Makini Chisolm-Straker and Katherine Chon

Recorded June 10, 2021 Archived June 9, 2021 42:46 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: ddv000864


Dr. Makini Chisolm-Straker [no age given] discuss her role as a ER physician and her pathway towards serving trafficked individuals within the healthcare community with colleague, Katherine Chon [no age given].

Subject Log / Time Code

K shares the first time she met M. M discusses her role as an ER physician and being tasked with the work of educating colleagues around care for trafficking individuals.
M talks about her pathway into ER medicine, influences that shaped her value system, her earliest memories of her upbringing, and how parents instilled a sense of community service.
M shares early encounters that created an awareness of trafficking. She describes finding her role in the work, the process of educating herself around the anti-trafficking movement, and building networks structured to form a coalition around knowledge and treatment.
M shares her thoughts on eradicating vs. prevention of trafficking and other human rights issues. K shares how work at the OTIP agency intersects with public health and distinguishing trafficking within that genre.
M shares thoughts on root causes of trafficking, historical intersections, and interconnectedness with other sectors of oppressed peoples. M shares thoughts on where the healthcare field is in terms of equity and ideas around funding root causes and systemic shift.
M gives advice she would pass down to the next generation.


  • Makini Chisolm-Straker
  • Katherine Chon


Partnership Type

Fee for Service


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00:02 Hi, my name is Katherine Chon. I'm recording in Washington, DC. Today's date is June 10th, 2021 and my conversation partner. Is she is we are colleagues and Friends.

00:19 And looking forward to this conversation.

00:23 I am Nikki and I've already stated.

00:39 All right. So, makini we go. A long ways back from our from where we are today. And I still, I was thinking through our first interaction and I remember at that point. I was working in a nonprofit that I started up out of Brown University where we both attended a student's. And by, then I, we were already trying to provide Case Management Services to survivors of trafficking and others at high risk for human trafficking. And when I heard from you, through mutual friends, I remember thinking, oh, there is a healthcare provider. Someone in the healthcare industry that is reaching out and I was reflecting on in the course of providing case management. They were

01:39 A lot of emergency room visits a lot of frustrating experiences that we had with those. We are working with lived experience. And and I I think it was like ice but I think you were the very first points in the healthcare system that had proactively reached out to connect on what more could be done on trafficking and I can fast-forward. Here. We are now working much more deeply in this particular sector had never planned on it and I didn't even conceive of it at the time. But do you recall what that first interaction was like and what prompted you to reach out?

02:25 I remember that. So I was in my first year of medical school.

02:33 Was only in medical school to be an emergency medicine and there was a lunchtime talk.

02:54 Honestly, I was there for the lunch and the topic didn't see him back later about this. And you'd actually said, at some point, you were sharing about the healthcare practitioner seeing, you know, what this person has is and it just wasn't going well, and my feeling at the time about emergency medicine was, this is my home, any merchants in medicine in general, because this is where any and everyone is supposed to be, welcome and cared for. And it's not about, you know, how much money you have or

03:43 You know what language, do speak or any of that. It's about, who's the sickest and whatever your needs and how do we either meet those needs or connected to those needs? And so for me it felt like a failing of My Hope and that was unacceptable. I remember along the lines of like what he's doing and he said that I should take it to be educated at the fair for a little bit and spoke with our mutual friend. And he actually took me like this was my

04:35 I was tasked with this. This is my responsibility. And so then I think I reached out to you again for some more info of like where I can.

04:45 And no long story short, here. We are now. Wow, I didn't know about that follow. Okay, so just a shout out to our friends, hoodie connecting us and having that follow up time with you and encouraging you. Cuz here we are. Now twenty years later. So, okay, before we get into the trafficking part, I want to go back up to, like the emergency medicine of how did, you know? Like, when others are trying to still figure it out? How did you know? I like emergency medicine was like the path for you.

05:24 I should preface with. I did an eight-year program at our undergraduate and medical program. So when I was 16 applying to

05:41 Colleges and universities. I because of the program that we had. I also was applying to medical school and I have no idea. What about General, but emergency medicine.

