Teaching residents to work with torture survivors: Experiences from the bronx human rights clinic

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Journal of General Internal Medicine








Doctors; New York City; Resident education; Survivors; Torture


INTRODUCTION: Despite the 1984 United Nations's Convention Against Torture calling to train doctors to work with torture survivors, many physicians are unaware of their obligation and few are taught the requisite clinical skills. AIM: To describe the development, implementation, and evaluation of a curriculum to teach residents to work with torture survivors. PARTICIPANTS: Medicine residents in New York City PROGRAM DESCRIPTION: A 2-component curriculum consisting of a series of workshops and clinical experiences, which provide content, skills, and practices regarding the medical, psychological, ethical, and legal aspects of evaluating and caring for torture survivors. CURRICULUM EVALUATION: All 22 trainees received surveys before and after training. Surveys assessed residents' relevant prior experience, beliefs, skills, and attitudes regarding working with torture survivors. At baseline, 23% of residents described previous human rights trainings and 17% had work experiences with torture survivors. Before the curriculum, 81% of residents reported doctors should know how to evaluate survivors, although only 5% routinely screened patients for torture. After the curriculum, residents reported significant improvements in 3 educational domains-general knowledge, sequelae, and self-efficacy to evaluate torture survivors. DISCUSSION: This curriculum addresses the disparity between doctors' obligations, and training to work with torture survivors. It is likely to achieve its educational goals, and can potentially be adapted to other residencies. © 2008 Society of General Internal Medicine.