2017-18 Class of Alabama Schweitzer Fellows Named

The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship (ASF) today announced the selection of its 2017-18 class of Alabama Schweitzer Fellows. Sixteen graduate students from Samford University, Tuskegee University, University of Montevallo, and the Schools of Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing, Public Health, and the Collat School of Business at the University of Alabama at Birmingham will spend the next year learning to effectively address the social factors that impact health, and developing lifelong leadership skills. In doing so, they will follow the example set by famed physician-humanitarian Albert Schweitzer, for whom their Fellowship is named.

“This is a talented and hard-working group of students who are passionate about improving health care and access to care,” said Kristin Boggs, Director of the Alabama chapter of The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship. “They’ve partnered with an impressive range of community-based groups that are working to help vulnerable people live healthier lives, and it will be very exciting to see how their projects progress over the next year.”

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 new class of Fellows will address an array of health issues affecting socially isolated older adults in Birmingham; caregivers of people living with muscular dystrophy; and young people with developmental disabilities; as well as other needs.

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.

“Many of our Fellows go on to build impressive professional careers. The process of moving their Fellowship projects from an initial concept to completion teaches them valuable skills in working with others in allied fields,” said Bruce Auerbach, MD, chairman of The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship Board of Directors. “As Schweitzer Fellows develop professionally, this skill is critical to their ability to effect larger-scale change among vulnerable populations.”

The 16 Alabama Fellows will join approximately 240 other 2017-18 Schweitzer Fellows working at program sites around the United States, as well as one in Lambaréné, Gabon at the site of The Albert Schweitzer Hospital, founded by Dr. Schweitzer in 1913. Upon completion of their Fellowship year, the 2017-18 Alabama Schweitzer Fellows will become Schweitzer Fellows for Life and join a vibrant network of more than 3,400 Schweitzer alumni who are skilled in, and committed to, addressing the health needs of underserved people throughout their careers.

Nationally, some of ASF’s Fellows for Life include Dr. Stefan Kertesz, who leads research and education on how to improve the care of people who are homeless and who also serves as Vice-Chair of The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship Board of Directors; Rishi Manchanda, MD, author of the TED book The Upstream Doctors: Medical Innovators Track Sickness To Its Source; Jessica Lahey, JD, author of the bestseller The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn To Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed; and Robert Satcher, Jr., MD, PhD, assistant professor, Anderson Cancer Center and NASA mission specialist.

The Alabama Schweitzer program is housed in the School of Medicine, in partnership with The University of Alabama at Birmingham Schools of Dentistry, Health Professions, Nursing, and Public Health. Other US-based ASF programs are located in Boston, Chicago, Columbus-Athens, Oh.; Dallas-Fort Worth; Detroit; Houston; Los Angeles; New Orleans; New Hampshire/Vermont; North Carolina; Pittsburgh; San Francisco and Tulsa

2017-18 Alabama Albert Schweitzer Fellows

William Gafford and Newton Tinsley, Samford University, Ida Moffett School of Nursing
Gafford and Tinsley are addressing unmet medical needs for adults with developmental disabilities at Unless U by implementing preventative measures to optimize the physical well-being of students. Preventative measures include developmentally appropriate teaching on physical fitness, nutrition, and hygiene. The project will also focus on preparing teachers and families for medical emergencies that may be encountered by this vulnerable population.
Community Site: Unless U

Jasmine Grayson and Micah Thomas, Tuskegee University, College of Veterinary Medicine, Nursing and Allied Health (Occupational Therapy)
Grayson and Thomas are addressing health education, physical activity, and gardening for underprivileged and low socioeconomic status children in Macon County through various activities including bicycling and gardening. These activities are intended to capture and maintain the attention of the children, while also providing them with an opportunity to lead healthy lifestyles. Overall, the program will promote physical activities, healthy food choices, and proper gardening techniques with the goal of establishing sustainable health behaviors for the rest of the children’s lives. The children will develop positive relationships with role models, and congenial relationships with peers in attempts to build a closer-knit community.
Community Site: Tuskegee Youth Safe Haven

Hamilton Behlen, University of Alabama School of Dentistry
Behlen is providing an “edible education” to the children of the Norwood community of Birmingham with a focus on the importance of nutrition and how it relates to holistic health. She will teach participants basic cooking instructions utilizing ingredients that they grow in their community garden. The ultimate goal is for these children to develop a connection to nutrition through cooking and to encourage them to embrace the acts of growing, knowing and preparing freshly grown food and to make informed decisions on food consumption.
Community Site: Norwood Resource Center

Raymond Dawkins, University of Alabama School of Dentistry
Dawkins is addressing the occurrence of tooth decay in young children living in underserved areas of Birmingham by establishing an outreach program to educate parents on the benefits of oral health. The program will incorporate educational sessions that will promote oral hygiene and nutrition for children under the age of 6. Additionally, the program will strive to raise awareness of the dental benefits available to children through Medicaid. The ultimate goal of the project is to prevent tooth decay in young children by increasing oral health literacy in parents.
Community Site: Christ Health Center

