The Weill Cornell Center for Human Rights (WCCHR) is a medical student-run human rights clinic dedicated to providing forensic medical evaluations to survivors of torture seeking asylum in the United States. WCCHR was founded in 2010 through a partnership with Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), and is the first student-run asylum clinic at a U.S. medical school. PHR has described WCCHR as a “model for future asylum evaluation programs.” Our clinic was founded on the twin pillars of service and education. We are comprised of a diverse and growing team of volunteer clinicians and medical students committed to serving asylum seekers, as well as educating health professionals and the general public.
Our service is provided to victims of torture from countries across the globe who seek asylum on multiple grounds, including persecution due to race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and political affiliation. WCCHR’s volunteer clinicians meet with clients to conduct forensic medical evaluations, and to prepare a medico-legal affidavit in support of a client’s asylum application. This affidavit is a legal document that serves as evidence in court, and can play an essential role in establishing an applicant's credibility. Asylum seekers with medical affidavits that have been prepared by trained clinicians are three times more likely to be granted asylum than those without medical documentation.
Applicants who receive asylum can reside lawfully in the United States without fear of deportation and can eventually apply for U.S. citizenship.
WCCHR is committed to educating medical students, residents and practicing physicians about human rights violations, and ways in which we can utilize the unique skills of our profession to defend victims of torture. The clinic holds training sessions and educational seminars which teach physicians and students how to evaluate victims of torture, how to identify the physical and psychological sequelae of abuse, and how to write medical affidavits to document their findings. Trained medical students observe every evaluation conducted by WCCHR’s clinician volunteers and assist the overseeing physician or psychologist in writing the medical affidavit.