In an evaluation, the evaluating clinician will ask a client for a thorough history of his or her torture and other traumatic events, assess the client for possible abuse sequelae, document the psychological and physical evidence of torture, and state the degree of consistency between the narrative that the client has given and the evidence of torture that is found.
Medical students will serve as scribes during this process. This requires them to take detailed notes of the client’s history as obtained during the evaluation. Once the interview is completed and all parties feel as though they understand the client’s case, a physical examination is performed on the client. Students will help document any physical evidence during this component of the evaluation. Students then prepare a draft of the narrative portion of the legal affidavit that can be incorporated into the final document prepared by the evaluating physician to be used in the client’s case in immigration court.
Students must undergo formal training at a Physicians for Human Rights Asylum Training event prior to serving as a medical scribe for the HRI @ UB. These training events are full day conferences designed to educate medical students, physicians, lawyers, and other professionals how to effectively investigate and document torture in asylum-seekers. Those who attend the training sessions are taught about immigration law, the asylum process, and how to properly identify physical and psychological sequelae of trauma and torture.
More information about upcoming trainings can be found here: Asylum Program at Physicians for Human Rights
Frequently Asked Questions
What should I do before the evaluation?
You will be sent a brief summary of the case, which you should read prior to the exam. It may be helpful to familiarize yourself with the client’s country of origin and any current conflict in the area, though this is not required.
What should I bring?
Students should each bring several sheets of paper, pen, and the interview and forensic body templates included in your manual. If you are performing a medical exam, bring a phone or camera to take photographs for documentation. In some cases, you may be asked to bring bottled water, cookies, or flowers; Dr. Griswold often supplies these items to help the clients feel at ease, though we’d like to assist her with this in the future. There is no need to bring a stethoscope or any medical equipment. See next section for body map, which can be helpful for documenting physical findings. There are additional body map templates in the Cornell manual which is linked under the “Resources” section.
What should I wear?
Preceptor attire is encouraged. No white coats, please.
Where are the evaluations?
Medical: The medical evaluations currently take place at Dr. Griswold’s office: Lakeshore Behavioral Health: 430 Niagara Street, Buffalo. Note: please use this exact address, as there is another Lakeshore office which is also on Niagara Street. There is a parking lot in front of the facility. As we obtain more volunteer providers, the locations of exams may vary. You will be notified in advance of the location of forensic exams you participate in.
Psychiatric: You will be notified in advance of the examination location.
Can I ask questions?
Though your primary role during the interview is to listen and scribe, you are allowed to ask questions to clarify points that the client is making, spellings of cities/names/etc, or anything else that will help you write a more accurate affidavit. The attending often will specifically ask you at the end of the interview if you have anything further to ask.
What happens after the evaluations?
Clients who are affiliated with the WNY Center for Survivors of Torture are required to attend a debriefing session with the case worker at JFS.
Typically, once the client leaves, the students will spend a few minutes debriefing with the attending. You should then coordinate with the other student scribe(s) how you will divide up work on the affidavit. A shared google doc is usually helpful because both parties can edit it in real time.
I’m still interested! How can I get involved?
Send us an email at and we can keep you posted on training opportunities!