April 26, 2020

New refugee health coordinator brings expertise, personal experience

Salma Ahmedin may not yet know specific needs of the refugees she’ll be connecting with care, but she has a pretty good idea of how to help: the recent Boston University Master’s in Public Health grad learned her own lessons about how to integrate into the U.S. when she arrived in Uptown from Ethiopia some 15 years ago.

Refugees who arrived in the U.S. any time in the past two years can receive assistance navigating the healthcare system and advocating for access to services.

To learn more, please contact new program coordinator Salma Ahmedin by phone or text at 312-343-3780 or email her: sahmedin@heartlandhealthcenters.org.

Salma Ahmedin poses at her laptop

Salma Ahmedin is Heartland Health Centers’ new Refugee Health Coordinator. “We want to give refugees the services they need to be well, so they can integrate into this country” she says.

“What excites me most about coordinating this program is being able to give people hope,” Ahmedin says. “Everyone’s experience is different, but I will be able to share my own experience as an immigrant.”

The Uplift Community High School grad got involved in public health through receiving care at Heartland Health Center’s HHC-Uplift school-based health clinic. After graduating from DePaul University, she returned to Heartland Health Centers as an Americorps member through the National Health Corps-Chicago to provide reproductive education to students at HHC-Uplift and nutrition counseling to patients with chronic diseases at our HHC-Wilson community clinic. She recently returned to Chicago after working with the Boston Public Health Commission.

As refugee health coordinator, she will bring her personal experience as well as her public health experience to the work. Ahmedin vividly remembers arriving in the U.S. herself as a middle school student. Little things made a big difference, she says: from learning her new peers frowned on Ethiopian teenagers’ custom of saying hello with cheek kisses, to bike riding around the neighborhood and other experiences.

New program helps refugees get care

The Refugee Health Program initiative recognizes that being healthy is an important part of integrating. Refugees who arrived in the U.S. any time in the past two years can receive assistance navigating the healthcare system and advocating for access to services.

Ahmedin is working with local organizations on and around the North and Northwest sides and Near North Suburbs to recruit refugees for the program. Her role combines making new arrivals feel comfortable getting care and helping them navigate the healthcare system. Services she will be able to help with include:

  • Establishing a relationship with a primary care provider for immediate and long-term care needs
  • Setting up appointments and interpretation services if needed
  • Assistance with picking up / understanding prescriptions
  • Assist with referrals or community resources
  • Connect with behavioral or integrated medicine (especially if needed for refugees who may have undergone trauma prior to arriving in U.S.)
  • Share information about health literacy and health classes/integrative medicine

To learn more, please contact program coordinator Salma Ahmedin by phone or text at 312-343-3780 or email her: sahmedin@heartlandhealthcenters.org.