New Mexico cares for migrants

State officials, volunteers, and academics are collaborating at the U.S. border.

By Charlotte Huff

When a group of asylum seekers arrived in Albuquerque from Texas last summer, ACP Member Krystal Chan, MD, noticed that the parents stayed very close to their children during medical screenings, sometimes keeping even older children in their laps.

Many of the parents and children appeared to have been recently reunited, said Dr. Chan, then a co-chief resident at the University of New Mexico (UNM) Health Sciences Center and now an assistant professor there in the department of internal medicine.

Her time with the patients allowed only a cursory screening to look for any pressing medical issues and some diseases, such as tuberculosis. Reports of headache were common, likely related to dehydration, as were signs of emotional strain in some of the parents, she said.

“Anxiety and likely post-traumatic stress disorder,” Dr. Chan said. “And there's just not enough time to build rapport to be able to dig deep into those issues.”

While Texas has frequently made the news recently for its border health crisis, its next-door neighbor New Mexico has also seen an increase in families with children crossing its border with Mexico, many seeking asylum from countries in Central America. The state has also had to deal with recent immigrants transported there by federal officials from other states.

In response, New Mexico's department of health, medical schools, and physician volunteers have geared up efforts to try to address their immediate medical needs.

This story originally appeared in the September 2019 ACP Hospitalist. Read the full article.

Back to the October 2019 issue of ACP IMpact