Duke Pediatrics faculty member and National Clinician Scholars Program (NCSP) scholar, Rushina Cholera, MD, PhD, was recently published in the journal Pediatrics for her op-ed on COVID-19’s impact on children in immigrant families.
As a pediatric resident at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, Cholera provided care for many children in Spanish-speaking families. During the time when U.S. immigration policies were becoming more restrictive in early 2017, she became inspired to focus her research on immigrant health disparities. Cholera believes the current COVID-19 pandemic has put a spotlight on these disparities.
“Children in immigrant families tend to already have increased health and social risks compared to their peers, including decreased access to healthcare and worse health outcomes,” she said. “For the Pediatrics article, we used a health equity framework to show how the pandemic is increasing the existing inequities and creating new ones.”
Cholera, along with her co-authors Olanrewaju Falusi, MD, from Children’s National and Julie Linton, MD, from the University of South Carolina at Greenville, focused the piece on how immigrant families are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 in terms of access to healthcare, social drivers such as food insecurity, and ongoing immigration enforcement. The impact of restrictive immigration policy may impact immigrant families’ decisions to seek timely medical and mental health care for COVID-19, potentially increasing risk of virus transmission in closely knit immigrant communities.
Current relief packages such as the CARES Act exclude all households in which anyone uses an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. This provision means that over 7 million US-born children in mixed-status immigrant families do not qualify for the direct cash assistance stimulus through the CARES act. They also provided key recommendations for health care providers and policy makers to help mitigate the unique risks faced by immigrant families, including ensuring access to testing and case data stratified by race/ethnicity as well as inclusion of all immigrant families in federal relief packages.
Cholera joined the inaugural cohort of Duke NCSP scholars last year. Her research in the program has focused on understanding and mitigating social drivers of health for young children, with a particular focus on children in immigrant families. As a scholar, she has also worked closely with Eliana Perrin, MD, Charlene Wong, MD, MSHP, Gillian Schmidler, PhD, and students from Duke’s BASS Connections program. Their research, “Measuring and Addressing Social-Emotional Well-Being in Early Childhood,” was awarded Best Student Abstract at this year’s Academic Pediatric Association Region IV annual meeting.
Cholera said her time in the program, including seminars and training focused on developing viewpoint pieces and research manuscripts, prepared her for her publication in Pediatrics.
“I wouldn’t have thought to write this piece prior to NCSP,” Cholera said. “The program has helped me develop my critical thinking skills and showed me a way to marry research, advocacy, and health policy.”