Mid County Refugee Clinic honored by state primary care association

May 2, 2018

A team of from the Mid County Health Center were honored with a health equity award from the Oregon Primary Care Association April 27th, for their work with refugee patients.

From left, Adrienne Daniels, deputy director of Integrated Clinical Services, Therese Lugano, Community Health Worker, Vanetta Abdullatif, director of Clinical Services, and Susanna Nor-Ashkarian with the Immigrant and Refugee Clinic

The health center’s Refugee Clinic “has really created a welcoming environment” Multnomah County’s director of Integrated Clinical Services, Vanetta Abdellatif, who is also serving as interim co-director of the Health Department, said Thursday in presenting the award.

“This team really helps to translate from person to person, not just in language, but in hope and optimism, and helping them feel courageous,” she said. “It’s a real transition ad our team helps them make it a success.”

All refugees arriving to Oregon from abroad complete a mandatory health screening at Mid County Health Center. They’re greeted by a team that, for the past 20 years, has included Susanna Nor-Ashkarian. Nor-Ashkarian and her team walks them through a process that includes a general exam, nutritional history, immunizations, an emotional distress screening and lab testing for Malaria, lead toxicity, parasites, sexually-transmitted infections and Tuberculosis.

Nor-Ashkarian is often the first contact most refugees have with American medicine. “I want them to feel like I’m their sister, that I can help them so they don’t feel isolated,” she told those gathered last week during the awards ceremony.

Many new arrivals walk out of the Immigrant and Refugee Clinic asking how they can become a patient at Mid County Health Center. Some might give her a hug. Then Nor-Ashkarian’s coworker Therese Lugano steps in to help the patients find additional resources, such as specialty care, social services, or to enroll them in a group, such as the gardening group she runs for Central African women each year.

“Because they might be in a little apartment and they don’t go out because they’re scared and the don’t speak the language,” Lugano said during the ceremony. “So my job is to push them out, to belong.”

The Refugee Clinic team also includes Dr Deane DeFontes, Dr Ishmael Togamae, Nurse Practitioner Adriane Tuttle, Refugee Health Coordinator Charlene McGee, Mid County Nursing Supervisor, Robin Reed and Mid County Clinic Manager and State Refugee Health Coordinator, Angela Wright.

Mid County’s team shared the Health Equity Award with Sandy Giardini and Miguel Angel Herrada, board members of the Central Oregon nonprofit Mosaic Medical. Other awards included the:

  • CHC Advocacy Award, given to Lacey Beaty, of Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center, for her advocacy of Latina teens having education about and access to contraception.
  • Growth Award, given to Erika Armsbury of Central City Concern, for overseeing a 30-percent expansion in mental health treatment while earning praise from patients, like one who said CCC provided “the best coordinated care I’ve received in the last 20 years, if not my life.”
  • CHC Value Award, given to the business intelligence team at Central City Concern for creating a centralized database with data sets from disparate sources to create reports that offered insight into the nonprofit's programs, operations and patients.
  • Innovation and Leadership in Transformation Award, given jointly to Sherlyn Dahl of the Community Health Centers of Benton & Linn Counties, and Rick Kincade of the Community Health Centers of Lane County.