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The Medical Neutrality Protection Act of 2011 (H.R. 2643) is a bipartisan bill, largely drafted by PHR, that makes the protection of medical professionals and access to medical services a global policy priority for the US government. The bill also calls for the creation of a UN Special Rapporteur on the Protection and Promotion of Medical Neutrality. Upon introduction, the legislation was referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and to the House Judiciary Committee for further consideration.
This toolkit provides details on the Medical Neutrality Protection Act and actions that can be taken to support its passage. The toolkit also provides a brief introduction to the principle of Medical Neutrality, its foundation in medical ethics and international law, and violations of Medical Neutrality.
A downloadable version of this toolkit is also available:
For the more on PHR’s work promoting the Principle of Medical Neutrality, visit our website .
The Medical Neutrality Protection Act of 2011 (H.R. 2643) is a bipartisan bill, largely drafted by PHR, that makes the protection of medical professionals and access to medical services a global policy priority for the US government. The bill also … Continue reading
An overview of the history and mission of PHR and the National Student Program.
An overview of the history and mission of PHR and the National Student Program.
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) mobilizes health professionals to advance health, dignity, and justice, and promotes the right to health for all. Harnessing the specialized skills, rigor, and passion of doctors, nurses, public health specialists and scientists, PHR investigates human rights abuses and works to stop them.
Our research takes us to conflict zones, to US prisons and immigration detention centers — and our advocacy brings us to the offices of national and international policymakers. The courts, decision makers and the media have come to rely on our credibility and expertise. Motivated by moral urgency, based on science, and anchored in international human rights standards, PHR’s advocacy advances global health and protects human rights. PHR is building a new movement for human rights based on the solid foundation of over two decades of investigation, advocacy and accomplishment.
PHR was founded in 1986 with the idea that health professionals, with their specialized skills, ethical duties, and credible voices, are uniquely positioned to investigate the health consequences of human rights violations and work to stop them.
Since its founding in 1986, PHR members have worked to stop torture and political killings; investigated deaths and trauma inflicted on civilians during conflicts; documented inequities in health and health care due to racial, ethnic and gender discrimination; exposed exploitation of children in labor practices; documented evidence of genocide, exposed human rights abuses within prisons; and helped build local capacity to combat global AIDS.
PHR is headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and also has an office in Washington, DC. We are a non-profit, non-sectarian organization funded through private foundations and by individual donors. Membership is open to all, not just health professionals. PHR shared the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize.
Mission Statement Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) mobilizes health professionals to advance health, dignity, and justice, and promotes the right to health for all. Harnessing the specialized skills, rigor, and passion of doctors, nurses, public health specialists and scientists, PHR … Continue reading
Step 1: Assess Your Current Curriculum, School’s Resources, & Curriculum Reform Processes
Conduct research with your group to determine where your curriculum stands now and what steps must be taken for improvement:
- Research the school’s website and coursework catalogs to find out what health and human rights information is already included in your curriculum. To find out about the current curriculum statues, you can also talk to 2nd, 3rd and 4th year students. It’s best to have this information before approaching any faculty or administration.
- Take note of the most natural, ideal avenues in existing curricula offerings for integrating health and human rights education. Common examples are: electives, HHR-related programming in Doctoring courses, practicum additions to existing courses, HR integration in Medical Ethics, or HHR enrichment rotations.
- Decide if you are trying to reform the pre-clinical curriculum, clerkships, or both. If you do not have a strong preference, you may want to discuss the various options for reform when you speak with the Dean of Education or the curriculum reform committee.
- Once you have a sense of the best avenue, map out who is involved your institution’s process for this type of curriculum change. Each school is structured differently. This research is crucial as it enable you to build a curriculum reform strategy that addresses your school’s unique needs. Specifics to consider in your research.
- Find out the names/departments of those involved with the entire process, from who is responsible for introducing curriculum change discussion to committee agendas to who gives final approval, and protocol for reaching them. Do you submit a proposal with the Dean of Education? Do you make a presentation in front of the curriculum reform committee?
