Despite the many travails immigrants experience while adapting to a new life, there are also befuddling and ridiculous moments, some of which are captured in this charming, short video produced by The Guardian newspaper.
For instance, a Syrian refugee now trying to make sense out of his new home in Germany explains that among the many perplexing aspects of German social behavior is the loud sneezing — even among elf-sized German women. His son, meanwhile, says he was surprised that in prosperous Europe, he wouldn’t immediately get the things he wanted, such as a bike, merely by wishing to have them.
The article, written by a doctor serving aboard a rescue vessel run by the NGO Proactiva Open Arms, describes a mission in which the organization’s 120-foot tug boat patrols for refugees wallowing in unseaworthy inflatables as they attempt the Mediterranean crossing from North Africa to Europe. The rescue boat ends up crammed with more than 400 refugees while the captain searches desperately for a port that will accept them.
It’s a gripping story, and another reminder of the harrowing conditions that refugees suffer both in their home countries and when they attempt to flee.
Check out a four-part series on integrating immigrant and refugee physicians into the US health care system. Immigrant docs bring their training and cultural/language skills to their new environment, but overcoming the barriers to resume their medical careers in the US can be an arduous undertaking.
The video below profiles Cuban-trained doctor and immigrant Dr. Berto Torres, who returned to medicine with support from Minnesota’s unique immigrant physician integration effort.
Here’s a quick brush up from Scientific American magazine on the topic, “How to Think about Implicit Bias.”
The authors — UNC Chapel Hill Psychology and Neuroscience Professor Keith Payne and Duke University Center for Cognitive Neuroscience postdoc Laura Niemi — observe again that everybody works off stereotypes in their daily life. You notice patterns, you make generalizations. And that leads often enough to over-generalizations and implicit bias.
Their short piece takes a look at the controversy surrounding the Implicit Association Test, which teases out evidence of implicit bias in subjects. And for anyone looking for new research-related traps to avoid, there’s a description of the Divining Rod Fallacy and its co-conspirator, the Palm Reading Fallacy.
The authors’ conclusion? “Many of us are more biased than we realize. And that is an important cause of injustice — whether you know it or not.”
So, that Spanish-speaking patient shows up in the clinic. The doctor believes he or she speaks Spanish well enough to get through the encounter. But is this a case of delusion? Would an interpreter be the better solution?
Here’s research that shows how accurate physicians are in self-assessment of their language ability compared to the results of actual testing of their language skills:
The nutshell answer: One study found that docs who rated themselves as possessing high or low language proficiency had the clearest picture. Those who thought they fell in the middle of the scale were more likely to be flattering themselves. The other study revealed that once docs got test results, they felt less comfortable rolling out their Spanish in patient encounters.
Though not quite from right down the street, this video series from the University of Glasgow on the complexities of the medical interpreter’s role is unusually well filmed and acted, with nuanced scripts that go beyond the usual easy answers.
Among the topics explored here are the sometimes difficult-to-draw professional boundaries, the perils of family-member interpretation, and how to deal with pesky interlopers. It’s well-worth checking out all five of these approximately five-minute films.
Looking for a window into the living conditions and thoughts of refugees? Check out Refugee Voices, a feature offered on the website of Refugee Center Online.
This space gives refugees an opportunity to write about their experiences and attempt to make sense of the trauma in their lives. The content varies from explanations of acceptable jokes in the Middle East, to descriptions of nights of terror in Congo.
In the world of literature, these are boom times for dystopian fiction and refugee sagas. A recent stand-out in the latter category is “Exit West,” by Mohsin Hamid.
The short novel starts with a set-up familiar to anyone who reads the newspaper. Violence in an unnamed Middle Eastern country drives the protagonists, Nadia and Saeed, from their home, leaving behind family and the familiar world.
The tale veers into the realm of magical realism as they escape to Greece, London and California through a series of doors that open and close unpredictably. But at heart the story is about the complex relationship between Nadia and Saeed, and the difference in their ability to cope with the relentless change that defines a refugee’s passage.
Here’s the New York Times’ view of Hamid’s concern in this novel: The author, says reviewer Michiko Kakutani, “is less interested in the physical hardships faced by refugees in their crossings than in the psychology of exile and the haunting costs of loss and dislocation…. In “Exit West,” Hamid does a harrowing job of conveying what it is like to leave behind family members, and what it means to leave home, which, however dangerous or oppressive it’s become, still represents everything that is familiar and known.”
For anyone working with refugees, “Exit West” offers a view of the hope and dismay that accompanies escape from the world’s many war-torn countries.