education

Migrants constitute an unprecedentedly large and diverse population with distinctive health needs that are not being met. From the perspectives of education and research, this panel explored an interdisciplinary response encompassing attention to health, law and social science. Panelists discussed the impacts of different uses of language, methods and partnerships across disciplines and with migrants. The discussion facilitated conversation around how to optimize academia’s role while maintaining egalitarian partnerships with migrants and programmatic agencies.

– Laura Ferguson, Assistant Professor of Population and Public Health Sciences, University of Southern California, USA


  • Todd Schneberk, Assistant Professor, Clinical Emergency Medicine, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California; Assistant Program Director, LAC+USC Emergency Medicine Residency Program, USA
  • Niels Frenzen, Sidney M. and Audrey M. Irmas Endowed Clinical Professor of Law, University of Southern California, USA
  • Carmen Logie, Associate Professor, Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto, Canada
Panelists ranged in experience, all working in migration and health but in different settings and disciplines. Ferguson asked each about their work around migration and health — especially in terms of interdisciplinary work:

Schneberk spoke about a medico-legal partnership in which a team of physicians at Los Angeles County Hospital refers relevant patients for legal support around migration issues (as well as other social support services). Frenzen discussed his work at the Gould School of Law’s immigration clinic and the importance of forensic examinations to assess health status in some migration cases. Logie addressed community participation and social science as a foundation for improving health and rights among urban refugee youth in Uganda, displaced people in Haiti and LGBTQ newcomers in Canada.

Noted Challenges

In law, Frenzen said, focus on migrants’ psychologists/psychiatrists can hinder the way cases are built, which might not be what’s best for migrants’ health; there can be a conflict between forensic needs and therapeutic needs. In medicine, the incentive to quickly see as many patients as possible makes it difficult to spend time with them on referrals to non-health services, according to Schneberk. Additionally, the inherent “deficits approach” in health, Logie said, presents a challenge because it understands specific vulnerabilities as all negative; instead an “assets based approach” could capitalize upon the strengths that arise from being part of a marginalized population. In addition, conflicting priorities of different partners (e.g. academic vs. government vs. community) can cause disconnect between the urgency with which data are sometimes needed and some of the most appropriate methods of data collection (e.g. with good community participation) which are time-consuming.

There are many needs when talking about migration and health and multidisciplinary approaches can’t solve which needs should be prioritized, nor by whom. When asked about academia’s role in helping to promote multidisciplinary approaches to migration and health, the panelists highlighted the importance of experiential learning — done in appropriate ways, with egalitarian partnerships and with due respect for local communities.

Young Scientists in Global Health

Allyn Auslander
Photo courtesy Allyn Auslander.

USC doctoral epidemiology candidate Allyn Auslander presented in the Young Scientists in Global Health session. She presented data about cleft palate, as well as data from the International Family Study, to discuss how studying environmental exposures relevant to low-resource countries can help develop preventative strategies that make sense in those areas. 


Photo courtesy Syrian American Association of Science and Health

USC medical student Jamil Samaan and colleagues from the organization he founded, Syrian American Association of Science and Health, presented their research project “Access and Utilization of Healthcare Resources by Syrians in the United States” in a CUGH poster session.

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