- Check to see if your school has a curriculum reform committee, who it comprises and if students are allowed to join. If they are, encourage a couple key chapter members to join your leadership team.
- Identify influential people on your campus and what they bring to the table. Plan to ask them to help you with this important work.
- Inquire with the Curriculum Committee or Deans about the most recent previous curriculum change initiatives to explore those strategies and the lessons learned.
Once you have mapped out the processes for implementing curriculum change, conduct a resource assessment to help guide the design of your new curriculum.
- When deciding which subjects you may want to cover, the follow factors may guide you: expressed student interests, human rights challenges seen in your community, issues addressed by nearby organizations, active faculty, or partnerships with your academic institution.
- Note: The following are some suggested topics that PHR has already gathered information on: The Human Rights Framework & the Right to Health; Conflict & Medical Neutrality; Health Systems; HIV/AIDS and other pandemic diseases; Detention & Asylum; Women’s and/or Maternal Health; Medical Ethics.
- Examine the resources available to your group through your school, community, and PHR as you consider the curriculum’s format and content. This can be done through similar research tactics used to learn about existing curriculum and curriculum reform processes.
- Make sure you review all of the provided materials in the Health and Human Rights Education Toolkit , the Syllabi Databases  and the Student-Created Curriculum  page. All of these resources provide education content for your use.
- We also recommend you check out our Develop Resources guide .
Step 2: Build a Leadership Core
- Present your HHRE initiative to your student chapter, faculty advisor (and other faculty he or she recommends). Garnering interest and in support, provide opportunities for interested students and faculty to take leadership in the various tasks and responsibilities of the initiative. As a core team starts to solidify, ensure there are communications and decision making systems in place so that all are informed, engaged, and effectively contributing to the group. If you want to set up a leadership retreat to solidify your group, read our Retreat Guide .
- Set realistic goals and time-lines for the group’s work. To help in this process, PHR will would happy to help connect you with student chapters who have engaged their school in curricula change so you can see what worked for them.
- For publicity of your curriculum initiative, make sure members of your group practice making a quick, two minute pitch on the importance of health and human rights education curriculum reform. This can be used when speaking with students, faculty, administrators and others. For guidance, read our Sample Pitch. 
Step 3: Rally Support
For the administration to even consider adding a health and human rights component to the curriculum, they need to know that students are interested and would participate.
- Speak to students at your PHR chapter meetings, via emails, or at informal settings about the need for curriculum reform to gauge who would comprise the core team for this initiative. If you do not already have a chapter, please contact The National Student Program Coordinator  for tips about how to identify those students on your campus who may want to get involved in this initiative.
- Consider partnering with other organizations at your school with similar interests. There is strength in numbers! See our Guide for Potential Partner Groups and Tips for Collaboration .
- Polling students about their interest in health and human rights education can provide you with excellent data-driven advocacy ammunition. Having concrete numbers will push the administration to realize that this is a needed change.
- See our survey template  and Virginia Commonwealth University’s completed survey  as examples. The surveys should provide you with both quantitative and qualitative information about a desire for curriculum change and can later be presented in a professional way to curriculum committees and administrators.
- Provide a tiered variety of opportunities for students to help support the initiative, from helping to foster relationship with faculty to simply tabling a day to collect survey feedback, so that students of varying time capacity may help with the initiative.
Faculty advocates are often significantly influential in the curriculum reform process.
- Research faculty members who have demonstrated interest in health and human rights and request an informational meeting with them to explain the need for reform in the medical school curriculum and the proposed ideas you have developed.
- Ask them for their opinion on what can be done to implement health and human rights education reforms and how to surmount any possible barriers you may face.
- If they demonstrate interest in your initiative, work with them to establish concrete steps they can take to help support the project.
- Holding these kinds of meetings early on in the process will help you understand the rationale behind the current curriculum, direct the path of your reform efforts, build support for your campaign and prevent higher-ups from being blindsided by your work.
- See our Guide for Building Relationships with Faculty  for tips and sample agendas.
