“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” —Albert Schweitzer
Become a Schweitzer Fellow
The Alabama Schweitzer Fellows Program® is an interdisciplinary, mentored fellowship program focused on health-related community service and leadership development. The mission of the U.S. Schweitzer Fellows Program® is to prepare the next generation of professionals to serve and empower vulnerable people to live healthier lives and create healthier communities. To accomplish this, the Fellows learn how to:
- Use their skills and knowledge to develop entrepreneurial solutions to real-life problems;
- Engage with communities using cultural humility;
- Understand the impact of social and environmental determinants of health;
- Build capacity for and commitment to improving the health status of individuals and communities as well as contributing to social change;
- Work collaboratively and across disciplines in pursuit of a common goal;
- Develop resiliency by learning how to care for yourself while serving others.
If you want to exercise leadership skills while working with community-based organizations and academic institutions to create sustainable change, then this program is for you!
Upon successful completion of the initial Fellowship year, Fellows become part of an alumni network of Fellows for Life – an interdisciplinary pipeline of professionals who are dedicated to and skilled in meeting the health needs of underserved communities.
Schweitzer Fellows focus on health as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO): a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. Rooted in this holistic understanding of health, Schweitzer projects address not only clinical health issues, but also the social determinants of health—defined by the WHO as the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age, and which are mostly responsible for health inequities.
Students enrolled in graduate or professional degree-granting programs from Samford University’s College of Health Sciences; UAB Schools of Dentistry, Health Professions, Medicine, Nursing, and Public Health; or the University of Montevallo may apply. While the applicant’s field of study does not have to be traditionally health-related, the proposed service project must focus on health and/or the social determinants of health. Past Fellows have addressed health from a wide variety of perspectives and disciplines including, but not limited to, counseling, dentistry, education, engineering, environmental sciences, law, medicine, music, nursing, occupational therapy, optometry, pharmacy, physical therapy, public health, social work and speech therapy. Applicants must be enrolled throughout the Fellowship year (March 2021 – April 2022).
Prospective Fellows should be prepared to design a community service project (in partnership with a local community agency) that seeks to provide direct service to an underserved population while eliminating health disparities and improving their quality of life. 2021 Fellows are not required to have a specific project fully planned when you apply. Rather, you will suggest two possible project areas on your application and will receive guidance in the first month to narrow your scope, network with community leaders, and ultimately determine where to use your passions and skills.
Once developed, your project will:
- Provide a direct service that meets a community defined need and reflects national and local health priorities, such as Healthy People 2030.
- Be of enduring value to the community/agency served.
- Receive mentorship by academic mentors at your schools and site mentors at the agencies Once selected, Fellows will have latitude to implement a project using evidence-based strategies for a population in need or to develop a totally unique project in keeping with Dr. Schweitzer’s directive that everyone should find their own Lambaréné–their own special place to serve, and way of serving. To get some inspiration, view past Fellows’ projects and partnering agencies.
We will guide you in not only finding a way and place to address a community need, but please note that research, fundraising, and policy-based projects are not considered eligible for a Schweitzer Fellowship.
Orientation Retreat: Fellows must attend orientation (May 1-2, 2021). Attendance at this retreat is mandatory and anyone not able to attend should not apply for the Fellowship. Depending on the conditions with COVID, May 1st may be held in person; May 2nd will consist of a few hours in a virtual setting only.
Service Project: Working in collaboration with a local community agency, each Fellow will design and carry out a service project of at least 200 hours. Each Fellow receives support from a site mentor, an academic mentor, as well as the Executive Director who provides guidance throughout the Fellowship period. The 200 hours is separate from any school course requirement. Fellows can spend up to half (~100) of the hours for administrative duties, research and needs assessments; but, at least half should be implementing the project. While COVID is a concern, projects should follow social distancing guidelines to protect Fellows and participants.
Reports: Fellows submit monthly reports and reflections about their activities, a comprehensive written final report to their Program Director, Academic Mentor(s), and Site Mentor(s), and prepare a presentation for the Celebration of Service.
Program Evaluation: Fellows complete a pre- and post- survey for the Fellowship. Each Fellow’s site mentor also must complete a final site mentor survey.
Monthly Meetings: Monthly meetings provide the Fellows with leadership development, skills-based workshops, interdisciplinary discussions, time for reflection, and an opportunity to network with like-minded students from diverse fields as well as professionals in areas of interest to them. As such, those attending less than 80% of the monthly meetings miss out on helpful learning and networking and accept a small deduction of the stipend, as a result.
Public Outreach: In some years, Fellows work together as a group to organize a public outreach project. A small budget will be provided for costs incurred.
Recruitment: In the fall of each year, Fellows will work with the Program Director to organize information sessions about the Alabama Schweitzer Fellows Program and present information at their schools about their Fellowship experiences.
