North American Refugee Health Conference

Invited Speakers

woman presenting

Keynotes & plenaries

We’ll be welcoming 12 leaders in refugee and immigrant health at our North American Refugee Health Conference. Read more about our invited keynote and plenary speakers and their topics below. Additionally we’ll have workshops, oral abstracts and posters – download the detailed conference agenda.

Topics & Speakers

Advancing Maternal Health Equity in Refugee Communities: Global Challenges meets Local Solutions

Crista Johnson-Agbakwu MD, MSc, FACOG

Advancing Maternal Health Equity in Refugee Communities: Global Challenges meets Local Solutions 

Dr. Crista Johnson-Agbakwu, is an Obstetrician/Gynecologist at Valleywise Health, where she is the Founding Director of the Refugee Women’s Health Clinic (RWHC). She is also a Clinical Research Affiliate of the Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center (SIRC) at Arizona State University where she is Director of the Office of Refugee Health, and a Research Associate Professor in the School of Social Work, Watts College of Public Service & Community Solutions at Arizona State University.

She received her undergraduate degree from The Johns Hopkins University, medical degree from the Weill Cornell Medicine, and completed her residency in Obstetrics & Gynecology at the George Washington University Medical Center. She subsequently completed a fellowship in Female Sexual Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles and then became a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar at the University of Michigan where she obtained her master’s in Health and Health Care Research examining disparities in reproductive health care among refugees/immigrants through mixed-method Community-Based Participatory Research.

Her current research focuses on investigating strategies to advance sexual and reproductive health equity for newly arrived refugee women, particularly those who have undergone Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) as well as Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV); with the aim of improving health care access and utilization, sexual and reproductive health education, counseling, community engagement, as well as enhance health care provider cultural competency.

She has led a federally funded effort through the Office on Women’s Health to improve the provision of health care services, community engagement and provider cultural competency on FGC across the state of Arizona. She has also provided consultative expertise to the Department of Justice (DOJ), The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) on refugee women’s health and FGM/C.

Medically Unexplained Symptoms in Adults – Explained

Peter Cronkright MD, FACP

Medically Unexplained Symptoms in Adults – Explained

Peter Cronkright has been a physician in the Syracuse community since 1986.  He is a Professor of Internal Medicine and Associate Professor of Family Medicine at Upstate Medical University.  Since 2008, his efforts have focused on the medical care of refugees resettling in Upstate New York.  He is a Board Member of the Society of Refugee Healthcare Providers.  He is co-author of chapters on “Chronic Disease Management” and “Chronic Pain” in Refugee Health Care:  An Essential Medical Guide.  He lectures frequently on how to approach patients with somatic symptoms.

Dishwasher to Doctor: Healing Hearts, Inspiring Minds & Changing Communities

Heval Kelli MD

Dishwasher to Doctor:  Healing Hearts, Inspiring Minds & Changing Communities

Dr. Kelli is a Syrian Kurdish-born physician. He moved to the United States as a refugee two weeks after 9/11 and enrolled at Georgia State 10 months later as a freshman. He graduated Summa Cum Laude while working as a dishwasher and he was later accepted to Morehouse School of Medicine, where he graduated Cum Laude. He finished his internal medicine residency with honorable distinction then completed his cardiology fellowship at Emory University in 2020. He co-founded and operated several non-profit organizations focused on medical education (Young Physician Initiative), mentorship (U-Beyond, Mentorship Initiative for New Americans) and healthcare outreach (You4Prevent).

His remarkable journey and work were praised by Presidents Carter, Bush, Obama and the United Nations Secretary-General and he has been featured on national and international outlets including the Associated Press, Washington Post, NY Times, New Yorker, Hulu, WHO, UN, CNN, and NPR.

Racist Intent: Understanding the US Immigration System

Sarah Kimball MD

Racist Intent:  Understanding the US Immigration System

Sarah Kimball is a board-certified internist and is an Assistant Professor at Boston University School of Medicine. She completed her medical school training at Harvard University Medical School and did residency training in Internal Medicine at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Residency Program in Primary Care and Population Medicine. She joined the faculty at Boston University School of Medicine in 2014.

Dr. Kimball has an expertise in immigration-informed medical care, where she has helped to research and build health systems that are responsive to the needs of im/migrant patients. She is currently the Director of the Immigrant & Refugee Health Center (IRHC) at Boston Medical Center, a comprehensive medical home that addresses the barriers that immigrants face to being holistically healthy. She has served previously as the Medical Director of the Boston Accountable Care Organization (BACO) Complex Care Management (CCM) program at Boston Medical Center. In addition to a love of primary care, Dr. Kimball’s main interest is in teaching social justice and advocacy skills. She is an associate editor at the Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, with an expertise in Health Services Research. She was a founding member of the Society of Refugee Health Providers, and serves at the co-Chair of the Research, Evaluation and Ethics Committee.

