New campuswide initiative to address Syrian refugee crisis

The Stanford Refugee Research Project aims to create a campuswide collaborative of organizations and individuals committed to relief efforts for the refugees.

Michele Barry

A team of Stanford researchers has launched an initiative to explore how universities can best respond to the large and growing number of Syrian refugees.

Based at the Stanford Center for Innovation in Global Health, the Stanford Refugee Research Project aims to create a campuswide collaborative of organizations and individuals committed to improving the health and well-being of the refugees and to identifying areas of need to direct coordinated relief efforts.

According to the United Nations refugee agency, the conflict in Syria is producing the largest number of refugees globally. The project team hopes to create a long-term model for university engagement with the Syrian refugee crisis, with the goal of expanding it to include other refugee populations. 

“The number of refugees and internally displaced persons due to conflict is unprecedented,” said Michele Barry, MD, director of the Stanford Center for Innovation in Global Health and principal investigator for the project. “We believe universities have an important role to play in better understanding the impact and limitations of current aid strategies.”

Laila Soudi, a clinical research coordinator in psychiatry and behavioral sciences with experience working in Mideast refugee camps, is helping to lead the project, which was initiated last fall. The first phase engaged a team of student research ambassadors within each of Stanford’s seven schools to identify key players within the university who are actively working in refugee relief efforts, or who are interested in getting involved. The results will be made available to the broader Stanford community in the spring.

Now in its second phase, the team recently returned from an exploratory trip to refugee camps and informal settlements in Lebanon and Jordan to assess the needs of Syrian refugees and meet with various relief agencies and organizations. The findings from this visit will inform the direction for implementing a pilot project in Lebanon or Jordan, or both, to improve refugee conditions with the help of Stanford students, faculty and staff.

The project is supported by a grant from the Stanford University Office of the President and School of Medicine Dean’s Office. Information about the work is available on the project's website.

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