Step 4: Implement a Curriculum Reform Strategy
- Set up a meeting with the administration, the curriculum coordinator committee or any other body responsible for making curriculum reform decisions at your school. Make sure your faculty supporter is able to attend the meeting as well. A sample power point presentation  is available in the toolkit.
- Address the following points in your meetings:
- Importance of health and human rights education reform.
- Results of the student survey.
- Organization Support. Many lecture materials and handouts have already been provided by PHR. Show them some of the sample readings and materials that can be given to students.
- Potential sources of funding for the curriculum change. See our Funding Resources and Tips for Finding Funds  guide for ideas.
- Understanding of different options for reform, including electives, curriculum tracks, conferences, regularly scheduled round-tables, symposiums, etc.
- Student recruitment and school reputation benefits. Tell them that this curriculum addition would be a wonderful way to recruit more students interested in human rights and social advocacy to your medical school.
- Recognition of other medical schools who have added a health and human rights component to their curriculum. This list can be printed directly from the PHR Student Program website.
- Scholarly articles that demonstrate the need for this education. See our Academic Literature page  that provides these type of articles.
Step 5: Keep in touch with the PHR Student Program Office
We can provide you with a variety of resources to implement reform,but we need your help too! Curriculum reform can sometimes be a multi-year process. By keeping the PHR national office in the loop on your work, we can better support future PHR members at your school to continue where you left off.
You will also note that this guide does not cover in detail the process for designing the curriculum your chapter wishes to implement. This is because that process varies depending on the type of course, the topics addressed, and the curriculum reform process at each school. The Student Program is committed to help support you in this process. By personally staying connected with the Student Program, we will be able to best link you to the appropriate resources and support throughout your unique curriculum creation process.
Tell us what worked at your school and what didn’t so we can provide you with better support. Contact The National Student Program Coordinator .
Step 1: Assess Your Current Curriculum, School’s Resources, & Curriculum Reform Processes Conduct research with your group to determine where your curriculum stands now and what steps must be taken for improvement: Research the school’s website and coursework catalogs to … Continue reading
In 2009, students, residents, and attendings at the University of Miami began working with PHR to plan a Human Rights Clinic. The intention was to enable asylum-seeking persons/victims of torture and abuse to obtain medial affidavits that document potential physical/psychological human rights violations on a consistent basis. The team drew on an existing academic model in operation at the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York. The clinic provides a valuable service to the South Florida community while simultaneously providing education to medical students, residents, and fellows in this subject.
On Friday, October 29, 2010, the Human Rights Clinic of Miami  is officially opened its doors. Natascha Chida , a PGY-2, said, “Clients will mainly be persons who experienced torture/persecution and are seeking asylum in the United States. We will perform a history and physical that will result in a medical affidavit that the client’s legal representatives can use when advocating for asylum status. Our community partners will refer clients to us; these include Physicians for Human Rights, Catholic Charities, FIAC, and other local organizations. We will not be providing direct medical care, but clients may follow up at the San Juan Bosco Clinic for services. At this time PHR students (as the clinic is a project of PHR at UMMSM) and J Weiss residents will be volunteering with our clinic faculty, but as we grow we hope offer the experience to other residents and students.”
Here is an example of UMHRC’S structure  (PDF).
Here is an example of UMHRC’S algorithm  (PDF).
Here is an example of UMHRC’S Intake Form  (PDF).
Here is an example of UMHRC’S Initial Proposal  (PDF).
In 2009, students, residents, and attendings at the University of Miami began working with PHR to plan a Human Rights Clinic. The intention was to enable asylum-seeking persons/victims of torture and abuse to obtain medial affidavits that document potential physical/psychological … Continue reading
The PHR Library contains PHR public documents, including reports and press releases, congressional testimony, statements, letters, articles published in journals and periodicals and selected multimedia content. It contains all available reports, including those published in PDF format only.
PHR Action Center
The PHR Action Center  allows you to join PHR’s community of committed health professionals and other activists by signing up in the Action Center today. Once you’ve signed up, you will have opportunities to contact your legislators when human rights are at stake in their policy decisions. By signing up, you can participate in PHR’s work to protect health and human rights, and you can stay informed about the issues that matter most to you.
