Treating Refugees With Mindfulness and Medicine From Home

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After doctors realized their exam room reminded traumatized patients of torture chambers, they invited Buddhist monks and Cambodian healers to bring age-old therapies to the clinic.

Doctors at a health clinic in Lowell, Massachusetts, had a problem: Their exam rooms reminded refugee patients of torture chambers. The stethoscopes, the blood pressure cuff squeezing your arm—they looked like the torture devices used on their families, during Cambodia’s genocide.

Sonith Peou was just 24 when the Khmer Rouge pounded on the door of his family’s home, and took his father away for execution. Now 63, he’s a program director at the Lowell Community Health Center and he understands why a visit to the doctor’s office can feel traumatic for Cambodian refugees. For some, he says, simply being left alone in a room and waiting for a doctor can cause anxiety.

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