ASF Fall Retreat: A Time of Challenge and Reflection

One of the main tenets of our work at ASF Alabama is developing our Fellows ability to be leaders in their fields. Our curriculum and coaching through their projects is a big part of how this works, but so are our intentional times of meeting and learning from each other as well as health leaders and professionals around the state. Paul Jones and Josiah Perry shared with us some of the takeaways from their time learning alongside the other Fellows.

What stood out to you from the presenters that was helpful or beneficial to your own

One aspect that deeply impressed me about Suzanne Muir and her work with the women of
Walker County was her ability to harness the power of relationships within her community. To
Suzanne, Walker County isn’t merely a geographical district in Alabama; it represents a complex
network of interconnected lives and shared experiences. She Recovers stands as a testament to
the incredible potential of individuals within a community uniting with a shared purpose. As
Suzanne explains, this community-driven change should be grounded in a deep understanding of
local needs and dynamics. This insight is especially pertinent to our Schweitzer project. The
individuals we are working with have vastly different life experiences from our own and exist
within systems that can diverge significantly from our own. To effectively assist these
individuals, it is imperative that we strive to comprehend their unique experiences and the
intricate systems that can either promote or prevent their access to healthcare.

How were your ideas strengthened or challenged?
One of the special things about the Schweitzer Fellowship is its capacity to connect you with a
diverse range of individuals, each contributing their unique skills and experiences to the
collective effort. Within our cohort, we are fortunate to have representatives from a wide
spectrum of disciplines, including pharmacy, social work, audiology, optometry, and nursing.
This fellowship provides the opportunity to harness the strength of these diverse relationships,
thus cultivating a network that encompasses an impressive array of skills and life experience.
This network is further enriched by the advice and counsel we receive from our Community
Advisory Board. I firmly believe that the significant challenges facing our community cannot be
effectively addressed by isolated efforts from doctors, social workers, or pharmacists alone.
Instead, the solutions depend on these professionals coming together with a shared purpose and
a common goal.

What did you learn from the other Fellows and their project ideas?
The retreat kicked off with a seemingly simple, albeit silly task: constructing a tower using just
toothpicks and marshmallows, with the ultimate objective of suspending the marshmallow as
high as possible in the air. As the timer counted down and measurements were taken, one critical
lesson became abundantly clear: those who succeeded in the task were the ones willing to
embrace failure early in the process. It was surprising to later learn that kindergarteners often
outperformed students in business school in this challenge.
Early on in our journey with the Schweitzer project, Josiah and I encountered a similar
challenge. We felt the pressure to create the perfect project, which led us to invest significant
time in project design. In hindsight, this time could have been better spent directly engaging with
the people we aimed to serve. This experience taught me that project design should commence
with a deep understanding of the people you intend to serve, rather than focusing primarily on
the project itself. It underscored the fact that you cannot design a project effectively without first
grasping its purpose, and the best way to uncover that purpose is by truly comprehending the
needs you seek to address.