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McGinley Symposium Treats Immigrant Issues in Health Care

Immigrants, a group too often unheard and invisible, will be the focus of Exploring Social Justice for Vulnerable Populations: The Face of the Immigrant, the second annual Rita M. McGinley Symposium, on Thursday, Sept. 29, and Friday, Sept. 30, at Duquesne University.

Hosted by Duquesne’s School of Nursing, The Face of the Immigrant is intended to benefit nurses, health care workers and others who are concerned with uncovering ways of lessening the gap that separates the needs of immigrant groups from the benefits of our health care system.

The McGinley Symposium agenda features panel discussions, breakout sessions and four keynote speakers:

  • Dr. Daniel Groody, a Catholic priest of the Holy Cross order who has worked with Congress, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the World Council of Churches and the Vatican on issues of theology, globalization and immigration.
  • Barbara L. Nichols, has served as the chief executive officer of the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools, an internationally recognized immigration-neutral authority on the licensure of nurses worldwide. She has been a member of the board of directors of the International Council of Nurses as well as the president of the American Nurses Association.
  • The Rev. Timothy S. Godfrey, S.J., a Jesuit priest and public health nurse who recently wrote an education brief for the American Nurses Association regarding the organization’s position statement that all immigrants (authorized and unauthorized) should have access to adequate health care services.
  • Adriana Dobrzycka, a community outreach and inclusion manager at Vibrant Pittsburgh, an economic development non-profit that works to attract and retain diverse talent in the Pittsburgh region.

Recently, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security estimated that more than one million people are entering the nation each year intending to become permanent residents, a number that does not include those arriving without documentation. According to Sister Rosemary Donley, the Jacques Laval Chair in Justice for Vulnerable Populations in Duquesne’s nursing school who organizes the McGinley Symposium, the problems that are associated with the sheer numbers of immigrants are compounded by the makeup of today’s immigrant populations.

For the early immigrants who came to Pittsburgh from Great Britain, Germany, Ireland, Poland, Italy and other European nations, life was hard, Sister Donley explained, but it did get better. As time passed, they were no longer seen as immigrants—they were viewed as Americans.

Today’s immigrants come from Africa, India, the Middle East and the Eastern European countries that were once part of the Soviet Union as well as from Central and South America and Mexico, said Sister Donley. “Some have escaped wars, natural disasters and ethnic cleansing, unlike the immigrants of earlier generations who came mainly to find freedom and opportunity for themselves, their children and their families,” Donley said.

Also, unlike the immigrants of our past, the new immigrants are not clustered in ethnic neighborhoods where support and assistance might be available for them.

“There is no ‘Cambodian Town’ or ‘Little Nigeria,’” Sister Donley said, adding that many immigrants today were raised in cultures and communities that have not prepared them for urban living and technology, and therefore Western medicine and its complex health system can be unfamiliar and unwelcoming.

In addition, each American community has a different mix of immigrants. For those reasons, Sister Donley pointed out, nurses, physicians and other health care workers, perhaps more than anyone, must learn to see the immigrants in our community, even though habit, choice and circumstance obscure the lives and sufferings of these people.


Registration is required. Call 412.396.5203 or email kramera1@duq.edu to register and for more information. Nurses, physicians and social workers are eligible to receive 10 Continuing Education Credits for attending.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.