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Brown University: Two Channels to Cambodian Patient Advocacy

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Above right, Brown student Geolani Dy (far right) addresses a group with a Cambodian social worker and an interpreter.

Since the 1980s, more than 20,000 individuals from war-torn Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam have sought refuge in Rhode Island. Due to financial, cultural and linguistic barriers, many of Rhode Island's Cambodian refugees still lack proper health care and health education 30 years after arrival. Diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, and hypertension are pervasive and often go uncontrolled for years, as the tendency to seek preventive care is low among Cambodians. Doctor visits prove confusing and upsetting when providers lack the training to work within their patients' socioeconomic, linguistic, and cultural contexts.

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Two Channels to Cambodian Patient Advocacy is an educational initiative designed to benefit Cambodian patients and future providers, through early awareness of a local group's health care needs and exercises in patient advocacy. Our project combines patient education and outreach with a medical student curriculum as a framework for the community work. With an AΩA Medical Student Service Project grant, we fulfilled our objectives of establishing a Medicine Adherence patient education program and an Alpert Medical School health screening team at Southeast Asian community gatherings. We created a new, Brown-approved pre-clinical elective course, Cambodian Patient Advocacy, which is sustainable as the Refugee Patient Advocacy course for future AMS students.

Updated on October 19, 2010.