PHR Library The PHR Library contains PHR public documents, including reports and press releases, congressional testimony, statements, letters, articles published in journals and periodicals and selected multimedia content. It contains all available reports, including those published in PDF format only. PHR … Continue reading
PHR recognizes the importance of organizing students to fight for health and rights. If we fail to fight for the basic social and economic rights of the poor and the marginalized, we will have failed in our mission.– Dr. Paul Farmer, Director of Partners in Health
Vision of the PHR National Student Program
The goal of the PHR National Student Program is to advance health professional students’ understanding of and commitment to the right to health and to cultivate skills as advocates for health and human rights locally, nationally and globally.
To achieve this goal, the National Student Program’s objectives are to:
- Advance a global understanding of health as a human right among health professional students and health-related institutions
- Educate students and their communities about PHR’s research through events and materials
- Support and strengthen PHR student chapters’ capacity to be effective health and human rights activists
- Involve campus chapters in local, national and international policy debates and campaigns
The advancement of health depends on the protection of human rights. As future health professionals, you play a vital role in PHR’s work to advance health and human rights. Your commitment to health and medical ethics, and your demands for rigorous evidence and justice lend credibility and power to your advocacy.
Outreach and National Student Program Staff
Hope O’Brien , National Student Program Coordinator, works with the Student Advisory Board, the Regional Chapter Mentors, the Regional Training Coordinators, the HHRE Mentors, and the PHR staff and board of directors to lead the National Student Program.
PHR National Student Program Events
Please visit the Calendar  to learn about upcoming events and advocacy opportunities.
The National Student Conference
PHR’s annual National Student Conference features expert speakers, strategy sessions, and skill development workshops. The conferences allow participants to network and strategize with other dedicated students and faculty who strive to advance health as a human right on their campuses and in the world. Participants meet human rights and medical professionals and hear them speak about their experience and expertise. We strongly encourage each Student Chapter to send at least two to three students. We also welcome applications from medical students who may not have a PHR student chapter but are committed to furthering human rights.
The theme of the 2011 National Student Conference was “Our Role, Our Responsibility: Defending Health and Human Rights.” Speakers addressed the unique opportunities and obligations of students and health professionals in the promotion of health and human rights. Attendees were able to confer with fellow students and colleagues during skill development workshops, and develop networking and hands-on advocacy skills with the guidance of journalists, policy analysts, and advocates.
2010’s student conference focused on empowering students and faculty to change the paradigm of medicine to one which embraces human rights through the incorporation of human rights in health professional education. Topics included the critical need to integrate health and human rights into education, strategies for incorporating quality human rights education in curriculum, as well as tangible skills and solutions for PHR student chapters to bring back to campus. The 2010 conference brought together almost 150 committed students and faculty who act as the front-runners of the curriculum change movement on their campuses.
Regional Advocacy Institutes
Join PHR staff and local experts in an intense one-day training to build your knowledge and skills and to network with other students. Each Regional Advocay Institute will improve your understanding of some of PHR’s priority issues, further develop your advocacy skills  and foster collaboration between chapters in your region. For more information, contact the National Student Program Coordinator  or your Regional Training Coordinator.
In 2010, PHR held Regional Advocacy Institutes in Chicago, Baltimore, and Boston. Visit the student blog   for information about upcoming opportunities.
Each year, the PHR National Student Program leads targeted advocacy to address urgent human rights concerns and PHR’s advocacy priorities. Support is available for students to learn about these issues and, in turn, educate their campuses and involve their communities in the advocacy efforts. Visit the Advocacy Skills  section of this Toolkit for more information.
National Action: Health and Human Rights Education
September and October 2010
National Action: Human Rights and Health Access
National Action: The Global Health Week of Action
Visit the student blog   for information about upcoming National Actions.
“PHR restores my faith in the medical profession and reminds me that medicine is about more than showing up at the hospital every morning and leaving when the day is over – it is about changing the world.”
