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Aliana Potter '24
In a project funded by the Kirkland Endowment Advisory Committee, Aliana Potter ’24 spent the summer conducting research in Utica focusing on maternal health services for refugee mothers. She talks about the importance of her research and how she hopes it will make a difference.

The United States has some of the highest rates of maternal and infant mortality in the world. Hearing these statistics over and over again in my Sociology of Health and Illness and Healthcare Systems courses opened my eyes to our country’s incompetence and inefficiency surrounding maternal health. I decided I wanted to know more.

The Kirkland Endowment Advisory Committee funds student-led projects each summer that “support the needs and interests of women at Hamilton.” As an interdisciplinary public health concentrator, I chose to study health inequity. I had also worked with Professor Herm Lehman in the Biology Department last spring on some preliminary research and had been exposed to the diversity of Utica’s refugee community. With these principles in mind, I drafted a proposal that focused on the quality of Utica’s maternal health services for refugee mothers.                                                                                       

Interdisciplinary Concentration

The goal of Hamilton’s Interdisciplinary Concentration is to allow students the flexibility to craft a program of study that matches their interests and goals.

Prenatal and postpartum pregnancy care are vital to the health of both the mother and infant, and without proper services to address the mother’s needs, our population's health will suffer. One group at particular risk during pregnancy is refugee mothers. These women often have language barriers, smaller support systems, minimal understanding of the American healthcare system, and are used to a different model of maternal care. I wanted to understand how they are adapting given their circumstances.

I reached out to dozens of healthcare providers in the Utica area with a series of 14 questions aimed at better understanding the services their respective practices offered to refugee patients. Questions I asked included: “Does your practice conduct any outreach to refugee communities?” and “Do you think Utica has made any changes to adapt to the high number of refugee patients entering the healthcare system?”

Aliana Potter ’24

Major: Interdisciplinary Public Health Studies
Hometown: Concord, Mass.
High School: Concord-Carlisle High School

I analyzed patterns and trends in these interviews and determined there were both themes of success and areas in need of improvement. For example, respondents suggested a greater focus on community support groups due to the rising rates of postpartum depression among refugee mothers. Another participant highlighted their practices’ strong cultural competency training that they hoped could be shared with other clinics in Utica. Yet, other participants noted that their current electronic record management system doesn’t translate into a patient’s commonly spoken dialects.

Utica is currently building a new hospital downtown, and I hope to work with my interviewees to implement some of our recommendations into the work of the new hospital employees. I also intend to present my findings in Utica and allow various clinics to learn from each other and hopefully improve their care for refugee mothers.

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