05:56 For me is,

05:59 Medicines vehicle of social justice in the sense. That, as I said before, everyone is welcome in theory. It's supposed to be our motto are free. That doesn't matter what language you speak, cuz it matter. Your Reese, your skin color, your ethnicity. You're a country of origin. None of it matters. If I remember, I was an intern or not, but I was probably like the first or second year in my residency and I was on an overnight shift. It was probably like, two, three, four in the morning. And there were two patients next to each other and separated by a curtain but which is very common in the US, general voice modulator for privacy or who people to private rooms for certain, kind of person was there for

06:56 That's really cool. They were going to be fine. There was nothing that I could really bring to the table and ibuprofen and some intravenous solution for 2 hours of relief and sidelights stereotype. And then next to them, was a patient who is on domicile had their leg and they were sick, you know, the person with the cold has gotten there first, but they didn't get seen first.

07:37 Because the person who's sickest get, that's our priority. And super me, what is, where is the most that's where I served first and do that. For me was like, that's, that's the kind of work that I am interested in, was raised to think about as valuable. Oh, yeah. So that's the goal of emergency medicine. That's the theory of what we should be.

08:07 And in terms of what is valuable, or like the principle that are valuable or who is valuable? Like where, where did those how did your values, how were they, what were the influences on your values? That contributed to feeling like you belong, in this particular type of environment with this particular mission?

08:32 Will certainly. I mean, be adults, who raised me.

08:38 And that would be my parents and my grandmother.

08:47 Based solely on the things that they explicitly said to me and how they behave and they're

09:03 In the work that they chose to engage in and the way that they engage, with their neighbors and community members and showed up in their lives, and in the lives of their friends, which I don't think you, I wouldn't have said that. If you asked me, when I was seven top be in books and learning about history, what they held up to me as models of

09:36 Esteem.

09:39 Now, looking back, I see.

09:43 I hear, I remember all of the, you know, so the story that they brought home with them, why they had to work late or me coming into the office with them. The work friends that they surrounded me with the work that they were doing those things into, you know, what, what, I like a man who I've become, and also just letting you know, parents.

10:10 Worry over and then Guardians worry over it. Like what is your kid allowed to watch on TV looking back? I was clearly when necessary conversation that ensued because of what was happening on television and shows that I just wasn't allowed to watch and it just me. It wasn't appropriate for me. I think those are small things but they add up.

10:50 So it sounds like you experienced a lot of like substance of intergenerational Engagement as you're growing up. Were that were there. Any like, what were some of your earliest memories or any particular stories are times when you were with your parents in their office that like, made an impression on you or that you can stories that stuff with you over time?

11:17 I think.

11:20 The overarching thing is that my parents were very on purpose about raising this.

11:29 Child of color. This girl, who's to become a woman of color in this nation, in this world. And what they knew my place was expected to be and what they knew I could do. And so I got a lot of leg. So, first temple, I went to a science skills in in New York City. Anyway, I want to sew in third grade. For example, after regular school. I went to an extra shift school where I was learning biology that my at 7 and eat. Most of my years in that classroom were in high school in New York. In order to graduate high school. You have to take like a bunch of a bunch of tests.

12:26 No, I feel like I baby remember. Questions of young for this and my parents being like she can do this very early memories in Primary School of

12:43 In New York of having off and not off from school. Like school did wasn't out. But when he was out for black solidarity day, and so, going to marches and protests and rallies around. Yes, black people, but actually people just from all over New York. I remember stories. My mother is a social worker and she worked for New York City, New York, and I remember it, you know, that she would have to do home visits and go into people's homes, to do assessments for the safety of children, and there were times that people were not nice to my mother.

13:32 Had no guns, put it her face telling her to get out and

13:38 But it was like I'm here for this child. And so she wouldn't leave and that kind of like knowledge if that's what their mothers facing every day. But as I got older it was clear to me that my parents were were doing.

14:00 Work that impacted lives meaningfully that touch the day. Felt like, you know, they could do something to impact the lives of others. Are the different kinds of work. She works but also just with our neighbors, helping young people and people who were employed like proofreading their work and helping them with grammar and syntax. Like, I mean, that's

14:36 It was about being of service. Ultimately, all of these these jobs at my roles that my parents had and that they showed me that it was about using your privilege and what you had to Sir. So with that notion of service in the modeling and witnessing of that. Like, what's jump back to the coffee or tea, you had with Teddy following up from the first time you could have heard about trafficking. Like, what was that conversation? Like and what were you convinced of by the end of that or like what to do next her?

