HRSJ’s first Skills in Social Medicine workshop on caring for patients who use drugs

HRSJ’s Skills in Social Medicine workshop series is kicking off this Tuesday, November 18 2014 with special guests Dr. Hillary Kunins, Ms. Emma Roberts, and Ms. Andrea Jakubowski.

Caring for patients who use drugs: Prevention, treatment, and harm reduction in primary care

Dr. Hillary Kunins, Assistant Commissioner, Bureau of Alcohol and Drug Use Prevention, Care, and Treatment, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

Emma Roberts, Harm Reduction Coalition

Andrea Jakubowski, Mount Sinai MD c/o 2015 and HRSJ co-founder

The hands-on skills-building workshop will cover: SBIRT (Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment), Buprenorphine and Methadone 101, Overdose prevention, Naloxone prescribing, Naloxone kit training and use, Harm reduction in primary care, and a discussion of local resources for your patients.

Details: Tuesday, November 18, 5:30-6:30pm in Mount Sinai’s Annenberg Building Room 12-62. Questions? Email

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SAVI workshop: Learning how to help survivors of intimate partner violence

On Tuesday October 28, HRSJ, CHIP, and AMWA co-hosted an evening with Mount Sinai’s Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention (SAVI) Program to learn more about how we can help survivors – as physicians, students, friends, and family members. Medical students also learned how to interview survivors of intimate partner violence and how to raise awareness and become better advocates for survivors of domestic violence.
Learn more about SAVI here:

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HRSJ welcomes the 2014-15 Scholars!

Welcome to the fourth cohort of HRSJ Scholars of the Mount Sinai class of 2018!

David Ali

Charlotte Austin

Caroline Beyer

Caitlyn Braschi

Reuben Hendler

Susheian Kelly

Murad Khan

Emma Murphy

Lily Ostrer

Cuauhtzin Rangel

Allison Vise

Maryam Zafer

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Scholars present Policy and Advocacy Service Projects at Mount Sinai’s Third Annual HRSJ Health Equity Symposium!

Scholars present Policy and Advocacy Service Projects at Mount Sinai's Third Annual HRSJ Health Equity Symposium!

Congratulations to the HRSJ Scholars and second year leaders, Emmett Kistler, Kamini Doobay, Ruyan Rahnama, and Vir Patel, for a wonderful celebration of human rights, health equity, and social justice at the Third Annual HRSJ Health Equity Symposium, which was held May 6, 2014 at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Click here for a gallery of photos from the Symposium!

The twelve HRSJ Scholars presented the progress and results of their year-long Advocacy and Policy Service Projects to members of the Mount Sinai community, from fellow students and faculty to members of the Auxiliary Board and deans from various departments. Among the projects the Scholars presented were:

- Creation of an interactive googlemap of the different types of sponsors of school-based health centers that provide pediatric mental health services in East Harlem
– Development of HERS: Health Evaluation Re-entry Survey, a tool to assess the health needs of women with a history of domestic violence who are coming home from prison
– Outreach to increase health insurance literacy and enrollment in East Harlem

Photo (from L to R): Ray Cornbill, John Rhee, Ann Crawford-Roberts, Scott Jelinek, Amalia Kane, Eric Woods, Ann-Gel Palermo, Ian Jones, Annie Brown, Jeremy Levenson, Krupa Harishankar, Alexis Karlin, and Stephen Supoyo. Not shown: Gracie Himmelstein.

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Social Justice and Medicine Career Panel

The Human Rights and Social Justice Scholars Program
invites you to a

Social Justice and Medicine Career Panel

5:30-7pm, Monday, January 24th, 2014, 13-01

Dr. Steven Itzkowitz – Colon cancer community outreach and awareness

Dr. Dinali Fernando – Advocating for survivors of torture seeking asylum in the U.S.

Dr. Makini Chisolm-Straker – Sex-trafficking, transgender healthcare, and global health

Dr. Demetri Blanas – Harlem Residency for Family Medicine

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Scholar Reflection: Alexis Karlin

karlia01Health, Human Rights, and Advocacy Elective – Fall 2013

Mental health as a human right

On Thursday, November 14, Dr. Craig Katz spoke to us about his own experience in the field of global mental health. While he spoke about the critical role of mental health specialists following crises, he recalled a singular experience at one of the sites where he and his team came following an environmental disaster.  Dr. Katz recalled that the teacher was grateful for their presence but asked, “Where were you before?” This question that drew attention to the absence of mental health care in a country already ravaged by civil war and terrorism even prior to the environmental catastrophe. According to Dr. Katz, this question caused him to challenge his own approach to global mental health, leading him to envision mental health care as a form of preventative medicine. This is an ideal that is not realized even in the United States, where there are over 500,000 mental health professionals (though even this number represents a gross shortage of mental health care professionals). Dr. Katz suggested that in order to implement this ideal, mental health care professionals could train community workers in mental health care – including screening and counseling techniques. His recommendations spurred a discussion among the students present as we considered different methods of implementing a preventative mental health care system.

