Altaf Saadi

Altaf Saadi, MD, MS


MD  Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA
Residency – Neurology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Massachusetts General Hospital Joint Neurology Residency, Boston, MA

Biography: Dr. Altaf Saadi, neurologist, is interested in immigrant health and health policy, health disparities and serving marginalized, minority communities.  She was a neurology Chief Resident at the Partners Neurology Residency Program at Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She graduated cum laude from Harvard Medical School, where she completed a thesis about preventive health practices among refugee women at a local Boston community health center.  Her community involvements included leading a student group providing social services to refugee families and serving as a counselor for the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center.  In recognition of her work, she received the Harvard Medical School Dean’s Community Service Award. 

Dr. Saadi created an impressive portfolio of research and advocacy activities demonstrating this passion as a scholar.  Representative of her high quality advocacy work, Dr. Saadi had the opportunity to work with Dr. Mitch Katz who was Director of the Los Angeles County Health Agency at the time on a piece published in JAMA entitled, “Making a Case for Sanctuary Hospitals.”   

Dr. Saadi worked with mentors including Drs. Robert Brook, Gery Ryan, and Moira Inkelas on her main research project entitled, “Understanding Hospital and Medical Clinical Policies & Actions that Promote Use of Medical Care Among Immigrant Patients.”  Increased immigration enforcement has led some hospital and medical clinics to take proactive actions to protect their immigrant patients. This included written policies that outline limits of collaboration by staff with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), signs posted in patient areas declaring “sanctuary” status, and patient workshops conducted by hospital and clinic staff about patients’ legal rights as a mechanism to increase patient empowerment. However, efforts in this regard had not been systematically studied or analyzed. This project aimed to 1) produce the first systematic, multistate analysis of the range of institutional policies and actions that could protect immigrant patients in the healthcare environment; 2) identify both positive and negative factors that enhance or prevent implementation of such policies; 3) determine whether, and how, the institutions are evaluating the outcome of their policies and actions; and 4) propose hospital and medical clinic “best practices” that would promote use of needed medical care among immigrant patients irrespective of immigration status.  Dr. Saadi conducted 50 interviews and presented at the NCSP Annual Meeting in October 2018.  The project endeavored to help institutions in their efforts to develop solutions such as policies and operations, to protect their immigrant patients irrespective of immigration status.   

Dr. Saadi also worked with Drs. Robert Brook, Gery Ryan, and David Eisenman on a project entitled, “Experiences of Discrimination in the Clinical Encounter Across Power Dynamics” to understand 1) where and how intolerance or bigotry around race, ethnicity, and religion manifest among different levels of health care staff; 2) barriers to intervention; and 3) to propose strategies for inter-professional medical education that address these barriers.   Existing data focused on doctors without attention to other healthcare staff that also experience mistrust, disrespect and bigotry from patients and who also must navigate these experiences across hierarchies in medicine.  Dr. Saadi interviewed 20 medical students and/or residents, and 20 nurses and other allied health professionals in order to make the study more inclusive. 

Dr. Saadi also worked on several other projects.  She worked with Dr. Catherine Sarkisian on a project entitled, “Mistrust of Researchers, not Physicians, Predicts Stroke Knowledge: Analysis of a Randomized Behavioral Intervention Trial involving Black, Latino, Korean and Chinese Americans”.  Dr. Saadi analyzed data from an ongoing randomized waitlist controlled trial (RCT) where research subjects greater than 60 years old were enrolled in senior centers in Los Angeles and underwent a culturally-tailored educational curriculum around physical activity and stroke knowledge.  They found that among minority seniors participating in this RCT, greater mistrust of researchers, not physicians, was associated with low baseline knowledge of stroke symptoms. Future studies should examine whether researcher mistrust is disproportionately preventing those with the largest knowledge gaps from participating in trials.  This work was presented at the UCLA Research Conference on Aging, May 2018. 

Dr. Saadi also worked with Dr. Jose Escarce on a data analysis project to create a year-by-year and state-by-state index of immigration policies to measure the overall state enforcement climate toward immigrants.  Using Urban Institute Immigration Policy Resource for this index, this analysis will focus on immigration enforcement policies (such as 287(g) agreements that allow state/local law enforcement officers to enforce federal immigration law; Secure Communities that allow law enforcement agencies that submit fingerprints of arrests for checks against FBI databases to also check against DHS database; and E-verify program that allows employers to verify name and SSN provided by new hires).  This work aimed to understand if higher enforcement would lead to decreased public benefit program enrollment among both unauthorized and authorized Latino immigrants due to increased fear of deportation from accessing government public benefits or medical services.   

Following NCSP, Dr. Altaf Saadi joined the Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Neurology and Harvard Medical School as a clinician-investigator.