Ten UIC students selected for Schweitzer fellowships

Ten students from the University of Illinois at Chicago have been selected for the distinguished Schweitzer Fellowship, a year-long service learning program that helps address the health needs of underserved Chicago communities.

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Named in honor of humanitarian and Nobel laureate Dr. Albert Schweitzer, the Chicago Area Schweitzer Fellows Program, which is a program of the Health & Medicine Policy Research Group, encourages students to become lifelong leaders in service by helping to address unmet health needs among vulnerable Chicagoland residents.

In collaboration with existing community organizations, each Schweitzer fellow will launch a community-based project, providing 200 hours of service. Using a broad public health lens, the fellows will work to improve community wellbeing and target the social determinants of health.

The UIC fellows are planning the following community projects:

  • Sara Al Azmeh, from the College of Pharmacy, plans to work on a pharmacy-related project that serves refugees from various countries. The project will guide and educate new immigrants about the health care system in general, the pharmacy system specifically, medication management, and disease state management.
  • Maggie Bridger and Sydney Erlikh, from the College of Applied Health Sciences, will develop and deliver a series of creative movement and dance workshops for children, teens and adults with disabilities at Access Living and their family caregivers. The workshops will focus on developing an artistic voice and perspective, as well as providing a safe space to explore different forms of movement and build an artistic community. They also will promote physical and social-emotional health and build social capital through an inclusive creative process.
  • Melissa Bustamante, from the Jane Addams College of Social Work, will implement a Latinx Student Union for high school students at UIC College Prep. The program will provide leadership training and will serve as social support for Latinx students.
  • Jennifer Cunningham, from the School of Public Health, proposes a literacy program for immigrant children ages 5 to 7 to help close the achievement gap. The classes will help children to improve their literacy skills and build confidence.
  • Jacob Dachman, from the College of Dentistry, will initiate oral health seminars, oral hygiene instruction, and oral health status assessment for medically fragile children at United Cerebral Palsy Seguin of Greater Chicago. Through his efforts, Dachman hopes to raise awareness that dental care is the most common unmet need among children with special needs.
  • Elizabeth Rios, from the College of Nursing, will work with St. Joseph Church in Harvard, Illinois, where she will initiate educational and interactive workshops to increase awareness of Type 2 diabetes for the Latino community. The classes will provide education on the care, management, and prevention of complications of Type 2 diabetes and keeping families healthy. The final goal is to form a health ministry that will be a resource for improving the health of the congregation and empowering the Latinos in the community.
  • Shirley Scott, from the College of Nursing, proposes to initiate life skills and STI classes for volunteer ambassadors to teach participants at the Young Masterbuilders in Motion, Inc. These classes will empower teens, young women, orphans, adoptees, and foster youth alumnae to build resiliency, hope and a bright future.
  • Jasmine Solola, from the College of Medicine, proposes to sustain and expand the DASH of Soul Food project, a program aimed to improve hypertension based on the DASH diet principles adapted to culturally appropriate soul food. She is partnering with Deborah’s Place, a supportive housing program for women facing chronic homelessness in East Garfield Park and Old Town, to provide cooking demonstrations and food pantry partnerships, culminating in a program cookbook.
  • Yiran Xu, from the College of Dentistry, in collaboration with the Chinese Community Center, proposes to host a series of interactive workshops addressing vital health topics commonly encountered in medical and dental settings for the Chinese immigrant population. The template and outline for the workshops will be utilized to train future leaders and educators.

About her project, Al Azmeh said, “The new immigrants’ population is often not familiar with the U.S. health care system, and therefore a lot of their health needs are neglected. Since the refugee community has endured hardship, I want to empower them with resources and knowledge regarding their health.”

Solola said the fellowship will help supplement “my development as a health professional capable of transcending systems, oppression and the social determinants of health preventing so many underserved individuals from pursuing healthy and happy lives. Through Schweitzer, I am able to pursue this mission and serve my community amongst like-minded, multidisciplinary peers.”

In addition to their service projects, these 10 students and their peers will also participate in a 13-month program that includes monthly meetings, trainings and ongoing opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration, as well as support from a team of mentors from their schools, project sites, alumni network and staff.

“Every year, our Schweitzer fellows help Health & Medicine live out our mission of addressing health inequities and supporting the next generation of healthcare providers,” said Margie Schaps, executive director of the Health & Medicine Policy Research Group.