Shima Dowla Anwar, a 2016 Fellow for Life, developed and implemented a healthy living program for low-income adults with diabetes at Equal Access Birmingham, a free health clinic led by UAB School of Medicine students that serves the uninsured and underinsured residents in Birmingham, AL. In the 8-week program, the health behaviors of each participant, such as diet, physical activity, and medication adherence, were measured by Shima and the health educators trained by her. At the end of the program, one of her participants lost 20 lbs using the lessons learned from Shima’s intervention. Additionally, a new student organization was created as an offset of Shima’s project which aims to help low-income individuals implement a healthy lifestyle through gaining access to healthy food.
We recently spoke with Shima to catch up on what’s happening in her life and how her Fellowship experience informs her current work.
Q: Where are you currently living and working?
A: I am splitting my time between Birmingham, AL, and Washington D.C.
Q: What is your current role or occupation?
A: I am a 4th year medical student and research associate with the UAB MD/Ph.D. program.
Q: What type of impact has your Fellowship year had on your current position? How have you been able to utilize the skills and lessons learned in your work?
A: As a medical student, I feel much more comfortable discussing nutrition and physical activity topics with my patients, particularly those who are low income. I have found that this skill can make a dramatic impact on the health of my patients, yet few medical students are equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills.
Q: What type of progress do you hope will be made on your topic of interest – diabetes education – in the next 5 to 10 years here in our state?
A: I would love to see more community-based programs that empower families and let patients eat healthier, as well as laws that allow them to do so. I think a very obvious example of this [law] is the tax on groceries, particularly fruits and vegetables, that AL still maintains. In the US, there are currently only three states (AL, MS, SD) that apply the full sales tax to groceries, and this disproportionately affects low-income families.
Q: Do you have any advice for our outgoing 2019 Fellow class or incoming 2020 class, or for a prospective applicant for the 2021 Fellow class?
A: Be intentional with your project. Envision how you can incorporate some aspect of it into your future career as a health care professional.