Sarilee Kahn, Associate Professor

Dr. Sara Kahn has joined the School of Social Work faculty after over 20 years of international social work practice experience.  She is delighted to have the privilege of serving on this distinguished faculty and engaging with the School’s dynamic students.

Dr. Kahn’s passions are fostering the development of new social workers, expanding roles for social workers on the world stage, and contributing to the evolution of cross-cultural approaches to support resilience in traumatized populations. Her research interests involve focus on the experiences of particularly vulnerable refugees settling in North America, including survivors of torture, gender-based violence, and persecution based upon sexual orientation and gender identity.

Prior to coming to McGill, Dr. Kahn was Adjunct Professor at New York University and Hunter University Schools of Social Work, where she taught Advanced Practice with Immigrants and Refugees. She also served as Teaching Assistant to Dr. Deborah Padgett in the New York University Global Public Health Program’s Qualitative Field Methods course.

To her teaching and research portfolios, Dr. Kahn brings clinical experience with refugees and the aid workers who support them. Dr. Kahn is currently a consultant to Doctors Without Borders-USA and the International Rescue Committee on providing psychological support and crisis intervention for aid workers around the world.  She has been deployed to Liberia, Afghanistan, and Iraq to provide consultation to national and international staff in the aftermath of traumatic events.

Dr. Kahn has also worked directly with war-affected populations. For almost a decade, she directed psychosocial programs in the U.S. for refugees and refugee claimants surviving war, torture, human trafficking, and domestic violence, providing mental health support, and serving as an expert witness on behalf of asylum-seekers.

As a humanitarian aid worker during the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, she collaborated with Bosnian staff to develop a psychosocial program for internally displaced children and families. In the aftermath of the war, she worked in Bosnia with Physicians for Human Rights to create trauma-informed psychosocial support for survivors of the massacre at Srebrenica during exhumations of mass graves.  She held similar roles during exhumations in Kosovo, Cyprus, and Greece.

A former actress/singer, her one-woman show Haven, chronicling her experiences as a social worker, was presented at the New York International Fringe Festival and various theatrical venues and professional conferences around the United States.


  • Refugees and asylees; cross-cultural trauma and recovery
  • Secondary trauma in humanitarian aid workers
  • International social work practice and program development
  • Use of creative arts and media to promote social justice
  • Qualitative methods



Kahn, S. (2015). Cast out: ‘Gender role outlaws’ seeking asylum in the West and the quest for social connections. Journal of Immigrant and Refugee Studies, 13(1), 58-79. doi:10.1080/15562948.2014.894169

Kahn, S. (2014). Experiences of faith for gender role non-conforming Muslims in resettlement: preliminary considerations for Social Work practitioners. British Journal of Social Work [online, June 3rd, 2014], doi:10.1093/bjsw/bcu060

Keough, M.E., Kahn, S., and Andrejevic, A. (2000).  Disclosing the truth:  Informed participation in the antemortem database project for survivors of Srebrenica. Harvard Journal of Health and Human Rights, 5, 69-87.

Kahn, S. & Sussman, T. (in press).  Claiming a space for international social work: Voices from the field. Social Work Education: An International Journal.

Kahn, S. (in review). Listening to women’s experiences of Female Genital Cutting: Implications for cross-cultural social work.

 Alessi, E., Kahn, S. (in review). 'The darkest times of my life': LGBT forced migrants' recollections of childhood abuse.

 Alessi, E., Sapiro, B., Kahn, S., & Craig, S. (in review). The influence of minority stress on the transition to university for LGBQQ emerging adults.


Kahn, S. (2015, May 26th). Supporting National Aid Workers in the Fight Against Disease. Op-Ed Section, The Toronto Star.

 Kahn, S. (2015, May 30th). Lutte Contre Le Virus Ebola: L’oms doit reetenire les leçons apprises. Le Devoir




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