Panel Participant Bios


Legal and Health Challenges Facing Refugees and Asylum Seekers in the United States

Dr. Aniyizhai Annamalai, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Medicine, Yale University; Director, Adult Refugee Clinic; Director, Wellness Center, Connecticut Mental Health Center
Dr. Annamalai’s training was in a dual Internal Medicine/Psychiatry residency program. Her clinical interests are in the care of patients with both medical and mental health problems. She is interested in building health care systems that integrate primary care and mental health services. Two populations she works with are refugees and people with serious mental illness. Her belief is that students and residents in any discipline should be well-trained in both medical and behavioral aspects of illness, enabling them to have a holistic approach to patient care.

Dr. Katherine C. McKenzie, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Yale University; Director, Yale Center for Asylum Medicine
Dr. McKenzie is on the faculty of the Yale School of Medicine and practices internal medicine at the Yale Primary Care Center. She teaches medical students and residents in small group settings, in her ambulatory office, and on the medical wards at Yale-New Haven Hospital. Dr. McKenzie is the director of the Yale Center for Asylum Medicine. She and her colleagues at the Center perform medical forensic evaluations of asylum seekers. They work closely with immigration attorneys from Yale Law School and the University of Connecticut School of Law, as well as human rights professionals from HealthRight International, Physicians for Human Rights, the International Institute of Connecticut, and the American Friends Service Committee.

Dr. Maya Prabhu, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Yale University
Dr. Prabhu is an Assistant Professor at Yale School of Medicine. She serves as faculty with the Law and Psychiatry Division at Yale School of Medicine. Her research interests include forensic psychiatry, PTSD, especially in post-conflict situations, and various issues at the nexus of health and international law. Dr. Prabhu obtained her medical degree from Dalhousie Medical School in Halifax, Nova Scotia and completed residency training in adult psychiatry and a fellowship in forensic psychiatry at Yale. Between medical school and residency, she graduated from the McGill Faculty of Law in Montreal, Canada and was a lawyer with Davis Polk & Wardwell in
New York and the United Nations Independent Inquiry Committee into the Iraq Oil-for-Food program.

Chair: Kaveh Khoshnood, Associate Professor of Public Health, Yale University
Kaveh Khoshnood is an Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies at the Yale School of Public Health and core faculty member of the Yale Council on Middle East Studies. He is co-founder of Yale Violence and Health Study Group and a Steering Committee member of the Program on Conflict, Resiliency, and Health at the McMillan Center at Yale. He is trained as an infectious disease epidemiologist and has more than two decades of domestic and international experience in HIV prevention research among drug users and other at risk populations, including its ethical aspects. He is an investigator on two current projects in Lebanon, a parenting intervention with Palestinian refugees and a population size estimation and bio-behavioral surveillance of populations at risk of HIV/AIDS. Khoshnood teaches a course at the Yale School of Public Health titled, “Responding to Violent Conflict: Epidemiological Methods & Public Health Interventions,” which focuses on how epidemiological methods are applied to understand specific health consequences of violent conflicts, including infectious diseases, mental health, maternal/child health, and chronic health problems. The course has a focus on the Middle East and North Africa region.


A Shattered Humanitarian System: Unprecedented Crisis, Unprecedented Challenges

Clare Lockhart, Senior Fellow, Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, Yale University; Director and Co-Founder, Institute for State Effectiveness
Lockhart is Director and co-Founder of the Institute for State Effectiveness (ISE), which seeks to address the challenge of accountability and governance through a system-building approach across governments, markets and citizens. She served in Afghanistan as an adviser to the UN during the Bonn Process and to the Afghan Government from 2001 to 2005, and has worked in several countries across Europe, Asia, and Africa. She is co-author with Ashraf Ghani of Fixing Failed States and contributes to the media on issues of security, peace-building, and development. Lockhart was named by Foreign Policy as one of the “100 Most Influential Global Thinkers” of 2009 and 2010 for her work on fragile states. She was nominated as a Young Global Leader in 2011 by the World Economic Forum, and serves as a Trustee of the Asia Foundation.

Jodi Nelson, Senior Vice President of Policy and Practice, International Rescue Committee (IRC)
Jodi Nelson is Senior Vice President, Policy and Practice at IRC, where she has overall strategic and operational responsibility for IRC program technical units — including Research and Evaluation, as well as Global Advocacy and Strategic Communications. Prior to rejoining IRC, Jodi spent six years at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where she was the organization’s head of strategy, measurement, and evaluation, working across program areas in global health, development, advocacy and U.S. education. Jodi previously spent eight years at IRC, where she led an initiative to bridge the gap between academics and aid workers to strengthen the quality of data used to effect and measure change in post-conflict countries. She founded the IRC’s department of Research, Evaluation, and Learning.

