Bowers selected UAB School of Nursing's first Alabama Schweitzer Fellow

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) student will lead project to establish urgent care clinic in East Lake

By Jimmy Creed

The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship has selected University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) School of Nursing student Deborah Bowers, MDiv, DMin, MSN, RN, FNP-C, as one of 16 members in its inaugural class of Alabama Schweitzer Fellows.

Bowers, a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) student, will join graduate students from universities across Alabama, including 10 from the UAB schools of Dentistry, Medicine and Public Health, in the year-long fellowship named for the Noble Peace Prize laureate and famed humanitarian and physician. Deb Bowers Africa 2Numerous trips to Africa since 2008 to provide health care to many underserved people who have access to none inspired Deborah Bowers to apply for the Alabama Schweitzer Fellowship to see if she could help others with similar limited access in her own community.

As Alabama Schweitzer Fellows, Bowers and her colleagues will uphold Schweitzer’s vision of positive change in health and human service systems throughout the world by identifying, developing and implementing community service projects to meet the needs of underserved populations and vulnerable people in Alabama. Bowers’ project will be to establish a nurse practitioner-led urgent care clinic in the underserved Birmingham suburb of East Lake.

She is thrilled to be honored by the group charged with keeping alive the legacy of the visionary who inspired her own work in Africa. Since 2008, she has spent two to four weeks a year in Africa providing health care in an abandoned train car, grass huts or under mango trees to those who often have access to none.

“I knew that Dr. Schweitzer’s desire was to take quality health care to people who didn’t have it,” Bowers said. “I wanted to see if a nurse practitioner-led clinic was even a possibility the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship committee would consider. I was hopeful it would be an opportunity to give the people of East Lake something they need and to follow in Albert Schweitzer’s footsteps.”

Bowers and her interdisciplinary team of volunteers that includes a physician and pharmacist will partner with the East Lake Initiative to bring the urgent care clinic to life. Bowers will donate her $2,500 Albert Schweitzer Fellowship stipend directly to the nonprofit organization as well.

Organizational meetings have already begun and the group plans to begin seeing patients one day a week by January 2017.

“In our own backdoor there are little pockets of areas like East Lake where people need help desperately,” Bowers said. “When the Schweitzer Committee asked me why I wanted to do this I told them I had been doing clinics overseas since 2007, and I had started thinking that if I can do it overseas, why can’t I find opportunities to do it here? It is a real honor to get that opportunity.”

Professor Patricia M. Speck, DNSc, RN, FNP-BC, DF-IAFN, FAAFS, FAAN, Bowers’ mentor and the School’s Program Director for Global Affairs, characterized her efforts as an example of the “think global, act local” mindset encouraged by Dean Doreen C. Harper, PhD, RN, FAAN.

“Deborah organized and traveled to underserved areas in Africa over the years, learning first-hand how to provide medical and nursing care in poorly resourced communities,” Speck said. “That training and experience pushed her to return to school to become an advanced practice family nurse practitioner with a DNP degree. In partnership with the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship, UAB, the School of Nursing and the people of East Lake, she will realize the fulfillment of a dream by providing care to the underserved in her own community.”

Assistant Professor D’Ann Somerall, DNP, CRNP, FNP-BC, the School’s family nurse practitioner specialty track coordinator and member of the advisory board of the Alabama chapter of The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship, seconded Speck’s sentiments.

Deb Bowers Africa 1In many cases, a blanket on the ground was Bowers' only option as a place to treat patients on her trips to Africa. “Deborah is a caring, generous person in spirit and abilities, and I am thrilled she will be the School’s first Albert Schweitzer Fellow,” Somerall said. “She has definitely set the bar high.”

The Alabama Schweitzer Fellows will join approximately 240 others in the 2016-17 class working at sites around the United States as well as one at The Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Lambaréné, Gabon. Upon completion of their fellowship year, they will become Schweitzer Fellows for Life and join a network of more than 3,200 alumni committed to addressing the health needs of underserved people throughout their careers.

“We are confident that the Alabama Schweitzer program will make a lasting impression on the health of communities in and around Birmingham as our fellows first learn to serve and support vulnerable people in living healthier lives and then take those skills with them as they establish themselves professionally as leaders in their fields,” said Kristin Boggs, director of the Alabama chapter of The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship.

“We want to help the people of East Lake have a place to go so they can feel better faster or even prevent sickness altogether, if we can,” Bowers said. “Something to help them get back to work or back to school. Something to help the community begin to thrive again.”

A welcome reception honoring the newly selected fellows will be held on Wednesday, April 13.

Bowers is a 1985 graduate of the UAB School of Nursing's Bachelor of Science in Nursing program and earned her Master of Science in Nursing degree from the School in 2013.

Read 3281 times Last modified on April 15, 2016

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