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UHCOP's Samina Salim, fifth from left, meets with Jordan University of Science and Technology graduate students helping to collect data on Syrian refugee mental health.

Assessing Stress in Refugee Populations 

Salim Establishes First Refugee Mental Health Research-Experiential Service Learning Program at Jordanian University

Sept. 20 — In the first of its kind, a research-experiential service learning program to study stress and preventive measures among Syrian refugees has been established at a Jordanian university by University of Houston College of Pharmacy Associate Professor and U.S. Fulbright Specialist Samina Salim, Ph.D.

With the support of a grant from the U.S. Department of State, RAWABIT and Fulbright Jordan, Salim and Postdoctoral Research Fellow Fatin Atrooz, Ph.D. ('18), recently traveled to Irbid, Jordan, to set up the program at Jordan University of Science and Technology (JUST). The groundwork for the program was laid through a memorandum of understanding signed last year by UHCOP and JUST.

Samina Salim

The program aims to assess perceived stress, preventive health behavior, and mental health of Syrian refugees resettled in northern Jordan and establishing a culturally informed mental health awareness program. Twenty JUST master’s students enrolled in the program conducted interview-based surveys using Arabic versions of psychometrically valid measures of mental health, perceived stress and distress, post conflict situations, and post migration stress sources.

Under the guidance of JUST faculty members Omar Khabour, Ph.D. ('05), a UH alumnus, and Fidaa Almomani, Ph.D., students developed and disseminated culturally competent mental health awareness toolkits for Syrian refugees. This allowed for critical research data to be collected while achieving impactful mental health awareness.

Salim’s research into stress and trauma among refugee women is actively recruiting more participants with over 600 subjects recruited thus far. Through a collaboration with Khabour, Salim expanded her data pool by connecting with Syrian refugees living in Jordan, which has absorbed the majority of refugees fleeing the war-torn nation.

Salim also recevied additional support for her research project, "Understanding Stress Resilience and Vulnerability Among Refugee Women," through the 2023 Friends of Women’s Gender Sexuality Studies (WGSS) Faculty Summer Fellowship program.