The success of the RHI program is predicated on the continuous inter-professional collaboration between many community partners who work together to ensure refugee health needs are met. Students participating in our program will have the opportunity to interact with several community partners throughout the year. Without their help, the program would not be possible.

1. Catholic Centre for Immigrants (Reception House)

This centre provides newly arrived refugee families with an initial shelter in Ottawa. They also provide families with logistical support and interpretation services for the initial medical intake interview at the Newcomer Clinic. In addition, Reception House is the point of first contact between RHI students and families. Students who conduct intake interviews are given detailed information on the demographics of the families such as: country of origin, type of refugee (i.e. government assisted refugees, refugee claimants, etc.), and services available to the families. This enables the students to engage with the refugee family and determine their immediate needs, while at the same time providing any useful resources.


2. Catholic Centre for Immigrants (Client Support Services)

This branch of the CCI specializes in providing refugee families with counsellors that can direct them to numerous services offered at the city of Ottawa. Once students are matched to a specific individual/family, they will work alongside counsellors to effectively address the needs of their family-match and ensure that they are able to access all the services they are in need of. In addition, counsellors may provide specific activity suggestions and feedback to the students as they progress through the CSL program in order to address any new needs that may come up.


3. Ottawa Newcomer Clinic

This clinic provides primary care with translation services to newly arrived refugee families until they are taken on by a family physician. Students conducting the medical intake interviews will forward all the information to the clinic in order to integrate it to their medical file. Also, students may accompany their family-match to the clinic to provide support during appointments.


4. Interpreter Program

This program provides appropriate interpreter training with emphasis in confidentiality and cultural sensitivity. All interpreters undergo police record checks to ensure the protection of both students and refugee families. A unique aspect of these programs is that the majority of interpreters are International Medical Graduates who possess a background that facilitates interpretation in a medical setting.

5. Sponsors

The Refugee Health Outreach Programs could not be possible without the help of the following sponsors:

  • The Alex Trebek Innovation and Challenge Fund – provided by the Michaëlle Jean Centre for Global and Community Engagement
  • The Canadian Federation of Medical Students (CFMS)
  • The Faculty of Medicine Aesculapian Society


Over the past few years, a unique leadership structure has also been developed. Medical students who participate in the program in the first year have an opportunity to act as student leaders during their second year. Subsequently, they may continue as student advisors while on their third and fourth years of studies. This leadership structure allows for continuity to ensure that the program remains guided in its objectives. It also provides a system of support that ensures that new student leaders are able to successfully run the program, thus allowing the RHI/CSL to remain the only CSL program at the University of Ottawa to be entirely student-led.

Present leaders

  • Juliana Barrera
  • Kyle Ng
  • Rameez Imitiaz

Physician advisors

  • Dr. Doug Gruner
  • Dr. Kevin Pottie


One youth client was thankful to medical students for the support in accompaniment to many medical appointments and advocacy done for his ODSP application.
CSS Counselor

“It’s a good feeling to have medical students helping us with our medical needs and to understand the health system”
– Refugee family

My CSL experience with the Refugee Health Initiative was a fantastic exposure to basic issues surrounding refugee health in Canada. Understanding the basic impediments to access to care – from not having a family doctor, to language barriers, to understanding the complex Canadian healthcare system – is an exposure which will undoubtedly allow me to better serve my future patients. I would highly recommend this placement to future students, as it not not only an enlightening experience, it is also highly rewarding and motivating.
– Anonymous (RHI and CSL participant)

This program changed my outlook on refugee health. It helped me understand the health problems faced by newly arrived refugees and their struggle to integrate into the Canadian health system. I believe that this insight will help me better serve my patients.
– Fadi Hage (RHI and CSL participant)