“Focus on Hidden Populations” Panel

Tuesday, Oct. 29 | 10:45-11:25 a.m. | General Sessions

This panel of four experts will share how to identify and address the needs of those who do not actively seek care, including torture survivors, victims of human trafficking, and those suffering from PTSD.

Deb O’Hara-Rusckowski, RN, MBA, MTS, Founder, Nurses With Global Impact, Inc.; Critical Care Nurses; Delegate for the United Nations for the Sovereign Military Order of Malta
Kevin V. Kelly, MD, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Clinical Professor of Ethics in Medicine, Weill Cornell Medicine; Medical Officer, FDNY
Michael Vitez, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalist; Director of Narrative Medicine, Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University
Dinali Fernando, MD, MPH  Executive Director, Libertas Center for Human Rights, Elmhurst Hospital Center; Attending Physician, Dept. of Emergency Medicine, Elmhurst Hospital Center; Assistant Professor, Dept. of Emergency Medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount. Sinai; Pearl Birnbaum Hurwitz Award winner of The Arnold P. Gold Foundation
Ignitor: Deb O’Hara-Rusckowski, RN, MBA, MTS

Deb is critical care nurse by training with a BSN, MBA and a Master’s in Theology with a concentration in bioethics. After working in healthcare and the private sector for 30+ years, she now concentrates in public, non-profit organizations, and philanthropy. She desires to combine her passion for healthcare, business skills and faith.

She currently is a Delegate for the Order of Malta’s Mission at the United Nations, focused on human trafficking and the global refugee crisis. She recently co-founded Global Strategic Operatives for the Eradication of Human Trafficking. She provides educational and training presentations to healthcare providers, airline personnel, government employees, corporations and universities on human trafficking. She works closely with Homeland Security and law enforcement. Deb is currently working with large US healthcare delivery systems in a global pilot to create universal standards and policies for the healthcare sector. She supports an anti-human trafficking educational exhibit in Haiti which rotates regularly around the country. Deb participated in the Catholic Church’s new Pastoral Orientations on Human Trafficking at the Vatican last spring.

Deb founded Nurses With Global Impact, Inc. in 2016 as a resource for nurses and to recognize those doing extraordinary work and making a global impact in healthcare. She has a passion for healthcare missions: Haiti (15+ years), Philippines, Dominican Republic and Bosnia Herzogovina, where she was a member of a Crisis Intervention Team with National Organization for Victim’s Assistance (NOVA) of Washington, DC, to work with women and girls who survived rape camps. She was a member of the Federal Disaster Medical Team that was deployed to NYC on 9/11/01.

Deb is an active member on a number of non-profit boards: former two term Board of Councilor with the Order of Malta, American Association, and continues as a member on the Medical Committee for the annual Lourdes Pilgrimage. Deb also sits on the boards of Malteser International Americas, RAD-AID, Int’l, World Youth Alliance, the Gold Foundation, and the National Catholic Bioethics Center. She is a former member of the CRUDEM Board for 8 years, chaired the Jerome Lejeune Foundation, was on the Board of Boston’s Healthcare for the Homeless Program for 5 years, and spent 4 years on the Board of the American Heart Association as Chair of Public Advocacy.

Deb was the Director of Respect Life Education for the Archdiocese of Boston for 8 years. She continues to teach the late John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. She helped start-up Pure in Heart, a 501(C3) young adult ministires in Boston, Haiti, Kenya, Ireland and UK.

Deb was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and grew up in Boston. She is married to Steve Rusckowski and they now reside in NYC.

Dr. Kelly is Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and of Ethics in Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College, and a Medical Officer in the New York City Fire Department (FDNY). He holds a B.A. in Religion from Williams College, an M.A. in Religion and Psychological Studies from the U. of Chicago, and an M.D. from Weill Cornell. He trained in general medicine at New York Hospital, in psychiatry at Payne Whitney Clinic, and in psychoanalysis at Columbia University. He is a Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, a member of the American Psychoanalytic Association, and Past President of the NY Celtic Medical Society.