Promoting Language Justice in the Health Equity Agenda

Thu Quach PhD

Promoting Language Justice in the Health Equity Agenda

Dr. Quach has been working in public health and health care for 25+ years. Her research, service, and advocacy work have been grounded in her own lived experience as a refugee from Vietnam, and the struggles her family faced in the health care system. Trained as an epidemiologist, she has conducted community-based research, focusing on Asian Americans and immigrant populations, including examining occupational exposures and health impacts among Vietnamese nail salon workers.  This work was inspired by her own mother, who passed from cancer at the age of 58, after working as a cosmetologist for decades. These research findings have contributed to the seminal work that has shaped policy changes and advocated for worker rights and safety.

Dr. Quach is the President at Asian Health Services, a federally qualified health center in Oakland serving 50,000 patients in English and 14 Asian languages. She is involved in local, statewide, and national research and policy efforts to promote health equity, including emphasizing the importance of language justice and data disaggregation. In recent years, Dr. Quach has been leading the organization in addressing racial disparities in COVID-19, including starting up a culturally and linguistically competent community testing site, contact tracing targeting Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders (AAPIs), and vaccination efforts. In addition, she has been conducting groundbreaking research on COVID-19 impacts on the AAPI population, and launched efforts to collect stories of language and digital barriers faced by the AAPI community during the pandemic. Her recent work has focused on responding to anti-Asian violence and addressing mental health gaps for this population.

In her personal capacity, she helped form a national 501c4 organization in 2017 – PIVOT (Progressive Vietnamese American Organization), which engages and empowers Vietnamese Americans across the country for a just and diverse America. PIVOT work has focused on voter empowerment, fighting disinformation, policy advocacy and helping other refugee populations.

A Years-Long Commitment: Supporting Refugees and Asylum Seekers Throughout Our Professional Lifespan

board memberKatherine C. McKenzie MD, FACP

A Years-Long Commitment: Supporting Refugees and Asylum Seekers Throughout Our Professional Lifespan

Katherine C. McKenzie, MD, FACP is a faculty member at Yale School of Medicine and the Founder and Director of the Yale Center for Asylum Medicine (YCAM). She has practiced medicine at Yale for over 25 years. She teaches undergraduates, students and residents, and is a member of Yale Refugee Health Program. She is a physician advocate for social justice and human rights.

She is an expert advisor for Physicians for Human Rights and serves on the boards of the Society for Refugee Healthcare Providers, Project Access New Haven and Integrated Refugee and Immigrants Services. She is involved in medical-legal partnerships and collaborates with attorneys on civil litigation that supports human rights. She is a founder and director of the Society of Asylum Medicine.

She has written reviews, clinical case reports and opinion essays in publications including the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of the American Medical Association, the Journal of General Internal Medicine, the British Medical Journal, Time magazine and CNN, among many others.

At Yale, she received the Leonard B. Tow Award for Humanism in Medicine and the Faculty Award for Achievement in Clinical Care. She has been named a “Top Doctor” for many years by Connecticut Magazine. She is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians and has been certified with the American Board of Internal Medicine since 1995.

Kids at the Border: Confronting the Reality and Opportunities for Reform

Paul H. Wise MD, MPH

Kids at the Border: Confronting the Reality and Opportunities for Reform

Dr. Wise is the Richard E. Behrman Professor of Child Health and Society and Professor of Pediatrics and Health Policy at Stanford University.  He is also co-Director, Stanford Center for Prematurity Research, Core Faculty in the Department of Health Policy, and a Senior Fellow in Freeman-Spogli Institute for International Studies, Stanford University.

Dr. Wise’s work bridges the fields of child health equity, public policy, and international security studies.  He has published widely on these topics and his interdisciplinary contributions have been recognized by his election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Since July 2019, Dr. Wise has been working as Special Expert to the U.S. Federal Court overseeing the treatment of migrant children in U.S. detention facilities. In this role, he is responsible for independent assessment of the custodial care of migrant children and is the only non-government physician given full access to migrant detention facilities, procedures, and the children and families in custody.  Also, since his sophomore year in college, Dr. Wise has been working with indigenous communities in rural Guatemala, which significantly, is the area of the world that continues to produce the largest number of migrant children seeking refuge in the United States.

Where the Light Enters - finding healing and happiness in wounded spaces

Nadia Hashimi

Where the Light Enters – finding healing and happiness in wounded spaces

Nadia Hashimi is a pediatrician turned internationally bestselling author. Her novels for adults and children are inspired by the people and history of Afghanistan and have been translated into 16 languages. She is a member of the US Afghan Women’s Council, Afghan American Foundation, Welcome.US, and serves on the boards of several non-profit organizations. Originally from New York, she lives with her husband and four children in Potomac, Maryland.