15:17 Any, any more on that? I mean, I don't know. I can't remember exactly what was said. I do. Remember what he looks like in hindsight little highfalutin. I like that. And I know that you can do this for every like, push back that I had, he had an equally appropriate and I'm sure one of the things I asked about was, you know, what, I don't know what you can learn.

16:15 You know, I'm not going to be a doctor, literally what we do.

16:25 He, I think help.

16:29 Need to recognize that because I recognized the problem that made me most suited to being a part of the solution. So then so you had a key role in helping to bring greater awareness to healthcare providers Healthcare institutions on this issue. Can you speak a little bit more to then like the actions that you took following those early learnings? And what was it like, like where their particular barriers or challenges you faced early on, to raise awareness? What works? How did you at work with others to build up that momentum?

17:13 I think the first biggest barrier for me was, you know, this isn't my world. I don't know this content. So I actually spent about a year-and-a-half two years, doing a lot of burning going to conferences. Obviously. The internet was like, I actually reached out to survivors to, just listen and learn more about their overall story. But also in particular, the niche of healthcare and how we fit into their story and how we could have fit better. So a lot of that listening and then also at the time that right after your talk and text

18:02 Persuasive. I met my still Mentor today. Dr. Lynn Richardson or shades of brown. So she'd heard that he's running a summer internship. Program is already planning for the next year, that the next the coming summer and said, you know, you should have thought of this program and it started, I had just gotten my brain working around. Oasis, should teach emergency medicine practitioner. And how do I do that? I didn't know about, you know, our weekly conferences that we had almost every and so I was like, well the internet seems to be a thing. I'm going to build a website.

19:02 But the following summer works very hard on a small, like 20 to 40 minutes. Late didactics that was online. Collaborated with another medical student, at a different. Medical school was good with building websites. And then, when I was at this this summer internship soccer, Richardson got to let me go at their academics didactic sessions and, you know, initially, I think they were just humoring, the medical student, who was like, you know, going to like, give this talk. And then by the end of every minute, I think I saw a picture like, that, a few months ago. Oh my gosh. I missed it. Like, it was starting to beginning beginning of people, starting to see and open their eyes to this thing that they had.

20:02 But now they had a name for it and we use actually some of that data to just look at it or what was it like pre and post a short intervention, their knowledge before and after which you know is the beginning of my introduction of joining the research Mill. You, but I would get you to get time off from medical school to go to these conferences, try to get the medical school to subsidize. Our pay for some of these conferences where I just got a lot of questions of people one-on-one and building a lot of these relationships.

20:45 So then from this, from the initial like relationship of to you and another med student at a different University. How did that Network Row from there and get more people involved?

21:03 So, I think part of it was

21:07 Doing these black shorts and sometimes residence. And so, like the word sort of started to get out that this is that person. Who does that talk to me. Also, the internet, like, you will just find you the American Medical Association. Training. Tomorrow's teacher has a dead he for conference. And so the Network's with the group from there, where they were like how you should build this website. Like it could be even bigger.

22:07 Then, and then pointing me down a road. I will, I will try this Roadhouse. And then publish that first.

22:21 That first article.

22:24 That was looking at you do pre and post intervention of once clinician know what do they do? After they now know, it depends what they had some knowledge. They didn't have before publishing. That I think there's a very very small sphere people on the intersection of healthcare and labor and sex trafficking and

22:55 Then the research as many resources and so that begin. Begin my thinking about the next question. And then as I'm doing, you know, my literature review of, okay, how do I approach this? Next question. I ran into one of them ran into

23:18 Author. Investigator. How's it going? I want to build on their work. And my mentor said, well, you should reach out to that because that's how that works. Lots of us were actually doing a lot of people where she doing direct service provision, but we're acting in the silos. And so I got to become a part of this.

23:41 Non-filing this networking coming together.

23:46 And yes, so there is so much more that has been published these recent years, then existed when the anti-trafficking field was first taking off and Deuce. Do you think that there has been a shift in the field? Where I I remember early on, you know, a lot of the focus was on rule of law and I'm training law, enforcement and rule of law still, is pretty foundational to any community's ability to like have at least a pathway towards Justice and holding people accountable. But what do you think by having more health care and public health, folks involved in, on this issue like how how have conversations are understanding about the issue shifted?

24:38 I think that's when I first started learning about trafficking.

24:44 It's

24:45 You know, when you first will speak for other people, when I first start learning about a thing, especially at the age that I was younger.

