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Press Releases

NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst Physician to Receive Award for Dedication to the Care of Survivors of Torture

Dinali Fernando, MD, Will Receive the 2018 Pearl Birnbaum Hurwitz Humanism in Healthcare Award by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation

May 31, 2018

Queens, NY

NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst today announced that Dinali Fernando, MD, MPH, medical director, Libertas Center for Human Rights and attending physician in the Department of Emergency Medicine at NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst, will receive the 2018 Pearl Birnbaum Hurwitz Humanism in Healthcare Award by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation. Dr. Fernando is being recognized for her groundbreaking work caring for survivors of torture and human rights violations at the hospital’s Libertas Center for Human Rights.

The award is presented annually to a woman who exemplifies humanism and has advanced —through her scholarship, advocacy, and leadership—the well-being of vulnerable or underserved populations in health care. Dr. Fernando will receive her award on October 10, 2018, in Boston, during Planetree’s International Conference on Person-Centered Care.

“Dr. Fernando is truly a caring medical professional whose work is helping to save lives and bring attention to those affected by political persecution, discrimination, human rights abuses, and other injustices faced by people from many different countries,” said Israel Rocha, chief executive officer of NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst and vice president of OneCity Health. “This well-deserved honor is a testament to Dr. Fernando and her commitment to helping heal the physical and psychological scars endured by survivors of torture. We are honored she is one of our physicians.”

Dr. Fernando, who is also an Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, was nominated by fellow physician Arlene Chung, MD. According to Dr. Chung, “Dr. Fernando exemplifies respect, sensitivity, and appreciation for individuals’ diverse backgrounds and needs, and fosters a culture of humanism in how she practices medicine.”

“We are humbled by Dr. Fernando’s work, and the work of the entire staff of the Libertas Center for Human Rights, and its great impact on the lives of those who have suffered torture by providing them such specialized and humanistic care. Her work embodies the same spirit of Pearl Birnbaum Hurwitz’s—in seeking to help those who have been overlooked and address their needs as fully and specifically as possible,” said Elizabeth Cleek, PsyD, chief program officer of the Gold Foundation.

Dr. Fernando, who grew up in Sri Lanka, earned MD and MPH degrees from George Washington University School of Medicine. She has long been interested in global, refugee, and immigrant health, and was first exposed to survivors of torture during her time with the Program for Survivors of Torture and Trauma at Northern Virginia Family Services, where she spent her psychiatry rotation in medical school. During her tenure at NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst, she began working at the Libertas Center as a resident in 2006 and became medical director of the program in 2009, when it was transitioned from a volunteer program to a grant-funded, comprehensive torture treatment center.

The Libertas Center provides holistic medical, mental health, social, and legal services to patients who have fled torture and human rights violations in their home countries to seek refuge in the United States. Using a trauma-focused, patient-centered, strengths-based approach, Libertas helps survivors heal, regain function, and restore humanity in their lives. Libertas patients come from 63 different countries and speak more than 57 languages. In addition to the Center’s core mission of direct services, including forensic medical and mental health evaluations, and alternative therapies, the Libertas Center also engages in the education and training of providers caring for survivors of torture.

For more information on the Libertas Center for Human Rights at NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst, please visit www.libertascenter.net.