In May Wasan and Asim Abu-Baker were invited to speak at the UCSF Fresno Family Medicine program Cross Cultural Competency lecture series hosted by Dr. Liana Milanes and her family medicine colleagues.
The aim of the UCSF Cross Cultural Competency lecture series is to enhance the ability of physicians to meet the needs of a diverse patient population. Acknowledging the Syrian crisis and the health needs of the community, the discussion was about the cross cultural competency with the Syrian Refugee population here in Fresno. I have been involved in connecting the Syrian refugees with the health care services in Fresno and have had direct contact with them enough to identify some key points for the health care providers to be familiar with.
I am a community health worker in the Syrian Program at Fresno Interdenominational Refugee Ministries (FIRM) and a Fellow at The American Friends Service Committee. The experience that I shared with the physicians was about the background of the Syrian culture and religion. There are currently 31 Syrian families who live in Fresno, five of them are asylum seekers and the others are from a variety of host countries; Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, and Iraq. These refugee families came to the US through one of nice US based resettlement agencies which work closely with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). We also discussed the effects of the Syrian Civil War on the Syrian population physically, psychologically, academically, and emotionally young and old. After the start of the civil war many families fled from Syria to Jordan and Turkey. The majority of those families fled to Jordan or Turkey and traveled between refugee camps, or stayed outside the camps or lived in small cities ,
Dr. Asim Abu-Baker is a clinical pharmacist with a background in Ambulatory Care and Internal Medicine. He has worked to introduce the Syrian families in Fresno to the health care system, namely, to the Clinica Sierra Vista Health Clinics. He shared with the audience common practices in the Muslim community regarding personal contact and communication between the two genders, contraception, end of life care, and the cultural perception of healthcare in general. He shared that the Muslim community is culturally diverse and that although it is important to be familiar with religious restrictions, it is important to know that individuals have various levels of adherence to the faith. With the month of Ramadan approaching, the audience was informed of the practice of fasting during this Muslim holy month and who is and is not required to fast. Since fasting may impact some illnesses, the providers need to know that this is a factor which may impact their patients’ health outcomes. Specific to the Syrian families in Fresno, we discussed their acceptance and reliance on western medicine. In addition, we discussed the impact of the Syrian Civil War on the mental health of refugees and asylum seekers. This issue will certainly have an impact on families years beyond resettlement and needs significant attention in the months and years to come.
We look forward to future collaborations with the UCSF Fresno Family Medicine program and hope to better serve the families with the assistance of these community providers.