The Human Rights Initiative at the University at Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences (formerly the WNY Human Rights Clinic) was founded in 2014 to serve the need for medical and psychiatric forensic evaluations of survivors of torture or persecution seeking asylum status in the Buffalo area. We partner closely with the WNY Center for Survivors of Torture (WNYCST) through Jewish Family Service of WNY to identify clients who may benefit from our assessments. The WNYCST is an organization funded by the Office of Refugee Resettlement that provides person-centered and trauma informed care to survivors of torture through care coordination and community connections. The goal of HRI is to reinforce this endeavor by providing objective forensic examinations and creating affidavits based on our findings for use in legal asylum cases.
Our clinic is medical student-run and we are motivated by the knowledge that forensic examinations we facilitate significantly increase the likelihood that asylum seekers will be successful in obtaining protection in the USA. HRI provides opportunities for medical student volunteers to learn about the experiences of our clients and work directly in the forensic examinations and legal affidavit preparation.
To date, we have served over 180 clients from over 40 countries, including multiple from the Democratic
Republic of Congo, El Salvador, Rwanda, Afghanistan, and Angola. Our services have now been used by
many applicants who have successfully received asylum in the United States.
Our efforts extend to include public awareness and clinician outreach events, and within the past year we
have held a Physician for Human Rights Forensic Evaluation Training here in Buffalo. In the past, we have
given Grand Rounds presentations for the UB Departments of Internal Medicine, Psychiatry, Neurology,
and Obstetrics and Gynecology.