Meet the Researcher - Sameer Ahmed

Breakout Room: 17

Sameer_AhmedResearcher Name: Sameer Ahmed
Title of Research: Violations of Performance-Based National Detention Standards (PBNDS) Preceding Deaths in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Detention, 2011-2018
Division Representing: Health Sciences
Institution: University of Southern California
Institution Location: California
Home State: California
District Number: 34
Advisor/Mentor: Sophie Terp, Parveen Parmar, Elizabeth Burner
Funding Source: 

Research Experience:  
I am in my third year of undergraduate studies studying Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at the University of Southern California. Additionally, I am a Research Assistant at the Keck School of Medicine, where I have been studying factors contributing to deaths of immigrants in detention and recently co-authored a paper published in AIMS Public Health. I have been working on an evaluation of reports of internal investigations released by ICE following each death in detention and have developed a strategy to extract and record noted violations of ICE Performance-Based National Detention Standards identified within the reports. I have been collaborating with a multidisciplinary team to integrate my findings into a broader evaluation of systematic issues contributing to premature mortality in ICE detention. I have also been working as a Research Assistant evaluating facial morphology as a phenotypic biomarker in patients with congenital adrenal hyperplasia at Children's Hospital of Los Angeles. On-campus, I serve as a student ambassador and as the Community Engagement Coordinator for my undergraduate degree program. I am passionate about serving vulnerable, underserved populations, and I currently work with the Violence Intervention Program and Trojan Shelter at USC. I volunteer at the LAC+USC Medical Center and have completed a clinical internship with the COPE Health Scholars Program and UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center. After completing my undergraduate studies, I plan to pursue a Master of Science in Global Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine through a progressive degree program at USC, prior to attending medical school.

Presentation Experience: 
I have presented findings from my portions of this study to our team of Emergency Medicine faculty, resident physicians, and to medical students during our team meetings. Additionally, I have presented on my involvements within pediatric endocrinology research to colleagues and collaborators at Children's Hospital of Los Angeles, the University of Southern California's Information Sciences Institute, and within several of my undergraduate research courses at the University of Southern California. Additionally, I plan to present these research findings at the USC Undergraduate Symposium for Scholarly & Creative Work this coming April. I have participated in student panels with the Keck Student Ambassador program, providing information and insight pertaining to the Keck School's undergraduate programs in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention to prospective families and current students. Additionally, I have also presented on various experiences as the Assistant Director of Departments with the COPE Health Scholars Program at a regional leadership conference, where I shared best-practices in place at my inpatient hospital internship site to over 100 attendees and to COPE Health Scholars executive staff from multiple hospital sites. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has limited opportunities to present my current research at both Children's Hospital of Los Angeles and through the Keck School. I am actively seeking presentation opportunities to share the interesting findings of the research work that I am involved in.

Significance of Research:       
Background: The Office of the Inspector General has raised concerns regarding the adequacy of medical care within United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention. ICE's Performance-Based National Detention Standards (PBNDS) set requirements for medical care within detention facilities. This study assesses PBNDS violations related to medical care and suicide prevention identified by internal investigations following deaths in ICE detention. Methods: ICE produces Detainee Death Reviews (DDRs) describing circumstances surrounding each death in detention and lists PBNDS deficiencies identified during death investigations. DDRs for 55 (77.5%) of 71 deaths occurring between 2011 and 2018 were obtained from the ICE Freedom of Information Act website and civil rights organizations. DDRs were systematically reviewed and PBNDS deficiencies within sub-categories of Medical Care and Significant Self-harm and Suicide Prevention were tallied. Results: Of 55 deaths, 47 (85.5%) were attributed to medical conditions and 8 (14.5%) to suicide. Overall, 43 (78.2%) DDRs identified PBNDS deficiencies in the category of Medical Care with a mean of 4.05 deficiencies per DDR (range 1-13). Additionally, 5 (9.1%) DDRs identified deficiencies in the Significant Self-harm and Suicide Prevention and Intervention category, with a mean of 2 (range 1-3) deficiencies per DDR. Conclusion: Violations of PBNDS related to medical care and suicide prevention were commonly cited in DDRs between 2011and 2018; addressing compliance with these standards may reduce future morbidity and mortality. To safeguard the health of the vulnerable individuals in ICE detention, we suggest that facilities with PBNDS deficiencies undergo targeted rehabilitation and monitoring with penalties, including closure, should violations persist.  

Uniqueness of Research: 
This is the first systematic evaluation of violations of ICE's Performance-Based National Detention Standards (PBNDS) related to medical care and suicide prevention identified in Detainee Death Reports published by ICE within a medical care framework. Systemic and structural reform of current operations is warranted as a measure to reduce the morbidity and mortality of individuals within ICE detention.