Stephen Poellot, Legal Director and Co-Founder, International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP)
Stephen Poellot is the Legal Director and a co-founder of IRAP at the Urban Justice Center. Prior to joining IRAP, he was a Robert L. Bernstein International Human Rights Fellow at the Refugee Legal Aid Project in Egypt and a Kirby Simon Summer Fellow at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva. He is also an Adjunct Professor at Fordham School of Law, where he teaches a course on refugee law.

Chair: Catherine Panter-Brick, Professor of Anthropology, Health, and Global Affairs, Yale University
Catherine Panter-Brick is a medical anthropologist, trained in human biology and the social sciences. She directs the Program on Conflict, Resilience, and Health at the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale, and the Anthropology Program on Stress and Family Resilience. She is also the Senior Editor (Medical Anthropology) of the interdisciplinary journal Social Science & Medicine.
Her current research focuses on youth in global adversity, addressing issues of risk and resilience in contexts of poverty, disease, famine, armed conflict, and social marginalization. She has directed more than 40 interdisciplinary research and evaluation projects in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, the Gambia, Jordan, Nepal, Niger, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tanzania, and the United Kingdom.
She currently leads a Research Consortium to evaluate humanitarian responses with Syrian refugees and Jordanian host-community youth, a partnership between academic institutions and humanitarian INGOs
funded by R2HC (Research for Health in Humanitarian Crises, see She is also involved, with other Yale faculty, in the Early Childhood Peacebuilding Consortium ( which works to create a legacy of sustained peace and disseminate scientific research relevant to violence prevention.


The Challenge of Rebuilding Health Systems in Conflict Affected Situations

Dr. Hani Mowafi, Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine, Yale University
Dr. Mowafi’s interests are in developing the science and practice of emergency care with a special emphasis on low- and middle-income countries where the burden of emergency conditions is greatest and there is an unmet need for emergency services. His public health interests include defining characteristics of global emergency care systems; evaluating the burden of injury in low- and middle-income countries, and addressing health and human security in chronic humanitarian emergencies. He has 15 years of experience in consulting and research in emergency medicine and global public health. Dr. Mowafi’s current research includes evaluation of health data from network of trauma hospitals operating inside war-affected Syria; modeling the household income effects of road traffic injury in rural Uganda; evaluating the performance of chief complaint as a descriptive indicator of emergency care in low-resource settings globally.

Dr. Asghar Rastegar, Professor of Medicine; Director, Office of Global Health, Yale University
Dr. Rastegar, a native of Iran received his B.A. and M.D. from the University of Wisconsin (Madison). He did his postgraduate training in Internal medicine and nephrology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, where he also served as clinical instructor and Chief Medical Resident. He returned to Iran in 1973 as associate professor in the Department of Medicine at Pahlavi (Shiraz) University School of Medicine, where he was Director of Residency Training and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. Dr. Rastegar joined Yale faculty in 1985 where he has held many leadership positions including Chief of Medical Services at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Co-Chief of the Nephrology Section, and Associate Chair for Education and Academic Affairs. He is presently Professor of Medicine and Director of Global Health Program of the Department of Medicine. Since 2008 he has been the Director of the Office of Global Health where he has focused on bilateral capacity building to improve training of physicians and care of patients in low resource regions while providing opportunity to the U.S.-based students, residents, and physicians to become familiar not only with diseases in these regions but more importantly with challenges faced by patients and care givers in these regions.

Kristina Talbert-Slagle, Assistant Professor of Public Health, Yale University; Director Global Health Studies, Yale College
Talbert-Slagle is the Senior Scientific Officer of the Global Health Leadership Institute, Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Yale School of Medicine and a Lecturer at the Yale School of Public Health. As an experienced virologist with postdoctoral training in genetics, immunology, mathematical modeling, health policy, and global health, her research focuses on exploring parallels between molecular, individual, community, and population systems. Her recent work has included analyzing the molecular mechanisms of spread and diffusion of viruses among individual cells as a model of innovation spread among human organizations. By utilizing biological models, Talbert-Slagle and colleagues generate new insights into concepts such as managing diversity, conflict management, and implementation/scale up of innovation that can be applied to complex social systems. Talbert-Slagle teaches courses at Yale University on the biology and social context of HIV/AIDS and methods of global health research and is an Affiliate of the Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS.