Stipend: For the March 2021- April 2022 fellowship year, Fellows will receive a stipend of $2,500 distributed in three payments throughout the Fellowship year as specific program objectives are completed. In addition, the Alabama Schweitzer Fellowship provides up to $100 for project-related expenses. As funding allows, Alabama ASF additionally provides a $500 travel stipend for a number of Fellows to attend the national ASF leadership gathering annually.
Celebration of Service: New Fellows are introduced at the Celebration of Service. This will be held on April 20, 2021. In April of the following year, the 2021-22 Fellows will be similarly honored and will speak about their projects’ goals and accomplishments.
Applicants must submit a resume, limited to two-pages, listing applicable education, service, and leadership experiences.
Applicants also list contact information for two references, but do not submit letters of recommendation. A background check will also be conducted prior to starting service.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship is an interdisciplinary program and we are looking for applicants from any field in which the Fellow can create a health-related community project. Diversity of thought and perspectives will enrich the experience for each class of Fellows. Other fields of study have included dentistry, law, divinity, psychology, pharmacy, engineering, business, the arts, and more. We think expansively about health and realize that there are many factors that contribute to the health and well-being of our communities.
Schweitzer Fellows focus on health as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO): a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. Rooted in this holistic understanding of health, Schweitzer projects address not only clinical health issues, but also the social determinants of health—defined by the WHO as the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age, and which are mostly responsible for health inequities. The options are broad so that you can follow your interests and creativity to lead you to a project that will have impact. Plus – with our revised application process—you don’t have to select a project before applying! Come and learn with the other Fellows, then decide where to use your time and talents.
“Underserved” is any group that is at risk for or experiencing compromised health or physical, social, or emotional well-being. Any group of people that you can conceive of who has difficulty receiving quality health care and other needs that impact their health and well-being could be considered underserved.
“Direct service” means working directly with any group that is at risk for or experiencing compromised health or physical, social, or emotional well-being and interacting in some way with individuals in that group. Examples include providing health information workshops, leading a fitness class, tutoring, providing screening exams at a health fair, or linking residents to needed services. Research, fundraising and policy-based projects are not considered eligible. Each project entails different amounts of planning, but you should complete a minimum 100 hours of direct service, allowing the rest of the time for project planning and administration.
While COVID is a concern, projects should follow social distancing guidelines to protect Fellows and participants. This means that activities might be conducted by phone, virtually, or–with approval of your school and community site–in person if it allows for social distancing measures to be in place.
You can complete your 200 hours of service at any time from March 2021 to April 2022. Fellows will get a jump start by shadowing and volunteering to learn about community needs. Then, once your project is selected, you’ll work with your agency to create a plan (April – May 2021). This provides you with June 2021- April 2022 to complete the remaining hours. Some Fellows start their hours during the summer, while some don’t start until the fall. How you spread out the hours is also flexible and largely dependent on what your project entails. We do encourage spreading the hours as much as possible to have enough time to overcome any unforeseen roadblocks or delays. Fellows who need some extra time at the end of their Fellowship year can request an extension from the Executive Director.
Yes, two students can apply together using the Partner Project application. Partner projects can share the administrative time, but it is expected that each person will still do a minimum of 100 hours of direct service. The stipends are prorated for those who essentially “share” the 200 hours of service, with Fellows receiving at least half of a stipend each (i.e., $1,250).
Yes, the orientation is a firm requirement. If you already know you cannot make it, please do not apply for the Fellowship.
A hallmark of the Schweitzer Fellows Program is the regular contact with other Fellows from a variety of fields and opportunities for leadership development and exposure to speakers who will give presentations at some of the meetings. The monthly meetings reinforce the rapport established at Orientation and provide opportunities for Fellows to acquire leadership skills and feedback from their peers concerning their projects. We understand that some absences may be necessary, however, and so we allow for up to 2 absences. Any absences beyond that result in a deduction to the stipend, or in extreme cases dismissal from the program.
The Fellowship experience is an important opportunity for learning, whether someone has already done a lot of community work or very little. Experience is not a requirement for the Fellowship, but in your personal statement we’d like for you to explain how your background and skills have helped prepare you to do community outreach work, and what motivates you to make such a serious commitment. The Program’s mentors and Program staff provide ample support to Fellows so that everyone who is passionate about providing service can do so.
No, we do not allow a Fellow to use their Schweitzer project for credit within their curriculum. The Fellowship is really meant to be an added component to your educational experience that enables you to develop your abilities as a leader in service. The Fellowship is an opportunity to complete a community service project and to become part of a community of Fellows who are dedicated to similar work and hold similar values. Although it may take a lot of time to participate in both the Fellowship and your school internship or practicum, it is a very enriching and rewarding experience to be part of the Fellowship separate from your academic requirements. It’s your opportunity to follow your passion.