25:01 I was younger, I would say it is constructed and functions. A lot of the way we learned is the accept information. Medical school in his country is an acceptance of information and then a regurgitation of that information. There is a little bit of interpretation as you get closer to graduated medical school, but a lot of the way we were taught to learn is you take in, what is given to you. And so, what was given to me at the time, was this is the Law Enforcement issue. This is a crime that you happen to be seeing and so my I don't even think I had thought of it as a terrible horrible thing. That happens work on a thing.

25:56 But it was, you know, before you are to talk before, you're coming to the medical school, for me. It was always the thing that is awful and I will not participate, raise, like, check. I need to be a part of helping people to write and then thought about this critically injured or even longer than we could mean trafficking in this way. I started to get an alarm for some issue, and, you know, drying these parallels from its violence that we've learned and sexual assault. That, you know, it's not as simple as we have. We, we have the problem now, we fix it because then the question is, really, how do we not have that problem? Right? And once you start to ask that question, you realize that law enforcement is insufficient.

26:56 Only only really functions to either deter or, you know, provide Justice or punishment, right? So, the thing is something has happened. How do we provide some kind of?

27:14 Justice to that situation and actually providing Justice as a punishment, but

27:35 It it just started naturally you fall into public health because public is a recognition. That prevention is the best way to solving problems. Did not have that problem. How do you, how do you start to prevent things? You recognize that all of these systems and individuals and policies and markets and all of these things interact. So I just had a nice conversation with someone who is public policy person and I asked them if they were coming to the American Public Health Association conference this year, so that we can meet in person. That's not really my literally. Every single means that everyone is needed every single needed in order to solve these issues.

28:33 That's as much as I love you work and see medicine and that way I like law enforcement. I mitigate the fall out to me. That's insufficient because if I really want to be on purpose, I want people to be to maintain the health and well-being that

28:55 You know, they were ideally born with that. They should have been born with. It's really interesting cuz I think for the average person there is a misunderstanding. There is often a misunderstanding of what public health is. And I remember even within my role at the office on trafficking in persons at the Department of Health and Human Services, a few years back. We really honed in on like our federal agencies part in responding and saying our role is to strengthen the public health response and there's a lot of confusion around what that meant from like, well he is communicable disease. Why does a public health issue or oh? Well, we don't want to exclude law enforcement and others who've been like historically involved in this.

29:55 As inclusive multi-sector as possible, and it took a while. And I think now probably due to pandemic, more people have an understanding of Public Health in the roll around prevention, perhaps. So that's that is very interesting, so good. And that brings me to the collaboration that the recent collaboration project we had and not in my official role as part of the Department of Health and Human Services, but also digging into prevention and what it means for this problem to not exist at a certain point in the future. When we first started talking about this, like you had recently co-edited another textbook on public health and human trafficking. So I after having gone through the

30:55 Various papers. You published this co-edited, textbook on public health and trafficking what? What convinced you been to collaborate with me? An effort that would dig into like, the historical linkages between current forms or current manifestations of human trafficking and how they may be connected to like past oppressions and in justices.

31:22 So I think it all really comes back to what I was two or three and I learned the word that I think every parent case which is why, you know, because at some point your kids keep asking it something I actually know the next. Like you do you ask they ask you like why is the sky blue already? Give them an answer and then they ask OK Google at some point.

31:55 It gets to get seen. It seems to be so far removed from the issue at hand, but you realize that all of these things build upon each other. And so, actually, for a few years I had been in conversation with Chang and Vicky Rosenthal about

32:14 You should have root causes of trafficking. And how we're looking at, who's disproportionately represented among people that we even recognize as survivors and its people of color. It's queer. Folks, if people who are impoverished or displaced, it is. The people that on the one hand or not. It's not surprising because, you know, if it's Oracle and justice has come Thailand and interact and continue to be treated and function, and on the other hand. It's like, wow, the media doesn't represent.

