“I'll always be grateful that I've had the privilege of being a health provider for immigrants. I've worked in refugee camps and I've heard their stories. I've learned so much from my patients. To be able to help take care of a family of immigrants will always be special for me.”
Martin Olav Sabo
“SERVING THE WAR-TORN, THE DISPLACED, THE HOMELESS.”
Patricia Walker was a third-year medical student in Minnesota, in 1979, when a phone call from her sister, Susan, changed her life. Cambodia's brutal Khymer Rouge regime was crumbling, defeated by an invading army from Vietnam. The country was devastated and there was a massive outflow of refugees into neighboring Thailand.
Having been born in Taiwan and reared in Thailand until age 11, Walker spoke Thai and was familiar with the customs of the region. She responded immediately to the refugees' plight, taking a leave of absence from medical school to serve as a medical volunteer for the American Refugee Committee at the Khao I Dang refugee camp in Thailand.
Thus began a lifetime calling of providing medical care to immigrant and underserved populations that has brought Walker international acclaim and helped some of the neediest people in the world left homeless and desolated by war.
After the refugee camp, Walker soon finished medical school. But she would return again to Indochina to work with refugees before finally settling in Minnesota, a state with a large refugee population, and devoting her career to health care for immigrants.
Nominated as a Local Legend of Medicine by former Rep. Martin Olav Sabo (D-MN-5), she is Medical Director of the Center for International Health at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, and Associate Medical Director, International Track University of Minnesota Department of Internal Medicine. She is also a highly regarded Assistant Professor of Infectious Diseases at the university.
She was deeply influenced by two renowned early leaders in global health care who were habitués of Southeast Asia and friends of her father, Fred, who was chief pilot of Air America, the CIA's airline in Southeast Asia. They were Dr. Tom Dooley, who established hospitals and medical clinics in Laos under the sponsorship of the International Rescue Committee (and who also became a best selling author), and Dr. Charles Weldon, who for 11 years during the Vietnam War, also worked in Laos and later wrote the memoir Tragedy in Paradise.
Walker is the recipient of numerous awards, most recently, in 2005, of both the "Champions of Health" award from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Minnesota, and the "Community Health Commitment" award from the Minnesota Hospital Association for overseeing creation of the Hmong Mass Screening Clinic.
A widely publisher medical writer, she is co-editor with Elizabeth Day Barnett, M.D. of Immigrant Medicine, one of the first single-volume, comprehensive guides to caring for immigrant patient populations.
A colleague, Deborah Powell, M.D., the Dean of the University of Minnesota Medical School, says admiringly of her: "Dr. Walker represents the best of what the female physician has to offer: unquestionable clinical excellence, personal integrity and an unwavering drive to improve the health of all our communities."
Medical volunteer on Thailand-Cambodian border with the American Refugee Committee
Appointed Staff Physician, Emergency Department, St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, Mason City, Iowa
Appointed Medical Director, Emergency Department, Mount Sinai Hospital, Minneapolis, MN
Appointed Medical Director, International Rescue Committee, Khao I Dang Holding Center for Kampucheans, Aranyaprathet, Thailand
Appointed Medical Director, Center for International Health, Health Partners/Regions Hospital, St. Paul, MN
Appointed Staff Physician, Health Center for Women, St. Paul, MN
Appointed Associate Medical Director, International Track University of Minnesota Dept. of Internal Medicine, and Assistant Professor, Division of Infectious Diseases
Mayo Medical School, Rochester, MN
Tropical Medicine (Diploma in Tropical Medicine & Hygiene)