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Transforming Refugee Mental Health

Participating Universities:  American University of Beirut, American University in Cairo, Birzeit University, Lebanese American University, and the University of California, Davis

PI:  Suad Joseph, University of California, Davis 

The UCDAR Consortium has launched a pilot project in Egypt, Lebanon and Palestine – all countries which host a large number of refugees from the Arab region.  UCDAR Consortium is working to develop a culturally-sensitive, gender-sensitive framework for diagnosing trauma among refugees and vulnerable groups in these countries.  With the gendered and cultural framework, the TRMH project team plans to develop a training program in refugee mental health, telemedicine, health informatics, and mobile health for primary care doctors and nurses, psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, medical, nursing, and public health students, refugee community health workers, and refugees.

According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the Syrian refugee crisis has displaced more than 5 million people. Many of them have fled to neighboring countries including Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan. Syrian refugees struggle with the violence and trauma that they have experienced, and the extreme poverty they confront in host countries. In addition to the Syrian refugees, are the long-standing Palestinian refugees, housed in Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt.  In Lebanon alone, there are upwards of 500,000 Palestinian refugees, some of whom have been there since 1948, others since 1967 and others at various wars and dislocations.  Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees are similarly stretched among the countries of the Arab regions.

They are living alongside other vulnerable populations in host countries. Depleted resources, the high cost of living and restricted livelihood opportunities due to lack of access to employment and legal residency are making it difficult for these families to meet their basic needs. The overall situation is exacerbated by weak economic growth in many host countries, and overstretched resources and services.

The UCDAR Consortium project will collect needed data through research, and a develop gendered and cultural framework and implement training, to provide critical mental health care for both refugees and other vulnerable populations in regional contexts.  The project will incorporate cultural and gender understanding and sensitivity throughout the research and data collection, certificate training programs, and monitoring and evaluation.


UC Davis Refugee Law-Mental Health Intersection Forum 2018

Transforming Refugee Mental Health: Focus Group Findings on Migrant Legal-Mental Health Intersectionality 2019


Research Team

American University of Beirut (AUB):

Mariette Awad
Associate Professor
Electrical and Computer Engineering

Dr. Awad is an associate professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department of the American University of Beirut. She has been a visiting professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, Intel Mobile Group, and MIT. She was invited by CVC labs, Google and Qualcomm to present her work on machine learning and image processing. She has published a book “Efficient Machine Learning” in 2015 and has more than 70 conferences, book chapter, and journal publications. She has received 21 grants to support her research including two multidisciplinary multi-million-dollar grants from the Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF) and Intel.  Prof. Awad is active in her community: she has created the Women affinity group at AUB and the Lebanon chapter. She also organized the first summer school on artificial intelligence in 2015 and a hackathon on social innovation in March 2017 both at AUB. Prior to her academic position, she was with IBM System and Technology group in Vermont as a wireless product engineer. Over the years, her technical leadership and innovative spirit has earned her twice management recognition, two business awards, and 10 patents at IBM. Her current research interests include machine learning, data analytics and internet of things. 


Mohamed Fouad Mohamed Fouad

Assistant Research Professor and Co- Director of the Refugee Health Program, Global Health Initiative (GHI)
Department of Epidemiology & Population Health, Faculty of Health Sciences

Dr. Fouad’s current research interests focus on Syrian displacement inside Syria and the neighboring countries, as well as the impact of this crisis on their health and well-being. From 2002-2012, Dr. Fouad served as Director of the National Institute of Health (NIH)-funded Syrian Center for Tobacco studies, where he coordinated multiple health promotion studies. Fouad is a co-author in several commentary publications in The Lancet as well as the international Journal of Public Health on assessing the Syrian’s health crisis and the response to this devastating event. Currently, he is a PI of a project funded by Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University on Refugee Health Policy with a focus on NCDs among Syrian refugees in three countries; Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey. Also, he is a co-PI of a project funded by Research for Health in Humanitarian Crises- ELHRA on identifying ways to promote health systems resilience in contexts of protracted displacement through systems analysis of UNRWA provision to Palestine refugees displaced by the Syria crisis. Fouad is serving as a commissioner in two Lancet Commissions; AUB Lancet Commission: Syria and the crises in global governance, health and aid, and UCL-Lancet Commission on Migration and Health.


