Saturday, June 20 marked World Refugee Day, a holiday of recognition organized by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Agency. This year, people around the world honored this day while observing how the COVID-19 pandemic has added to the plight of refugees.

Paying special attention to this day were members of the Keck School Human Rights Clinic (KHRC), a student-run aid group at the Keck School of Medicine of USC founded in 2017 that is “dedicated to providing forensic medical and psychological evaluations to survivors of human rights abuses seeking asylum in the United States.”

Los Angeles has one of the largest populations of asylum seekers in the country. They’re typically fleeing from violence, human trafficking and persecution in their home countries. A crucial part of KHRC’s work involves collaborating with lawyers to provide medical and psychological evaluations to these asylum seekers. Refugees who receive these evaluations are eight times more likely to win their cases than those who do not.

KHRC observed more than 50 cases in the past year and has expanded its caseload along the U.S.-Mexican border, piloting a tele-evaluation platform so they can continue to provide case assistance throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

To support these efforts, the organization holds annual training workshops. Student and provider volunteers learn how to perform forensic medical evaluations and how to write affidavits in order to help asylum seekers get a fair chance at legal representation.

Faculty leaders are Mary Cheffers, MD, clinical assistant professor of emergency medicine and family medicine (clinician educator) and Todd Schneberk, MD, director of the Gehr Student Innovator’s Program, assistant director of the residence program and assistant professor of clinical emergency medicine at the Keck School. Medical student co-presidents are Sophia Zhou and Kshitij Gaur.

Members of KHRC encourage faculty, staff and students to learn more about World Refugee Day by reading the following:

— Landon Hall