Reimagining and Rebuilding in and after COVID: Learning from conversations informing NRC-RIM

Elizabeth (Beth) Dawson-Hahn MD, MPH

Reimagining and Rebuilding in and after COVID: Learning from conversations informing NRC-RIM

Dr. Dawson-Hahn is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of General Pediatrics at the University of Washington, an Attending Physician at Harborview Medical Center, and a Principal Investigator at the Seattle Children’s Research Institute. She is a Medical Advisor to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Global Migration and Quarantine, Immigrant, Refugee, Migrant Health Branch and the UN – International Organization for Migration. She is External Faculty at the National Resource, Center for Refugees, Immigrants and Migrants at the University of Minnesota where she leads the Qualitative Team.

Beth leads the health-equity focused Migration Health, Resilience and Multilingual Research Collaborative where her community and public health partnered research and program development primarily focuses on children in immigrant and refugee families across the migration continuum. She believes strongly in amplifying and creating space for community leadership. She co-leads the Refugee Health Promotion Project at Harborview Medical Center where she cares for medically complex refugee children shortly after arrival. She volunteers for the Northwest Health and Human Rights Project conducting asylum evaluations. Beth grew up in a rural community in northern NY and she prioritizes mentoring first generation students and those who are new to academia. 

Afghan Evacuees: An overview of mental health issues of concern

Aniyizhai Annamalai MBBS, MD

Afghan Evacuees:  An overview of mental health issues of concern

Dr. Annamalai is associate professor in psychiatry and internal medicine at Yale School of Medicine. She is the director of the adult Yale Refugee Clinic that partners with the local refugee resettlement agency to provide comprehensive health screening and longitudinal care for all newly arrived refugees in New Haven, Connecticut. The clinic serves as a central point for several clinical, educational and research programs to improve health of refugees resettling in New Haven. Dr. Annamalai is the editor of ‘Refugee Health Care’, a reference book used by healthcare practitioners who provide clinical care for refugees. Her academic interest is in integrating physical and mental health care for vulnerable populations, including refugees.

“We Trust Our People More”: COVID-19 Vaccination Equity through Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Navigation

Kristi Knuti Rodrigues MD, MPH
Betsy Ruckard
Adrien Matadi, LLB
Kuang Oo, BA
Rasulo Rasulo, MBA

“We Trust Our People More”: COVID-19 Vaccination Equity through Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Navigation

Dr. Knuti Rodrigues is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Denver Health Emergency Department and Urgent Care and University of Colorado School of Medicine.  She received her bachelor of arts in social anthropology from Harvard University, her medical doctorate from University of Colorado School of Medicine, and her masters of public health in applied biostatistics from Colorado School of Public Health.  A board-certified pediatrician, she completed her pediatric residency at University of Colorado School of Medicine.  She is the Medical Director of the RIM Navigation Program and speaks English and Spanish.

Betsy Ruckard, RIM Services Coordinator, has worked at Denver Health for 10 years.  Born at Denver Health, she specializes in project management, navigator support and career advancement, and process development.

Adrien Matadi, LLB, has been a RIM Navigator at Denver Health for 7 years. He was born in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo.  He received his bachelor of law in international and humanitarian law from Ethiopian Civil Service University.  He came to the United States as a refugee and speaks Amharic, Arabic, English, French, Lingala, and Swahili.

Kuang Oo, BA, joined Denver Health as a RIM Navigator nearly 5 years ago.  He received his bachelor of arts in economics from Colorado State University.  Born in a refugee camp in Thailand, he speaks Burmese, English, Karen, and Pwo Karen and is currently completing prerequisite coursework to apply to physician assistant programs.

Rasulo Rasulo, MBA, has been a RIM Navigator at Denver Health for 5 years.  He received his masters of business administration in healthcare management from Colorado Technical University.  He was born in Somalia, came to the United States as a refugee, and speaks English, Maay Maay, Somali, and Swahili. He is currently completing coursework towards an Islamic psychology program.

*Not CME eligible* The Root Causes of High Drug Costs: Multiple Levels of Scams

*Please note that this session is not eligible for CME credit*

Alex Oshmyansky MD, PhD

The Root Causes of High Drug Costs: Multiple Levels of Scams

Alex Oshmyansky is the Founder and CEO of the Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug Company. Alex founded the Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug Company after being incensed by the skyrocketing costs of generic drugs for his patients.

Alex graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder at the age of 18 with a BA in Biochemistry. He went on to earn an MD at the Duke University School of Medicine and a PhD (DPhil Oxon) at Oxford University in Mathematics as a Marshall Scholar. Alex completed a surgical internship at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital / Harvard Medical School. He went on to a residency in diagnostic radiology and a fellowship in pediatric radiology at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. Alex then served as an adjunct faculty member at the Stanford University School of Medicine and continues to practice as an emergency radiologist.

While in grad school, Alex founded a startup dedicated to reducing the rates of nosocomial diseases in hospitals, Altitude Medical. That company has been continuously operating for over 14 years.

The Society of Refugee Healthcare Providers has no financial interest in Cost Drugs Plus and has received no financial incentive for placing this speaker on our program.  The presentation doesn’t qualify for CME, but many of our members have patients that can’t afford their medication and we believe it is important that attendees understand why the system is broken and what alternatives are available for their patients.

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