Research Fellow 2019-2020:Alice Stella

Alice Stella recently completed her Bachelor’s degree in Applied Biology from Sage College and is currently applying for medical school. Her dream is to help her Burmese refugee community access quality care and improve their health outcomes. She worked as a Chin/Burmese translator at the Refugee Health Partnership Program. She states  “For so long, the Burmese refugees have lived in refugees’ camps or as an illegal immigrant in a foreign country to seek asylum without access to healthcare. This type of trauma has negatively impacted how they seek care in the United States”. She has worked as a Research Coordinator with Albany Medical College, collecting data on factors impacting medical school performance for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, worked a chef’s assistant, and volunteered at her local library. 

How do you think teaching and performance of traditional dance and arts impact the health of ethnic communities in the United States?

Engaging in a meaningful act of teaching or performance of traditional dance and arts can also strengthen social skills in an environment where they feel comfortable with a sense of belonging in their communities. Ethnic communities in the United States might struggle to feel a sense of belonging in the new environment but if they are involved in activities that can cultivate their native values such as traditional dance and arts; it can help them develop a sense of belonging within their communities. Furthermore, traditional dance is a form of exercise that can prevent illnesses such as obesity, high blood pressure, and heart diseases which are prevalent in vulnerable communities.

–Alice Stella, BS

What is one way you would improve cultural competency in the current healthcare system?

I would educate the healthcare professionals by exposing daily difficulties face by refugees to improve provider and patient relationship. A lot of healthcare professionals do not understand the extent to which refugees need help in order to provide the best treatment. For example, even making a medical appointment can be very challenging and many of them have never been to a hospital in their life. Aside from the language barriers, even obtaining medical prescriptions can be a hassle for them while for an average American going to the Pharmacy wouldn’t be an issue. The upbringings that many refugees have in comparison to the average American or an immigrant from a first world country is drastically different. Many healthcare professionals tend to assume that the only difficulty that refugees would face while seeking medical attention would be language barriers and that they are likely to assimilate to the new culture after several years. Many older refuges would need more than several years to navigate their way through the healthcare system, and they would likely need to depend on someone’s help after spending the majority of the lives in poverty and oppression. 

If the medical professionals do not take additional steps into making sure the refugee communities are given the best possible treatment, it would leave the refugee communities into having a wide gap in health care disparities.

Research Project: White Coat in Medicine Literature Review

Check out her final reflection here. ‘White Coat’ is accepted at Royal Society of Public Health Public Health Journal, 2021