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Two dental students and one resident will continue the school’s tradition of Alabama Schweitzer Fellows (ASF) that began with Aissatou Barry-Blocker, D.M.D., a member of the chapter’s 2016-17 inaugural class.

ASF Fellows 2024 2025Katelynn Clark and Vashti Convers, class of 2026 dental students, and Ethan Madison, D.D.S., a resident in the Department of Periodontology, are among 20 graduate students from UAB and other universities across the state selected to spend the next 15 months immersed in community public health projects.

Under the guidance of community site partners and academic mentors, their projects will improve the health and social well-being of their populations of choice throughout the state while strengthening their leadership skills. In doing so, they will continue the legacy of the Fellowship’s namesake, physician-humanitarian Dr. Albert Schweitzer.

While the specific projects and community site partners will be announced by ASF in summer 2024, Clark and Convers plan to join forces for a dental service initiative targeted to the underserved Latino community in Birmingham.

Convers says the need is great. “Oral health disparities in the Latino community often result in higher rates of tooth extractions in adults and more cavities in Latino children. Limited access to dental care and cultural factors contributes to these challenges, highlighting the need for targeted interventions to improve overall oral health outcomes.”

The goal is to provide free dental education, care, and supplies, addressing oral health disparities exacerbated by cultural and economic barriers for the Latino community. A key to their initiative, the duo envisions conducting local engagement sessions, focus groups, and pilot programs.

“While we seek to benefit the Latino community by improving access to dental services and promoting oral health equity, we plan to involve individuals from our community in shaping services tailored to their specific needs and preferences,” says Clark.

Madison says he plans to work with UAB M.D./Ph.D. student Faris Zaibaq at the intersection of public health and urbanism to increase safety, improve quality of life, and make getting around easier.

“The way I think about the urbanism issue can be summarized by ‘form determines function.’ The form of our cities—the built environment—determines how people live, interact with each other, and their health. The present form of our cities is built to promote dangerous behavior which exacerbates chronic health conditions and isolates people from one another. Faris and I want to help change this situation in Birmingham through our fellowship project.”

Since chapter inception, 16 students from UAB School of Dentistry have participated in the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship of Alabama.

Upon completion of their Fellowship year, the 2024-25 cohort will become Schweitzer Fellows for Life, joining an active network of Schweitzer alumni continuing their commitment to improving the public health of underserved communities throughout their careers.