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Trustee Scheu Volunteers to Provide Healthcare Access

Karen Scheu, a member of the Ursinus Board of Trustees, detailed her experience advocating for immigrants seeking broad access to healthcare during a recent Parlee Center talk in the Bears’ Den.

Karen Scheu sees firsthand how critical access to healthcare is for millions of immigrants.

Scheu, a member of the Ursinus Board of Trustees, is an assistant professor of family and community health at the University of Maryland School of Nursing who specializes in immigrant health and underserved communities. Through her work as a family nurse practitioner at Maryland’s Esperanza Center, she helps offer services to those seeking better healthcare access.

“I’m passionate about immigration issues because I see what my patients go through in coming to this country,” Scheu told Ursinus students during a presentation sponsored by the Parlee Center for Science and the Common Good.

Scheu provided a broad view of the nursing profession for students pursuing a bachelor’s degree here at Ursinus, and the academic, scientific, and research paths one might take before a career in nursing practice. But there is also always work in healthcare outside clinics and hospitals, she said, where compassionate services can be provided to the immigrant population.

Sharing data spanning more than 30 years, Scheu said that although the number of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. has declined since 2007, there are still millions escaping violence, persecution, and poverty; or seeking healthcare, work, education, opportunities for their children, and family reunification.

“Most immigrants come to the U.S. pretty healthy, but the longer they are here, the unhealthier they become,” Scheu said, noting poor access to healthcare services when they get sick, a lack of access to healthy food and preventative healthcare, poor labor conditions and occupational hazards, and more.

The Esperanza Center where Scheu volunteers is a community center that provides multiple services to the Latinx community in East Baltimore. She says understanding their culture and challenges—and building trust—is important in helping them access healthcare.

“Our healthcare system is very complex for us, let alone an unauthorized immigrant,” she said. “We have to start thinking about healthcare as a human right.”

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