The immigrant experience is a journey that only just begins upon arrival in a new country. Navigating the ins and outs of life in an unfamiliar system can be its own harrowing voyage. The intricacies of this voyage, particularly when it comes to accessing proper healthcare for immigrant families of children with special needs, has been a focal point in the preeminent interdisciplinary work of Dr. Brad Berman, Professor of Pediatrics at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital.
Dr. Berman was at John F. Kennedy University this month lecturing on this urgent and fascinating topic as the first installment of the Grand Rounds lecture series, brought to you by the College of Psychology. An exciting new community resource geared toward connecting attendees to cutting edge topics in psychology and healthcare, the Grand Rounds lecture series will convene quarterly and feature experts working at the forefront of their fields. This inaugural installment, featuring Dr. Berman, introduced attendees to the innovative world of integrated healthcare. Acknowledging that chronic health issues affect and are affected by all aspects of a person’s life, the integrated healthcare approach breaks down boundaries to address the interrelatedness of many factors contributing to an individual’s level of health. Instead of working in compartmentalized factions, integrated healthcare practitioners work on dynamic teams that may include medical physicians, nurses, social workers, and psychologists, all collaborating to address the full scope of a patient’s condition.
Now let’s imagine for a moment a child with a behavioral condition such as ADHD or some other set of particular neurodevelopmental needs. Ensuring that such children don’t fall through the cracks and that they receive the proper amount of support and care in both the educational and medical systems is a challenge for any family. It is a particular challenge for immigrant families who are unlikely to understand how these systems work in America, who may not be proficient enough in the language to make the necessary inquiries, and whose cultural backgrounds may supply different frameworks for how to consider the issue to begin with.
Dr. Berman’s lecture illuminated how the principles of integrated healthcare can help ensure these children get the care they need. Having spent his career consulting with families of children with diverse behavioral and developmental needs, both domestically and internationally, Dr. Berman helped us better understand the complexities that immigrant families deal with in trying to navigate the American healthcare system. Importantly, explains Alvin McLean Jr., PhD and Professor of Psychology at JFK University, Dr. Berman will go beyond simply highlighting the problems that arise in this journey. He will also focus on recounting success stories and asking, “What are some of the simple things that can be done to help immigrant families and all families get what they need?” Perhaps the collaborative and intersectional nature of the progressive field of integrated healthcare suggests that the more everyone in the community understands at least something of what these children may be up against, the better.