A refuge from illness
Katharine Conway '01 doesn’t wear a white physician’s coat or scrubs when she treats patients at Wright State Physicians Health Center in Fairborn, Ohio. She said she wants them to feel at ease and “have space to tell their story without feeling intimidated.”
After all, many of the men, women and children she works with are refugees from Africa, Iraq and Afghanistan and are facing what Conway calls “the trifecta of illnesses.” These include chronic conditions like diabetes, infectious diseases and mental illness.
The patients have fled their home countries and yet they bring incredible resilience and deep culture to Ohio cities according to Conway. She admits, however, that treating refugees is a challenge for the U.S. health care system and health care workers. That’s why, at Wright State University where Conway teaches and overseas the Global Health curriculum program, medical students spend several weeks studying and working in places like Swaziland, Peru and Malawi.
By training medical students in global health care initiatives, Conway said, “I’m trying to connect the dots with training abroad and how to use that knowledge to improve health care.”
“We need to make global health care local,” said Conway, who believes that by meeting refugees’ health care needs more effectively, health care professsionals will help refugees become “our newest neighbors, to work and live independently in the community.”
Conway graduated with a degree in biology and was one of the first UD students to graduate with a minor in human rights. Conway said she didn’t want to go to UD. She only agreed, while on the area college tour circuit, to stop and visit the campus to appease her mother.
When they arrived on campus, “It was classic UD,” Conway said. “I fell in love.
“I really learned how to build a valuable life and serve my community too.