In general, first responders and professional rescuers are not inclined to seek emotional support or psychiatric help for themselves, but in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in New York, the survivors in the FDNY were even more traumatized than they are in the regular course of their work.  Dr. Kelly organized a group of psychiatrists who shared an ethnic background with the majority of FDNY members, and who volunteered to provide psychiatric treatment to them. Conventional psychiatric approaches were modified to meet the needs and manage the resistance of this specific population. Dr. Kelly’s involvement in this volunteer program led to a part-time position in the FDNY, funded by an agency that was created to meet the mental health needs of 9/11 survivors, and then to his current commission as the psychiatric Medical Officer for the FDNY.

Michael Vitez is Director of Narrative Medicine at The Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University. Before coming to Temple, he spent 30 years at The Philadelphia Inquirer where he won the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Journalism for a series of narratives about choices and changes surrounding care at end of life.

At Temple, the mission of the narrative medicine program is to focus on the human side of medicine, to increase the satisfaction and fulfillment of students and physicians, and to chronicle the amazing world of Temple University Hospital. We do this through a celebration of and emphasis on stories and storytelling.

The facts are well reported: Doctors too often feel isolated, frustrated, and burned out. Their humanity is challenged. The focus on the patient and patient’s story is often overlooked and devalued in the rush and crush. Students come into medical school full of empathy but in their education and training this often erodes.

Our goal is to protect and support this empathy, to nourish the humanism that brings physicians into the profession, and to teach the skills of narrative that help at the bedside and beyond.

Our program has curricular and extracurricular components. Reflective writing forms a significant component of the Professional Identity Formation thread in the MD curriculum. Electives in medical humanities range from exploration of narrative medicine to photo storytelling to improvisational acting. Students also conceive and complete individual or group projects for credit under the guidance of our faculty.

Extracurricular activities include a wide array of writing and narrative medicine workshops—some led by students—for students, residents, and hospital staff. “Narrative Medicine Talks” is our regular speaker series, and we convene fall and spring Story Slams for the Lewis Katz School of Medicine and Temple Hospital Community.

Our program gives medical students and physicians skills and opportunities to reflect on their experiences, to find and celebrate meaning in their work, and to appreciate the value of the patient’s story in patient care.

We encourage publication and dissemination of our work in medical journals and the lay press. A narrative medicine page on the LKSOM website is home to much of our student writing, and each year students compile and publish The Pulse, our local literary magazine.

Stories are an indispensable part of medicine. Along with the physician’s touch, they are at the core of the patient-physician relationship. Stories have the power to heal, inspire, build relationships and change the world.

Dinali Fernando, MD, MPH is the Executive Director of the Libertas Center for Human Rights, an Attending Physician at Elmhurst Hospital, and an Associate Professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.  She has developed Libertas into a multidisciplinary treatment center providing trauma-focused and culturally sensitive medical, mental health, social and legal services to torture survivors. Libertas has trained 1000s of providers across disciplines on best practices in caring for torture survivors. She has been supported by New York State to study health outcomes among torture survivors; recognized by the NYC Council, the NYC Health and Hospitals Corporation, and the Greater NY Hospital Association; and profiled by NPR.

Dr. Fernando graduated from the George Washington School of Medicine/Public Health and completed Emergency Medicine Residency and the Global Health Program at the Mount Sinai Medical Center. She worked in Kenya and Holland and received Mt. Sinai’s Dr. Balakrishnan Humanitarian Award. After residency, she stayed on as faculty working clinically at Elmhurst Hospital, receiving Elmhurst Hospital’s Elmmy and Shining Star Awards for Exceptional Service and Compassionate Care to Patients and Colleagues, and recognition by the Medical Executive Committee for Outstanding Leadership, Service and Dedication. Dr. Fernando serves on the National Capacity Building Advisory Group for Torture Treatment Programs, and on the Executive Committee of the National Consortium of Torture Treatment Programs. She received the Gold Foundation’s 2018 National Pearl Birnbaum Hurwitz Humanism in Medicine Award, and was inducted into the Gold Humanism Foundation.