Lilian A. Ghandour, PhD MPH
Associate Professor
Department of Epidemiology and Population Health, Faculty of Health Sciences

Dr. Ghandour received her PhD from the Department of Mental Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and her Master of Public Health (MPH) in Epidemiology and Biostatistics from AUB. Dr. Ghandour has been involved in the design and analyses of various national and international surveys related to youth mental health. Mainly, her research focuses on understanding the epidemiology of substance-related and other addictive behaviors, specifically the nonmedical use of psychoactive prescription drugs, underage and harmful alcohol consumption, as well as general mental health disorders in children and adolescents. Dr. Ghandour is also involved in translational research, conducting local epidemiological research to help inform national policies and practices. She has received several extramural research grants and awards for her work on youth mental health, and has published extensively in high tier peer-reviewed journals. 

At AUB, Dr Ghandour has been responsible for teaching and contributing to several undergraduate and graduate courses in Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Public health. She has taught a variety of student populations (undergraduate health science students, graduate public health students, medical students) as well as physicians and health professionals, both at and outside of AUB. 


American University in Cairo (AUC)

Kate Ellis
Assistant Professor of Psychology

 Dr. Kate Ellis is an assistant professor of psychology at The American University in Cairo, and serves as both the graduate programs director and the coordinator of the leadership in mental health course.  She is also a clinical psychologist who works predominantly with refugees and individuals who have experienced trauma. Her research focuses on the impact of violence and conflict, with a focus on young people. Dr. Ellis has published several peer reviewed works regarding the experiences of young people exposed to community and political violence). She has also published works on the mental health experiences of ‘looked after children' and the challenges faced by detained youth offenders). Dr Ellis has recently completed an empirical study, training lay counselors from a Sudanese refugee population to deliver narrative exposure therapy within their community. Currently, Ellis is involved in projects to develop and evaluate intervention programs in conflict-affected settings such as Egypt, upscaling mental health interventions in low economic countries and developing accessible online, culturally appropriate interventions for trauma in Egyptian Arabic.


Birzeit University

Image result for rita giacaman birzeit university

Rita Giacaman
Professor of Public Health
Institute of Community and Public Health

Dr. Rita Giacaman is a professor of public health at the Institute of Community and Public Health, Birzeit University, West Bank, occupied Palestinian territory. The founder of the Institute, Rita's current work focuses on the development of measures to assess psycho-social health which are relevant and appropriate for context, and ways in which interventions could generate active and positive resilience and resistance to ongoing war like conditions, especially among youth.

Members of the Institute work in teams, combining various disciplines and sub-disciplines in conducting research. Our approach in multidisciplinary, we draw on classical public health, medical and other disciplinary theories and methods. In addition, we also draw on sociology, anthropology, psychology, economics, engineering and other disciplines whenever relevant to our research questions.  The Institute’s collaborative research interest include: Non-communicable diseases and associated factors, War and health, Women’s health, Mental health, Violence and health (political, domestic and communal), The development of metrics to assess the effects of violence on health, Young people’s health and wellbeing, Adolescent health and well being, and Demography and population (especially fertility, but also maternal, infant and child mortality).


Image result for Weeam Hammoudeh birzeit

Weeam Hammoudeh
Assistant Professor
Faculty Member - Institute of Community and Public Health

Weeam Hammoudeh holds a PhD and MA in Sociology from Brown University, and an MPH from Birzeit University. She is currently an Assistant Professor at the Institute of Community and Public Health, and formerly ACSS (Arab Council for the Social Sciences) Postdoctoral Fellow and Visiting Researcher at the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Birzeit University. She is interested in understanding how political and social transformations impact health, psychosocial wellbeing, and population processes, particularly in conflict areas; as we as how health systems and social institutions develop and shift in relation to political, economic, and structural factors, particularly in developing countries and post-colonial settings. Her dissertation research utilizes a political-economic and mixed-methods approach to understanding changes in Palestinian fertility in the oPt. Her research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Margaret McNamara Memorial Fund, Open Society, the Palestinian American Research Center, and the Arab Council for the Social Sciences. She has extensive research experience in health and population studies, including research on reproductive health, maternal and child health, women’s health, demographic processes and change, as well as quality of life and population psychosocial wellbeing, and mixed-methods approaches.