Chair: Dr. Unni Karunakara, Senior Fellow at the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, Yale University; Former International President of Doctors without Borders
Unni Karunakara served as the International President of Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF) from 2010-2013. His involvement with MSF began in 1995, when he set up a tuberculosis control program in Ethiopia. He went on to work as a medical coordinator for MSF programs in Azerbaijan, Brazil, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Karunakara also worked in MSF’s public health department in Amsterdam, moving on to become medical director of MSF’s Access Campaign. In 2007, he was part of the medical emergency response team that treated victims of cyclone Sidr in Mathbaria, Bangladesh. He has held various academic and research fellowships at universities in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Germany, and the United Kingdom, focusing on the demography of forced migration and the delivery of health care to neglected populations affected by conflict, disasters, and epidemics. Dr. Karunakara also served as the Deputy Director of Health of the Earth Institute, Millennium Villages Project, and Assistant Clinical Professor at the Mailman School of Public Health, both at Columbia University.


America’s Arab Refugees:  Poverty, Vulnerability, and the Health Costs of Conflict

A presentation by Marcia C. Inhorn, William K. Lanman Jr. Professor of Anthropology and International Affairs, Yale University

A medical anthropologist focusing on gender and health in the Middle East and Arab America, Inhorn is the author of six books on the subject, including, most recently, The New Arab Man: Emergent Masculinities, Technologies, and Islam in the Middle East (Princeton University Press, 2012), Cosmopolitan Conceptions: IVF Sojourns in Global Dubai (Duke University Press, 2015), and America’s Arab Refugees: Vulnerability and Health on the Margins (Stanford University Press, Fall 2017).

Inhorn’s presentation will provide an overview of her forthcoming book, America’s Arab Refugees: Vulnerability and Health at the Margins (Stanford University Press, Fall 2017). Tracing the U.S. military interventions in Iraq to the current refugee crisis, this paper examines the plight of Arab refugees, mostly Iraqis, who were resettled in America after two U.S.-led wars in their country. Arab refugees living in the ethnic enclave community of “Arab Detroit,” Michigan, share in the poverty of Detroit’s Black communities, and struggle to rebuild their lives after all that has been lost. Having fled from toxic war zones, Arab refugees also face a number of serious health challenges, including reproductive health problems requiring in vitro fertilization (IVF). However, without money to afford costly reproductive services, Arab refugee couples are caught in a state of “reproductive exile”—unable to return to war-torn countries with shattered healthcare systems, but unable to access affordable IVF in America. This presentation thus questions America’s responsibility for, and commitment to, its Arab refugees, who remain structurally vulnerable and sometimes impoverished in America’s cities. Ultimately, Inhorn calls for an end to Islamophobia and anti-Arab/anti-refugee discrimination. Arab lives do matter, and America must care.


New Horizons of Humanitarianism in Action

Lixing Liang, Davenport ’18
Lixing Liang is a junior majoring in Economics and Statistics. His academic interest is development economics and he has actively participated in multiple data-driven projects. As in academics, he believes in a multidisciplinary approach to social development and humanitarian affairs. He is excited to share his experience as a member of Ideation in organizing Place and Displacement, a multidisciplinary competition on improving refugee settlements. The competition received 342 architecture and policy proposals from 34 countries, and will conclude in a summit to be held on April 22nd in New York.

Maria Melchor, Morse ’18
Maria is a third-year student in Yale College majoring in Political Science and primarily interested in domestic immigration politics. She has been interested in migration issues since immigrating from Mexico to Greater New Haven. She has spent past summers working with resettled refugees in Connecticut and with detained asylum-seekers in Texas. She has been involved with the Yale Refugee Project since coming to Yale and is currently serving as its president.

Christina Zhang, Saybrook College ’17
Christina Zhang is an undergraduate at Yale University completing her B.A. in Architecture. With a great passion for humanitarian architecture and social innovation, she has been running research-based charity projects since 2011. She believes in human potential in all circumstances. She is the co-founder of Ideation World, a non-profit organization that empowers through innovation. With Ideation World, she has been directing humanitarian architecture projects including a learning center construction in Kakuma Refugee Camp (Kenya) with local refugee leaders, and an interdisciplinary design competition to address refugee livelihoods and challenge the current architectural solutions. Learn more about her architecture work at

Chair: Michael Skonieczny, Lecturer in Public Health (Health Policy); Executive Director, Global Health Leadership Institute; Director of Practice, Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy, Yale University
Prior to joining Yale, Skonieczny was the Director of Public Policy for Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, and led the organization’s advocacy efforts focused on expanding U.S. financial support for it. Prior to Friends, he was a senior public policy officer at the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, where he focused on global AIDS funding, prevention of mother-to-child transmission, pediatric treatment and related issues. He was also a legislative assistant to Congresswoman Rosa L. DeLauro (D-CT), staffing her on appropriations and health-related issues.