Two Champions of Migrant Healthcare in Southwest Michigan: Models for Successful Intervention

Student Author(s)

Clara Schriemer

Faculty Mentor(s)

Drs. Julia Randel and Jonathan Hagood

Document Type


Event Date



Recent studies report that 94,167 migrant seasonal farmworkers and their family members reside in Michigan, and many are Hispanic (Larson 2013, Millard 2002). Because social determinants of health persist from generation to generation, significant improvement to migrant healthcare is challenging and requires the work of champions who battle for the rights of the underprivileged. Dr. Vern Boersma, a pediatrician who began his work in the 1950s, and Carolee Besteman, R.N., who began her work in the 1990s, each championed the cause of migrant healthcare in southwest Michigan for decades. Models for successful intervention into community health issues are numerous, highlighting effective characteristics such as “embracing inter-sectoral actions and partnerships” and “understanding needs and solutions through community outreach” (Cohen, Huyen, et al. 2014; Rychetnik, Frommer, et al. 2002). The importance of collaboration and cultural sensitivity to population health intervention is well established at the organizational level, but illustrations of these traits at the personal level are lacking. Using archival records from the Joint Archives of Holland and personal interviews with Boersma and Besteman, I present their contributions as a model for successful intervention at the individual level. In my analysis, cultural sensitivity is assessed as defined by Resnicow, et al., in “Cultural Sensitivity in Public Health: Defined and Demystified,” while collaboration is defined as “people and organizations from multiple sectors working together in common purpose” (Roussos and Fawcett 2000). I propose that improvement of migrant healthcare requires champions who are culturally sensitive and work collaboratively to facilitate gains in wellness and institutional strength as demonstrated through the examples of Boersma and Besteman.


This project was supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Scholars Program in the Arts & Humanities at Hope College.

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