Lebanese American University (LAU)

Carmel H. Bouclaous
Assistant Professor
Gilbert & Rose-Marie Chagoury School of Medicine

Dr. Carmel H. Bouclaous is Assistant Professor at Gilbert and Rose-Marie Chagoury School of Medicine Lebanese American University (LAU), Lebanon. She teaches social medicine and global health and serves as the social medicine discipline coordinator. Dr. Bouclaous holds a PhD in Development Studies from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva-Switzerland, a Master of Public Health and a Master of Nutrition from the American University of Beirut-Lebanon. Her research interests lie at the intersection of public health, nutrition, development, and sustainability. She focuses on the effects of the social, political and economic environments on health. She has a number of peer-reviewed publications. She was the appointed Director of Academic Affairs at the school and was involved with faculty and student-related issues including academic recruitment and peer review of faculty members. She is the NBME’s Executive Chief Proctor for LAU responsible for instituting the customized assessments and the subject exams of the American National Board of Medical Examiners. As member of the school’s accreditation and registration steering committee, she is championing the governance and administration standard required for accreditation by the World Federation for Medical Education. She is advisor to the Lebanese Medical Students’ International Committee (LeMSIC) and LAU’s Medical Student Association (MSA). With LeMSIC, she coordinates the medical student exchange program where the school welcomes a number of international students annually. She oversees the activities of MSA such as national screening events, health awareness campaigns, and fundraising activities. Prior to joining LAU, Dr. Bouclaous worked extensively in healthcare management. She is currently serving a six-year term as council member of her hometown of Beit El Chaar -Lebanon.

University of California, Davis

Suad Joseph
Distinguished Research Professor, Anthropology and Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies;
Director, UCDAR, Global Affairs

Dr. Suad Joseph is Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies and scholar of Middle East gender and family studies.  She founded a group leading to the establishment of the Middle East Section of the American Anthropological Association; she founded the Association for Middle East Women's Studies and co-founded its internationally recognized journal – Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies; she founded the Arab Families Research Group; and a six-university consortium. She co-founded the Arab American Studies Association and the Association for Middle East Anthropology.  She was the president of the Middle East Studies Association of North America, the main professional association for scholars of the Middle East. She co-founded the Women and Gender Studies Program and founded the Middle East/South Asia Studies Program at UC Davis. She is the recipient of numerous awards including: the UC Davis Prize for Undergraduate Teaching and Research, the largest such prize in the United States; the graduate mentor award by the Consortium for Women and Research, and the Diversity Leadership award and the Distinguished Scholarly Public Service Award by UC Davis.  She is General Editor of the Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Cultures- the first encyclopedia of its kind, which Choice, the magazine for librarians, ranked as “essential” for libraries. She has edited or co-edited 8 books, and published over 100 articles. For the past decade and half, she has offered training in proposal writing and research design to young scholars in the Middle East, Europe, and the United States.


Patrick Marius Koga
Assistant Professor, Division of Epidemiology, Department of Public Health Sciences
UC Davis School of Medicine

Dr. Koga’s research interests include the global refugee crisis impacts on host countries’ health systems and populations; posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in war refugees and victims of oppression and violence from the Middle East and Central Asia; sub-threshold PTSD as an occupational risk in law enforcement officers; refugee telehealth in UNHCR camps to link up “upstream” with “downstream” public health communities; sociocultural, religious/spiritual, and brain correlates of moral disengagement in dehumanizing others, war atrocities, and terrorism. Dr. Koga is a founder of the Sacramento Ulysses Project which offers pro bono psychological counseling to traumatized refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, and Syria, using a demedicalized model for refugees with subthreshold PTSD to reduce post-resettlement trauma and comorbid conditions while increasing their resilience and social integration.


Photo of Raquel E. Aldana

Raquel E Aldana
Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Diversity; Professor of Law

Raquel E. Aldana is Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Diversity at UC Davis and a Professor of Law at the School of Law. She joined UC Davis in 2017. Aldana is a graduate of Arizona State University (earning a bachelor’s degree in English and another in Spanish) and Harvard Law School. She was a professor at the William S. Boyd School of Law, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, before joining the McGeorge School of Law faculty in 2009. Her scholarship has focused on transitional justice and criminal justice reforms in Latin America as well as immigrant rights in the United States. She has taught immigration law and international human rights, lawyering for immigrants, “crimmigration,” criminal law and procedure, international labor law, and Latin American comparative law. She founded and directed the McGeorge School of Law’s Inter-American Program, which trains bilingual and bicultural lawyers for transnational careers or to work with the growing Latino population in the United States. She served as the school’s associate dean for faculty scholarship, 2013–17. She is co-editing From Extraction to Emancipation: Development Reimagined, a forthcoming book from the American Bar Association. She was recently re-elected to the Latin America and Caribbean Council of the ABA’s Rule of Law Initiative, and previously served as the co-president of the Society of American Law Teachers. She was a Fulbright Scholar in Guatemala in 2006 and 2007.

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