32:50 Starting to think about was how do we if we're conceptualize into the public health problem in issue. How do we keep going down to the wise and figure out? Okay. Well now we're at the wire. Okay. Well historical Injustice. Systemic racism institutional patriarchy we can change those things. And this this textbook with something that was a story that I had been trying to tell and figure out how to tell. And how do you use research to tell us more about history? Maybe you don't, maybe you do, but I did not like I couldn't figure that out. I think initially we thought we might be like some sort of series or Journal. I can write like a piece and then I can just say it but I think it's so much better and

33:49 So much more comprehensively because we have experts in these different areas that you don't seem to not necessarily overlap the folks who don't really know public health or on his familiar with it. But when you think about how intertwined they are, you see like in each chapter, it's like, okay, well and see chapter 9. Now, see chapter 11 interconnected and all of that relates to an impact, our world. And

34:22 Be the the market of trafficking in some way. So I on that note that the textbook and a lot of research has been emerging to draw. These linkages, around Equity issues. Whether it's racial equity and Justice or equity, for other under-recognized, under-represented disproportionately impacted communities. Do you think based on your perspective of the anti-trafficking field today that as a field? There's a shared understanding around the importance of addressing. Some of these root causes or having the hard conversations around racial Justice Equity even acknowledging.

35:22 Historical harms. Where, where do you think we are as a field now? And where do you think we could be even like 10 or 20 years from now?

35:32 Honestly, I think the anti-trafficking field in the US as pool is still, we're not there to befriend. The prevention is important but a lot of our prevention efforts to date a focused on which is still sore. The secondary prevention, really not primary. I think that in the Before Time meeting before covid, we were very much in a precontemplation phase where we see the funders and the funding going. It is very much still at Tricia Airy.

36:32 Mentions of thinking about. What if we started funneling, anti-trafficking funds, earmarked funds to anti-racism work and anti-poverty work, and transformative Justice work, that to me would be starting to look at what primary prevention of trafficking really is a room. Is that a lot of the people who are sort of Empower in this movement visibly.

37:16 Benefit from the systems. So it we have a a rooted investments in its continuing as it is and

37:37 And I think that that becomes even more true when we see that, a lot of the anti-trafficking workers are white and that there is white privilege and white power that currently exist in the society that we have done so far.

37:53 Yes, I think, I think in 10 to 20 years, this conversation. No one will be impressed by this conversation, cuz I think I'm hoping that it will be. But I don't, I think that there's still a lot more work to do, that actually rebuilds systems. So that these true don't remain true. And another question. I had, we can use that, you your someone, and I think we share this perspective of being very conscious and present with like that multi-generational lens. So, the ancestors who came before you, those are coming behind you and I find not everyone has a conscious appreciation in the day-to-day of recognizing that lineage or the impact, relieving for future Generations. Like, can you speak to that more? Like, where did that? That part of?

38:52 Consciousness or identity come from and and then speaking to that, like what kind of message would you want to leave for the generations down the line?

39:04 I think it comes back again to who raised me and how I learned a lot about history, about the people who look like me and that I come from and

39:17 The the message that was explicitly given to me. What day did that, so that you could do whatever you want. And and knowing that like, people 710 Generations removed.

39:32 But they know what I'm doing, isn't the work that I'm engaging in? Is not going to change everything in the next five years, and fix it all. And that's not what I'm working for. I'm working for the 7th generation because I, I believe it. That's it takes a long time and

40:05 Why?

40:08 I mean I think of it as being a researcher and thinking about public health, but a lot of it has to do with the patience of a researcher, but I also recognize that real problems need Sustainable Solutions and those Solutions are not built in a short funding for supportive, five years for study. It takes my generation and the Next Generation and constantly building on that work.

40:39 It's a little patience of knowing that you have contributed and that it's not all my fault and it's not on mine to carry.

40:51 Yeah, I thank you Ricky. I've always appreciated the duality of many aspects of you of the like let's get this done triage. Emergency medicine to give me patience and recognize what we can do now and the seeds are planting. Just like I I really appreciated, just the full list of who you are and what you mean to this field. And what you've brought to this field and are the collegial relationship as well as our friendship. And I know in your line of work, things are so busy and even carving out time to have conversation and be in a space together to just take time for reflection when things life, is moving by at a certain speed. I'm just so appreciative that you said, yes to listen.

41:51 Station that you shared, not all your comprehensive thoughts on life, which I'm always curious and engaged to be engaged with. But I thank you for sharing a part of yourself and your family's story, and your your professional Fields story. As as we take a moment to reflect of where we are 20 years in. Thank you, and thank you for the invite. And I hope that, you know, someone listening, if they still have the technology, Seven Generations. Know, you know, a lot of us are trying

42:40 Thank you.