– John Chiosi, Student Chapter Leader
PHR depends on the visionary leadership of students to support our National Student Program. There are several ways for student to become involved in National Student Program leadership.
National Roles: the Student Advisory Board
The SAB is a national board of 7 or 8 students. The role of a Student Advisory Board member is:
- to serve as a liaison to student chapters within a certain geographic region, and
- to provide strategic and operational advice to the mission and direction of the National Student Program.
An SAB member is expected to be engaged in the development of the Student Program by completing his/her assigned duties, maintaining open lines of communication, and actively seeking areas for improvement in the National Program.
Regional Roles: Regional Chapter Mentors
Regional Chapter Mentors offer critical peer-to-peer support, advice, and problem-solving assistance to their region’s student Chapters, and help student Chapter leaders advance their Chapter development and activities. Regional Chapter Mentors provide the personal communication and online presence to ensure the chapters feel supported, appreciated, and connected to one another and to the National Student Program.
Regional Roles: Regional Training Coordinators
Regional Training Coordinators ensure that PHR’s National Student Program offers effective trainings in health and human rights advocacy. Regional Training Coordinators work with the National Student Program Coordinator to plan, run, and follow up on an engaging Regional Advocacy Institute. Therefore, the bulk of the work will be done August through November. Regional Training Coordinators will also support the regional community by supporting PHR’s direct communication and online presence.
School Roles: Chapter Leadership
Each Chapter should identify one or more students who will serve as the leader or leaders and provide vision and management of the Chapter activities. These leaders will maintain frequent contact with the National Student Program Coordinator, with their Regional Chapter Mentor and Regional Training Coordinator, with the members of their Chapter, with the Chapter’s faculty advisor, and with the campus administration.
Resources of the PHR National Student Program
The Student Blog  is updated frequently to make students aware of current PHR projects and opportunities. Students often post to share their experiences.
Your Chapter may connect with others in your region through the Regional Hubs .
The PHR National Student Program has created a number of Toolkits  to educate students and facilitate involvement in advocacy.
PHR publishes its findings on human rights violations in reports , available for download.
PHR recognizes the importance of organizing students to fight for health and rights. If we fail to fight for the basic social and economic rights of the poor and the marginalized, we will have failed in our mission. – Dr. Paul … Continue reading
To help people develop an understanding of the range of reasons that asylum seekers request sanctuary in the U.S., you may host a discussion these case studies. Participants may wish to read these cases ahead of time, or the discussion facilitator may read the profiles one at a time.
Politically persecuted, detained and tortured
This case is for a man in his 30s from Cameroon. The client is seeking a physical and psychological evaluation. In Cameroon, he was arrested and detained on three occasions for his political opinion and association with the Southern Cameroons National Council and human rights activities. His reported physical scars include scars on his head, as well as on his legs and feet from beatings in detention. In addition, he has reported difficulty sleeping, nightmares, nervousness/anxiety, and headaches. He speaks English. The attorney is seeking a completed affidavit by December and will also be requesting oral testimony in January.
Subjected to FGC, forced into marriage, and abused
This case is for a woman in her 20s from Burkina Faso. The client is seeking a psychological evaluation. She is seeking asylum because she was subjected to FGC when she was 5 years old and still suffers from physical pain and emotional trauma from the procedure. When she was 20 she was forced into a marriage by her stepfather, during which she was systematically raped. She is now legally married in the US and has a baby, but fears that if she returns to Burkina Faso she will be forced to return to her marriage, where she will once again be raped. She also fears her daughter will have to undergo FGC.
Gay, HIV positive, and threatened
This case is for a man in his 40s from Jamaica. The client is seeking a psychological evaluation. In Jamaica, his life was threatened because of his sexual orientation and HIV positive status. He and his friends were attacked for being gay. He was forced to be closeted his entire life, and was also in an abusive relationship. His attorney also believes he suffers other non-obvious psychological issues, including extreme anxiety, shyness and panic attacks.
