refugees

Why A US Health Clinic Suggests Cambodian Treatments For Everyday Maladies

Mar 16, 2016
Women gather to meditate at the Metta Health Center in Lowell MA.
Heidi Shin / PRI

Doctors at a health clinic in Lowell, Massachusetts, had a problem — their exam rooms reminded refugee patients of torture chambers. The stethoscopes, the blood pressure cuff squeezing your arm — they looked like the torture devices used on their families, during Cambodia’s genocide.


Rebecca Smith / KBIA/Side Effects Public Media

Laldin Liana, a recently-arrived refugee, sits in his doctor’s office in Columbia, Missouri, talking about his life – his favorite Jason Statham movies, life in Myanmar and his three children. He’s speaking with two nursing students from the University of Missouri, who are here to help him navigate his appointment.

Son and mother featured in the story
Alex Smith / KCUR

It’s always a struggle to resettle in a new country, but for Bhutanese refugees, the challenge has been especially difficult. Bhutan, a largely Buddhist country, is known for having created a ‘national happiness index,’ but it has also forced out many of its ethnically Nepali, mostly Hindu, population. Since arriving in the United States, many of these refugees have suffered serious mental health issues.

Jason Eppink/Flickr

 To most patients in the U.S., the way Dr. P.J. Parmar runs his primary care clinic for refugees in Aurora, Colo. may seem strange: "When a patient walks into the clinic and has been here before...my goal is for them to walk right into the front door, walk right into my office and sit down next to me without stopping." Parmar tells Sound Medicine how he tries to make life easier for his patients, many of whom are not from the U.S. and face linguistic and cultural barriers to care.