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A Closer Look at Global Health

Cassandra Kandah, MS, who is pursuing a PhD in clinical psychology in the College of Health Professions, provides support and training to mental health counselors who work with African refugees who have survived trauma. 

“We’re very proud of RFU’s approach to global health,” Cassandra said. “It’s not, ‘Let’s go there and teach them.’ We first ask the community, ‘What do you need?’

Their resilience is a reminder that human beings can overcome the most traumatic experiences.” CASSANDRA KANDAH, PhD Candidate


“In Uganda, they requested mental health services.”

Chicago Medical School students first visited Ndejje, Uganda, in 2011 and the effort burgeoned under a partnership with the university’s Office of Global Health Initiatives. Interprofessional teams of students and faculty now make regular visits to both the nonprofit Hope of Children and Women Victims of Violence and the government’s Zanta Clinic. Psychology faculty and students offer intensive training to peer counselors, many of them survivors in their own right, in NET, narrative exposure therapy, which has shown success in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder.

 In between visits, the partners meet by Skype and keep in touch by email and Facebook.

 “We’re being the best support system we can be, answering questions, teaching about therapeutic relationships and the continuum of care,” said Cassandra, the first RFU psychology student to travel to Ndejje and whose dissertation will explore the feasibility and preliminary effectiveness of the program.

Refugees who flow into Ndejje from the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda and Tanzania suffer from a range of trauma including starvation, torture and sexual violence.

“I’ve witnessed such incredible emotional fortitude among African refugees and Ugandan nationals,” Cassandra said. “Their resilience is a reminder that human beings can overcome the most traumatic experiences.”

This article first appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of Helix.

Posted May 11, 2016
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