March 17, 2016

Six medical students named in inaugural class of Alabama Schweitzer Fellows

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albert schweitzerSix students from the UAB School of Medicine were named in the inaugural class of Alabama Schweitzer Fellows, a group of sixteen graduate students across the state who will spend the next year implementing service projects designed to address social factors that impact health.

The UAB medical student selected are:

  • Sushma Boppana
    Sushma will develop and implement a patient navigator program for Equal Access Birmingham, the School of Medicine- student run free clinic for homeless, uninsured and under-insured individuals. This project aims to improve patients' utilization of existing community resources and increase EAB's rates of successful referrals.
    Community Site: Equal Access Birmingham
  • Shima Dowla
    Shima will develop, implement, and evaluate a healthy living program for low-income adults with diabetes and obesity who receive care at Equal Access Birmingham. This program will employ strategies from the Health Behavior theory of public health with the goal of improving participants’ diet, physical activity and medication adherence.
    Community Site: Equal Access Birmingham
  • David Osula
    David is developing the Academy of Health Sciences Mentoring Program for local, inner-city high school students who are interested in healthcare careers.
    Community Site: Carver High School, Academy of Health Sciences
  • Taylor Pope
    Taylor will work with students at Glenwood Autism and Behavioral Health Center to improve their health and self-esteem through dance.
    Community Site: Glenwood Autism and Behavioral Health Center
  • Sarah Teitell
    Sarah will increase access to healthcare for runaway and/or homeless youth at Project HOPE. She will create a health screening assessment and local healthcare resource guide, and also assist with connecting these youth with the appropriate local free/low-cost community health agencies.
    Community Site: Family Connection, Inc. (Project HOPE)
  • Dustin Whitaker
    Dustin, along with Catilyn Cleghorn, a student at Samford University’s McWhorter School of Pharmacy, will implement a medication review system for St. Vincent's Access to Care clinic that includes health education for patients and a comprehensive clinical review of each patient's medications.
    Community Site: St. Vincent's Access to Care

“We are extremely proud of our inaugural class of Schweitzer Fellows. There was great interest in the program, and we are excited to see what our talented students accomplish over the next 12 months,” said Kristin Boggs, director of the Alabama chapter of The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship. “We are confident that the Alabama Schweitzer program will make a lasting impact on the health of communities in and around Birmingham, Alabama as our Fellows first learn to serve and support vulnerable people in living healthier lives, and then take those skills with them when they establish themselves professionally as leaders in their field.”

Schweitzer Fellows develop and implement service projects that address the root causes of health disparities in under-resourced communities, while also fulfilling their academic responsibilities. Each project is implemented in collaboration with a community-based health and/or social service organization. The Alabama Schweitzer program’s inaugural class of Fellows will address an array of health issues affecting a range of populations, from a health promotion program for at-risk youth that employs reading and bicycling to an oral health promotion program for Hispanic and Latin adults to addressing food insecurity among low-income residents of Birmingham.

Schweitzer Fellowships have an intensive leadership component, so that Fellows can go on to inspire others to improve the health of those who experience barriers to care. Fellows work under the close guidance of community and academic mentors during their fellowship year.

“We are so pleased to bring The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship to Alabama. Our program has a ripple effect in communities as Schweitzer Fellows improve the lives not only of those they are directly serving, but their circle of family and friends as well. So there is a lasting community impact,” said Sylvia Stevens-Edouard, Executive Director of The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship. “Additionally, the process of moving their Fellowship projects from an initial concept to completion teaches Schweitzer Fellows valuable skills in working with others in allied fields. As Schweitzer Fellows develop professionally, this skill is critical to their ability to effect larger-scale change among vulnerable populations.”

“The students we interviewed amazed us with their depth, their passion and their desire to make a difference. When students from such diverse backgrounds, schools and disciplines come together to learn about each other's projects, it kindles a deeper level of commitment,” said Stefan Kertesz, M.D., MSc, chair of the Alabama Schweitzer Fellow Program.  “Not only will their work have impact this year, but studies of prior fellows show that a Schweitzer Fellowship contributes to a lifetime of service.”

The Alabama Schweitzer program is housed in the School of Medicine, in partnership with the UAB Schools of Dentistry, Health Professions, Nursing and Public Health. The Alabama chapter is ASF’s 14th U.S.-based program. The others are in Boston, Chicago, Columbus-Athens, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New Hampshire/Vermont, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Tulsa. Additionally, ASF also has a program chapter based in Lambaréné, Gabon, at The Albert Schweitzer Hospital.

Other Alabama Schweitzer fellows include:

  • Ayanda Chakawa, Auburn University, College of Liberal Arts (Clinical psychology)
    Ayanda has partnered with eight faith-based communities to work with African American parents of children aged 5-12 years old to strengthen child well-being. This project is also being supported by the Auburn University Office of Faculty Engagement through the Auburn University Competitive Outreach Scholarship Grant.
    Community Site: Macon County Ministers’ Council
  • Caitlyn Cleghorn, Samford University, McWhorter School of Pharmacy
    Caitlyn, along with Dustin Whitaker, a medical student at UAB, will implement a medication review system for St. Vincent's Access to Care clinic that includes health education for patients and a comprehensive clinical review of each patient's medications.
    Community Site: St. Vincent's Birmingham, Access to Care
  • Alfonso Robinson Jr. and Hope Bentley, Tuskegee University, College of Veterinary Medicine, Nursing & Allied Health (Occupational Therapy)
    Alfonso and Hope will establish a project that encourages healthy behavior and promotes health education among K-12 students through the combination of reading and bicycle riding.
    Community Site: Tuskegee Youth Safe Haven
  • Frances Isbell, University of Alabama School of Law
    Frances will open a chapter of NMD United in the state of Alabama and create a support network for teens and adults with neuromuscular conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis and Spinal Muscular Atrophy. Frances will also organize pro bono legal clinics, aimed at helping that population access the resources they need to live independently.
    Community Site: NMD United and others (TBD)
  • Aissatou Barry-Blocker, UAB School of Dentistry
    Aissatou Barry-Blocker will teach simple steps in personal nutrition that can improve the oral health, and potentially reduce heart disease and diabetes, in the Hispanic and Latin communities. The nutrition education sessions will coincide with the regularly scheduled health screenings Cahaba Valley Health Care (CVHC) conducts in the target Hispanic and Latin communities.
    Community Site: Cahaba Valley Health Care
  • Deborah Bowers, UAB School of Nursing
    Deborah will plan and establish a nurse practitioner-led, volunteer safety-net clinic in the community of East Lake in Birmingham, Alabama. An interdisciplinary team, consisting of a nurse practitioner, physician, pharmacist, business owner, and minister, will work alongside community leaders to provide access to healthcare for this medically-underserved population.
    Community Site: East Lake Initiative
  • Ashley (A.T.) Helix, UAB School of Public Health
    Ashley will develop materials and provide an on-call volunteer for the friends/family members of someone who will be hospitalized for a mental health condition. The materials and volunteer will help them understand what their loved one will be experiencing while hospitalized; how they can help while their loved one is in the hospital; and how to be a support system when their loved one is released. The project will also establish a phone line that people could call if they were contemplating going to the hospital, but were nervous about the process or how it would actually help.
    Community Site: Birmingham Crisis Center
  • Rachel Stokes, UAB School of Public Health
    Rachel will address food insecurity in Birmingham by developing aquaponics and community gardens that will increase the availability of fresh produce year-round for partners and constituents of Christian Service Mission.
    Community Site: Christian Service Mission
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