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Joanne Ahola, MD

Position: Asylum Network Member
Affiliation: Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and the Weill Cornell Medical College
Dr. Joanne Ahola

If you are reading these Asylum Network statements, then perhaps you are finding we are your kindred spirits. Sign up and join us, you will not be sorry. You have every skill you need to evaluate people who are applying for political asylum as a medical or mental health clinician, and PHR will do everything except the parts that you alone can do.

In 1999, I read an article by a psychiatrist who described having found deeply rewarding volunteer work as a member of the Asylum Network. He spoke of the flexibility there was to do as little or as much as his time allowed, and how he could volunteer right in his office. I've always done some kind of pro bono work and was searching for something that would fit in with my busy practice and parenting young children. I signed up that evening.

Twelve years later, I can tell you that this is the most compelling and rewarding work I have ever done. It seems the perfect way to use and deepen my clinical skills to help people who have suffered persecution attain safety, the first step of healing. I think I have done about sixty evaluations. Along the way, I became a mentor to new network members, and then became a trainer. I am now a medical director of the Weill Cornell Center for Human Rights, which trains medical students to perform asylum evaluations.

I have been a psychiatrist for twenty-five years. Before that, I studied literature and music at Brown University, went to a then brand new medical school at Stony Brook University, did my residency and chief residency at New York Presbyterian Hospital/NY State Psychiatric Institute, and a fellowship with the Group for Advancement of Psychiatry. I am currently on the voluntary faculties of Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and the Weill Cornell Medical College. And since 1986, I have maintained a private practice in general psychiatry in New York City.

Those sixty evaluations have given me the opportunity to meet people I will never forget, to see the world as it so often and in so many places really is, and to know that the clinical expertise I have trained so long to acquire and develop gives those who make it to this point, a chance at a new life.

Come join us. You are needed.

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