Birmingham, AL, February 22, 2021—– The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship (ASF) of Alabama announced today the recipient of its 2021 Alabama Schweitzer Humanitarian of the Year award. Dr. Mark Wilson, the Chief Health Officer of Jefferson County, Alabama, will receive this year’s award and will be recognized for his decades-long commitment to service in public health. Dr. Candace Knight and Dr. Deborah Bowers were also announced today as the 2021 recipients of the Outstanding Site Mentor and Outstanding Academic Mentor awards by the organization, respectively. Dr. Wilson, Dr. Knight, and Dr. Bowers will all be honored at the organization’s annual Celebration of Service event, alongside the 2020 Alabama Schweitzer Fellow class.
The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship of Alabama provides its Fellows with many professional development activities throughout the year that allow them to interact with influential public health leaders around the state. The Humanitarian of the Year gives a keynote address to the outgoing class at each Celebration of Service event, challenging them to continue living up to Dr. Albert Schweitzer’s legacy beyond their year of service. Dr. Wilson is being celebrated as the Humanitarian of the Year for his ongoing public health leadership on many issues, including the opioid epidemic, infant mortality, and most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic. ASF Executive Director Kristin Boggs explained further why Dr. Wilson was selected as this year’s awardee: “In a year during which leaders at all levels in all organizations were faced with difficult decisions of how to proceed in light of a pandemic, Dr. Wilson’s steady approach, data-driven decision-making, and courage set an example for others to follow.” 2020 ASF Fellow Greer McCollum also felt inspired by Dr. Wilson’s courageous leadership in “the ways he approaches health issues boldly by putting forward and supporting solutions that are in the public’s interests, even if they are controversial.”
Reflecting on Dr. Wilson’s public health leadership concerning the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Ellen Eaton noted that he “has shown exemplary leadership and excellence in leading Jefferson County, the most densely populated county in Alabama, through the greatest public health crisis of our time.” Drew Langloh, the President and CEO of United Way of Central Alabama, reflected on Dr. Wilson’s instrumental leadership within the Health Action Partnership of Jefferson County: “Dr. Mark Wilson’s leadership within the Health Action Partnership has been instrumental in ensuring that people who live in Jefferson County have access to the resources they need to live a healthy, thriving life. As someone who has worked with him to build cross-sector collaborations in a variety of areas, I have consistently seen Mark accept the challenge of working on the most difficult health-related issues facing our region. From unacceptable disparities in our infant mortality rates to providing resources to people recovering from substance use disorder to tirelessly working to ensure that all communities have safe recreational amenities, he has been a champion for the health of Jefferson County residents. His leadership in collaborative efforts to stem the spread of the COVID19 virus in Jefferson County has been outstanding. Mark’s commitment to improving and protecting the health of our community makes Jefferson County a safer, healthier place, and we are fortunate to have him as our Health Officer. “
Dr. Mark Wilson responded to the news of receiving the 2021 Humanitarian of the Year award earlier this month: “Much of Dr. Schweitzer’s work resonates with the work I have felt called to since I was a teenager. It is a great honor to have my name connected to his with this award.”
In addition to presenting the 2021 Humanitarian of the Year award, Dr. Candace Knight and Dr. Deborah Bowers will be presented with the 2021 Outstanding Community Site Mentor and Outstanding Academic Mentor Awards. As this year’s Outstanding Community Site Mentor Award recipient, Dr. Candace Knight works as a UAB School of Nursing professor and the director of the Nurse-Family Partnership of Central Alabama. Dr. Knight’s mentee, 2020 Fellow Mayowa Otuada, commented on her dedication as a mentor: “[Dr. Knight is] a true leader who leads by example, and [she] always wears that smile even when things get tough.” As this year’s Outstanding Academic Mentor Award recipient, Dr. Deborah Bowers works as a UAB School of Nursing professor. 2020 ASF Fellow and Dr. Bowers’ mentee, Tanya Nix, reflected on her mentorship experience with Dr. Bowers: “Dr. Bowers has been a mentor to me prior to starting the ASF and my DNP program. I first met with her almost two years ago for guidance on where I want to progress in my career. Her encouragement led me to enroll in the DNP program and also the ASF. She has always had a positive attitude and is always available to listen and offer encouragement and guidance. I have enjoyed working with her and learning from her, especially with my ASF project.”
Additional details about this year’s Celebration of Service event will be forthcoming.
About The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship of Alabama
The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship (ASF) of Alabama is preparing the next generation of professionals who will serve and empower vulnerable people to live healthier lives and create healthier communities in Alabama. To date, 72 Alabama Fellows have contributed over 15,000 hours of service at a value of over $379,000. Nationally, more than 4,000 U.S Schweitzer Fellows have delivered nearly 750,000 hours of service to individuals and communities in need. Additionally, over 100 Lambaréné Schweitzer Fellows have served in Africa at the Schweitzer Hospital in Lambaréné, Gabon. Through this work and through the ongoing contributions of the more than 4,000 program alumni who continue as Schweitzer “Fellows for Life”, ASF perpetuates the legacy and philosophy of physician-humanitarian and Nobel Peace laureate Dr. Albert Schweitzer. ASF currently has 13 active program locations in the U.S. The national nonprofit is located in Boston, MA.