Every year, in honor of Black History Month, Upstate’s Faculty and Staff Association for Diversity gives two awards: one to an employee who “lives Upstate’s mission of service to our community” and one to a member of the community for “leadership in our community. ” This year’s award recipients are E. Geralyn (Geri) Hall, a family nurse practitioner at Upstate’s University Health Care Center, and The Rev. Phil M. Turner, pastor of Bethany Baptist Church in Syracuse. They receive their awards at the opening ceremony on Wednesday, Feb. 6.
Meet Geri Hall:
Geri Hall describes her clinic at Upstate as something akin to the United Nations. “We see refugees from all over the world,” explains Hall. “It’s common for me to hear five to seven different languages in a day.”
Many of Hall’s patients have spent decades in refugee camps and made it to Syracuse with only the clothes on their backs. Hall tries to learn to say a few words in the languages of each of her patients.
“It’s a sacred experience. Our patients welcome you into their lives. They share their trauma, and their losses. They invite you into their pain. It’s such incredible intimacy.”
Hall works three long days a week serving patients at Upstate and teaches first-year internal medicine residents, guiding many of them through their first experiences providing basic women’s health care to refugees and inner-city residents. She volunteers at the Poverello health clinic on Syracuse’s northside and at health clinics for migrant farm workers in Oswego County. Hall’s work with international communities began in the 1970s when she travelled to St. Lucia to rebuild housing after a devastating hurricane. In the 1980s, Hall learned Spanish in Bolivia and worked at a Somali refugee camp and with indigenous people in the mountains and slums of Peru.
Last year, Hall resumed her international volunteer work by going to El Salvador on a medical and humanitarian mission, accompanied by her teenaged daughter. (Listen to an interview about that adventure here.) They transported medical supplies and worked to find funding to enable children to attend high school. Hall’s philosophy? “The more we are given, the more we need to share.”
Hall is married to David Pasinski, who is also devoted to issues of social justice, and is a part-time chaplain at Hutchings Psychiatric Center and Onondaga Community College. They have two teenaged children, Mariah and Micah.
Pastor Turner is profiled in another blog post.
Upstate celebrates Black History Month
Chef Blue is catering the kick-off event
Listen to an interview with Hall