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Dr. Shin Receives a Visioning Award from Dr. Pollack’s NYC Visioning Initiative

Dr. Joseph Shin

Dr. Joseph Shin has received a Visioning Award from the New York City Visioning initiative that was established by Dr. Martha E. Pollack, President of Cornell University, Ithaca. Dr. Pollack had created and charged a 12-member committee of faculty from the Ithaca campus, Cornell Tech, and Weill Cornell Medicine to envision what the university’s presence in New York City might look like over the next decade. Thirty projects were submitted to the committee and four projects were awarded funding, with Dr. Shin’s project being one of the four selected by Dr. Pollack.

Dr. Shin’s project will be part of the initiative’s effort to expand learning and research opportunities in New York City for faculty and students, and will complement work in Ithaca during the 2019-20 academic year. Dr. Shin, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of General Internal Medicine, and the WCCHR co-medical director, submitted a proposal focused on enhancing care and advocacy for immigrants and asylum-seekers.

The project is a medical-legal partnership of the Weill Cornell Center for Human Rights (WCCHR) and Cornell Law School. It will build on recent sharing of information and expertise between two successful programs working on behalf of immigrants. A joint leadership team has recommended creating a formal program to continue this work. WCCHR students and faculty have assisted asylum-seekers and other detainees with human rights abuse cases through more than 500 pro bono forensic examinations since 2010, and Law School students have engaged in advocacy for real clients with real legal problems since the 1960s. The Law School’s Clinical Programs have served communities with clients subjected to deportation, trafficking, worker exploitation, persecution, torture and capital punishment-related proceedings. Interprofessional training and opportunities for experiential service-based learning will be provided. Results are expected to produce research and real-world outcomes that impact health equity, human rights, and legal scholarship.

As Dr. Shin explains in his project proposal: There are several converging trends including increased global migration, the undermining of human rights protections, and the growing recognition of the importance of social determinants of health that inform the basis of his proposal. We are beginning to see the direct, severe and long lasting medical harm being wrought in settings where human rights protections are jeopardized. Within the United States we see many of these abuses occurring in places where there are extreme disparities in power, most notably in settings of immigration detention, incarceration, solitary confinement, among minority and immigrant communities, and settings of exploitative labor and trafficking. Doctors often play a role in recognizing these harms and treating them but our medical and public health approaches are limited. Many times it is the legal professionals and human rights advocates that are equipped with the tools of discovery, litigation and direct advocacy that play a powerful role in protecting these individuals, removing them from settings of abuse, allowing access to care and bringing more accountability in systems that perpetuate human rights violations and medical harm. Bringing together these interdisciplinary approaches can be a highly impactful strategy for ameliorating these problems.

“We are amazingly fortunate to have an academic community here at Cornell that is responsive to some of the most challenging and volatile issues related to migration, health, human rights and law. I’m confident that our team of dedicated educators and professionals and students at the medical and law schools can begin to develop innovative approaches to addressing these challenges,” says Dr. Shin.