With an increase in refugee arrivals to Newfoundland and Labrador over the past number of years, there has been growing demand to support the social, cultural, economic, and health needs of refugees. The Association would not be able to effectively address these needs without the support of its dedicated volunteer community and medical stakeholders.
One of the most committed and motivated of these community members has been Dr. Pauline Duke. During 2015 and 2016, in support of Operation Syria, Dr. Duke spearheaded efforts to ensure that over 200 Syrian Government-Assisted and Privately-Sponsored Refugee arrivals had immediate access to health assessments, were referred to family doctors, received immunizations, as well as vision and hearing screenings. This was a considerable undertaking, especially considering that these refugees arrived in very large groups (with many young children) and had extensive health needs.
Her efforts have permeated far beyond Operation Syria as she continues to be a tireless advocate for refugee health matters in Newfoundland and Labrador. Not only is she a founding member of the national group Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care (a prominent advocacy group in Canada) and the Refugee Health Interest Group, she also co-founded, and was one of the lead physicians of, the Refugee Health Clinic, which provides specialized medical services and wrap around supports for newly-arrived immigrants and refugees arriving in St. John’s.
In addition to her tremendous community work, Dr. Duke also has a strong commitment to teaching future generations of physicians, which is exemplified by her dedication to the MUN Med Gateway Project (a partnership among the MUN Faculty of Medicine, Eastern Health, and the ANC), which is designed to improve access to medical care for refugees in the St. John’s while training students in cross-cultural medicine.
Her commitment and dedication to serving a particularly vulnerable population was acknowledged this past December when she was named a Human Rights Champion by the Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Commission. This accolade is awarded to someone who has made a meaningful, lifelong contribution to human rights in Newfoundland and Labrador and there is no doubt that her contributions to the health and well-being of a particularly vulnerable group of immigrants is deserving of this prestigious recognition.
Dr. Pauline Duke has been, and remains, a key resource for not only the Association for New Canadians, but the community as a whole, in areas related to refugee health and mental health. From facilitating linkages between newly-arrived refugees and available resources/networks in the community to helping to develop health-related programs and services, Dr. Duke has been a tireless advocate and supporter of the work of the Association for New Canadians. Her passion and commitment to refugee health is extraordinary and the networks of supports she has put in place will ensure that future generations of refugees will receive the same excellent services and care from a highly skilled multidisciplinary team.