Fleeing domestic violence
This case is for a woman in her late 20s from El Salvador. The client is seeking a psychological evaluation. She has suffered extreme abuse by her common law husband and father of her two children. Since becoming pregnant with her first child, she was subjected to beatings and rapes. He threatened her and told her if she ever left him that he would kill her, also threatening to take away her children. He took one daughter from her and did not return her until the client agreed to go back to him. He was an alcoholic and a drug abuser and would hurt her often when he was drunk or high. The client fled to the US after he beat her one night in front of his friends. She left her children with her mother in El Salvador.
Seeking treatment and dignity
This case is for a woman in her 30s from Nepal. The client suffers from a rare and deadly skin disease, which renders her unable to tolerate sunlight. She suffers from chronic tumors, which are surgically removed on a monthly basis, resulting in massive scarring and the complete loss of her nose. As a result of cultural stigma associated with disability, she was denied schooling at an early age, and she and her siblings (also afflicted) were victims of ridicule and violence. Due to a lack of sophisticated medical care in Nepal, she has only received effective care in the U.S. She has lost one brother to depression, and fears she will fall victim to the same fate is she is returned to Nepal. She speaks Nepali and some Hindi.
To help people develop an understanding of the range of reasons that asylum seekers request sanctuary in the U.S., you may host a discussion these case studies. Participants may wish to read these cases ahead of time, or the discussion … Continue reading
There are many components to successful fundraising. Your approach might include running a popular annual event or enlisting sponsorship local businesses and ways to appeal to them.
Effective fundraising depends on the request: don’t be afraid to ask. Remember that friends and family like to be involved in the causes that you support, and this is a good way for them to contribute. Local businesses like to be associated with student activities. Grantmakers have to make grants, so why not to you? Still nervous about asking? Tell yourself, “They won’t give unless I ask.”
Present a sincere and straightforward request, deliver on what you promise, and don’t forget to thank your supporters! This will help you build relationships over time so that you feel relaxed and confident about asking for help, and the donor enjoys the interaction and will want to give again. The Appendices section of the Welcome Packet Toolkit includes sample fundraising request letters you can modify for your chapter’s use.
Sources for Financial and Material Support
- Grants: Grants may be available through your school, or may reward based on your geographical community (such as city foundations) or the goals of your work. To search for grants, ask for help at your school’s office of career services or student activities office. Some grants can be found on online databases such as foundationcenter.com  or foundationsearch.com . When applying, answer each question clearly, be explicit about how you intend to reach your goals, and use any Technical Assistance that the funder offers.
- Sponsorship: Remember grade school bowl-a-thons? Ask supporters to sponsor something new: a stair climb in the tallest building on campus, a bike- or walk-a-thon, or a penny for every mile you’re traveling this summer to practice your clinical skills.
- Group dues are also a good source of financial support.
- In-kind donations: Donors may have items or services that can help your chapter, or may be willing to make financial donations.
Ideas for Fundraisers
- Art Exhibits (with refreshments)
- Benefit Concerts
- Benefit Nights (working with local sports venues, clubs or restaurants, have a benefit night on a specific issue)
- VIP Dinners, cocktail reception, a speech, a dunking booth, or a car wash with a guest expert or local celebrity
- Casino or poker Nights
- Food can attract people: food festivals for local specialties, like a chili cookoff.
- Spare Change Drive (make it competitive among years or departments on your campus, with a prize for the winner)
- Walk, Run, or Bike-a-thons… or even Bowl-a-thons
An event does not have to solely be a fundraiser; you can include a fundraising component to an action or event. Some examples of fund raising additions:
- Entrance fee to an entertaining or exclusive event
- Merchandise Sales (shirts, buttons, bags, hats, etc)
- Refreshments Sales
- Donation Solicitation (save money by not paying for services or goods)
These are some common fundraiser ideas. When deciding what the chapter wants to organize, it is also important to consider who your targeted audience is to assure the most participation. Generally speaking, the more creative an event is, the more successful it will be.
There are many components to successful fundraising. Your approach might include running a popular annual event or enlisting sponsorship local businesses and ways to appeal to them. Effective fundraising depends on the request: don’t be afraid to ask. Remember that friends … Continue reading