Dr. Katz then posed two questions to the class as a whole: 1) Is mental health care a human right? 2) Is mental health a human right?

In my opinion, mental health (and, by necessity, mental health care) is not only a human right, but it is a societal necessity. The following statement is so easily taken for granted, so easily ignored, so easily forgotten: everyone deserves happiness – not only to be free of depression or of crippling psychiatric problems, but to be happy and fulfilled. Depression and other psychiatric illnesses originate from the same place as any other disease – partially genetic, partially environmental in source – yet they are absurdly stigmatized in most societies (show me a place where an individual’s depression is openly discussed and I’ll show you… forget it, I have other things to do). What can we do against this stigma, which has such devastating consequences for individuals and societies as a whole? Indeed, to separate “mental health” from overall health makes no sense to me whatsoever, when it has been proven that our mental state can have drastic effects on how our bodies function day-to-day and in the long-term (think psychological stress and heart disease, think depression/anxiety and IBS, think…the list goes on). In the end, it’s all about chemical interactions and molecular pathways, right?

And not only individuals, but complete societies suffer from these enormous gaps in mental health care.

For example, not a month goes by without another mass shooting in the United States, without violence between gangs or factions, without another terror attack in some area of the world, without rage (often justified) and the exploitation of that rage by leaders who are excellent at Exploitation of the Enraged. The exploitation of masses, of those seeking a target for their rage, for the suffering they or their loved ones have endured throughout a lifetime or generations. Rage may not be a symptom of a mental or emotional illness; rage may be a legitimate consequence of a world in which injustices multiply like drug-resistant diseases in poor or underserved areas. Yet rage without a clear target can be used, twisted, and manipulated. Yes, the rage has a much deeper source, located in structural inequities that have survived, unchallenged, for generations and generations. Yet we can see – particularly in the United States, where gang violence is virulent in certain places, where young people acquire firearms and decide to shoot at others indiscriminately – that we need more mental health care, and that this is, indeed, a social issue. We need (more) services for those traumatized by war or other forms of violence, we need services to be free of cost, we need preventative mental health care to become the norm.

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Scholar Reflection: Gracie Himmelstein

himmeg01Health, Human Rights, and Advocacy Elective – Fall 2013

Racial Disparities in Healthcare

On Thursday, November 7, Dr. Nina Bickell and Dr. Neil Calman came to speak to the HHRA elective about racial disparities in medicine.  Their career paths demonstrate two powerful ways of approaching this issue – Dr. Bickell has worked to address racial disparities in medicine through research, while Dr. Calman has done so through advocacy.

The first thing that came to my mind upon reading about this week’s subject was that I don’t like the word disparity – it allows for a description of inequality, without requiring the speaker or author to address what or who is responsible for it.  To my mind, a discussion of “disparities” should be merely an introduction to a discussion about what caused the disparity in the first place, and what can be done to intervene. In other parts of medical school, however, the conversation has generally stalled at naming disparities, without discussion of advocacy or intervention.  Thankfully, any worries that Thursday’s class would follow this same trajectory were unwarranted, as both Dr. Bickell and Dr. Calman were eager to discuss practical applications of their work.

One major issue raised during Thursday’s class was the two-tiered system of care provided in many hospitals, whereby wealthy patients are sent to one part of the hospital (be it the faculty practice or private inpatient floors), while poorer patients are sent to another.  Having done previous research in the field of social inequality, this piqued my interest.  There is an abundance of research at the international level, which shows that across countries, greater inequality is strongly correlated with a variety of negative health outcomes, including higher infant mortality and shorter life expectancy.  This got me wondering whether inequality within a hospital could also lead to negative outcomes.  It seems that the intuition among many doctors is that inequality makes care worse even for those ostensibly benefiting from the system – the wealthy.  In fact, one doctor told me that when he was in medical school, the students would joke that the best thing you could say about the private pavilion was that it was pretty close to a decent hospital.  A brief search returned no quantitative studies on the issue, and I imagine that data is hard to come by, but interesting to think about nonetheless.

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