Bhakti Desai, University of Alabama School of Dentistry
Desai is addressing the disparate access to oral health care in Birmingham by establishing a health education curriculum that will help improve oral health literacy while emphasizing the importance of preventive health care. This program will also focus on the role of nutrition in helping minimize risk factors for oral disease. Overall, the program will show patients the widespread effects of oral disease and its relationship with systemic diseases, especially diabetes.
Community Site: Cahaba Valley Health Care

Caroline Fuller, University of Alabama School of Medicine
Caroline is addressing childhood nutrition and exercise in the East Lake community by establishing a nutrition curriculum during PEER, Inc’s summer camp at East Lake United Methodist Church. This program is intended to help children from 2nd grade to Highschool learn how to exercise safely and eat healthy given their limited access to food and materials. Ultimately, the curriculum “Student Bodyworks: A Mobile Kitchen to Integrate Nutrition Science (and math) Into Elementary School Classroom” will give these students the tools to allow them to take care of their bodies and their minds.
Community Site: PEER, Inc.

Ashleigh Burns Irwin, University of Alabama School of Medicine
Irwin is addressing health literacy in children in downtown Birmingham, Alabama through the creation and implementation of a healthy lifestyle curriculum for the downtown YMCA afterschool program. This curriculum, targeted to students from Kindergarten through 2nd grade, addresses themes including nutrition and physical activity, as well as diseases and behaviors often seen in the community (Diabetes, hypertension, smoking, alcohol, etc.). Ultimately the goal of this program is to increase the students’ knowledge about the many factors that contribute to health and increase the likelihood of these students making good choices regarding their own health and lifestyle.
Community Site: YMCA of Greater Birmingham Youth Center

Koushik Kasanagottu, University of Alabama School of Medicine
Kasanagottu is addressing lack of access to quality nutrition information to disadvantaged groups by developing a lifestyle checklist that contains evidence-based guidelines to prevent or manage chronic diseases. This checklist will contain simple, but effective methods to switch to a healthier lifestyle and participants will be asked to select 2-3 goals that they wish to accomplish. The program aims to motivate individuals to make permanent lifestyle changes that are healthy and habitual.
Community Site: University Medical Center

Carson Klein, University of Alabama School of Medicine
Klein is addressing the effects of social isolation on the elderly in Birmingham, Alabama by developing a volunteer program that pairs interested medical students with socially isolated vulnerable elders currently enrolled in the UAB House Calls Program. The program aims to reduce the impact of social isolation on the mental and physical health of these vulnerable elders through various activities and games. It also provides a rich service learning opportunity for the engaged students. Community Site: UAB House Calls Program

Katherine Cassidy, University of Alabama School of Nursing
Cassidy is addressing caregiver burden and stress by creating a support and resource program for those providing the full-time care for individuals impacted by muscular dystrophy. Speakers with backgrounds in mental health, nutrition, occupational therapy, and other disciplines will be connected with the caregivers to assist in enriching and supporting the caregiving experience. Partnering with Alabama’s Muscular Dystrophy Association, Cassidy will facilitate a program to accommodate both individuals in the greater Birmingham area and those located throughout the state by using online media platforms.
Community Site: Muscular Dystrophy Association

Meghan Pattison, University of Alabama School of Nursing
Pattison is addressing developmental disabilities in young children in Central Alabama by working in partnership with the Help Me Grow initiative. The goal of Help Me Grow is to connect children and families with health and developmental resources to equip them for success. This project will deal specifically with increasing awareness of services offered through Help Me Grow among parents, teachers, and healthcare providers as well as provide additional screening opportunities to promote early intervention for developmental disabilities.
Community Site: United Way of Central Alabama

Catherine Jones, University of Alabama School of Public Health (Epidemiology)
Jones is addressing needs of senior citizens by establishing arts and crafts and art therapy programs for permanent and temporary residents of rehabilitation and retirement facilities within the local community. The goal is to lead life enhancing activities for seniors by empowering the residents to develop a sense of control and independence as they create, as well as work fine motor skills for patients recovering from rehabilitation, and stimulate the residents cognitively. Ultimately, the program will aim to induce a higher sense of self regard and independence in patients by reassuring the creative process and allowing patients to have creative freedom over their artwork.
Community Site: Eastglen Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation

Sherna Joseph, University of Alabama School of Public Health, Collat School of Business (MPH/MBA)
Sherna will develop and implement a health program for East Thomas Neighborhood Association. This program will assist the residents with navigation to health services, diabetes self-management education, and heart disease initiatives.
Community Site: East Thomas Neighborhood Association

Jennifer Payne, University of Montevallo, College of Education (Counseling)
Payne is addressing adolescent aggression in at-risk youth in Shelby County, Alabama by holding group bibliotherapy sessions. The group will focus on the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling to address common issues faced by children and adolescents.
Community Site: The DAY Program