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Newest Class of Schweitzer Fellows To Launch Ambitious Projects in Vulnerable Chicago Communities

Thirty-one exceptional health professions graduate students from Chicago-area universities have been selected for the nationally-recognized Schweitzer Fellowship—a year-long service learning program that empowers students to design and implement innovative community-based projects to address the health needs of underserved Chicagoans.

Named in honor of famed humanitarian and Nobel laureate Dr. Albert Schweitzer, the Chicago Area Schweitzer Fellows Program encourages students to “make their lives their argument” by helping to address unmet health needs among vulnerable Chicagoland residents. In collaboration with existing community organizations (including area clinics, schools, social service agencies, and others), each Schweitzer Fellow will provide 200 hours of direct service in the community. The new Fellows will work to improve the health and well-being of a wide variety of populations including undocumented immigrants, older adults, people in recovery, incarcerated women, youth, and the homeless. Projects include:
  • Creating an oral health program to help educate caregivers of medically-complex children and the healthcare providers who serve them
  • Launching interactive education workshops to combat preventable diseases and improve health education for African American youth and families in Washington Park
  • Implementing an adult literacy and job readiness program for low-income adults
  • Click here to learn more about the Fellows and their service projects
Utilizing an interdisciplinary approach, the Fellowship exposes students to real-world inter-professional, collaborative care and aims to develop lifelong leaders in service. The 2016-17 Fellows include students from 12 area universities and 20 academic programs who were selected from a pool of over 100 applicants.

“The enthusiasm that all of our applicants showed in terms of their passion to help others was simply remarkable,” Dr. Harvey Wigdor, Vice Chair for the Department Of Dentistry at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center and a member of the Schweitzer Advisory Council, shared. “This is such a phenomenal cohort of young people. To see their passion, excitement, and willingness to assist those in our community who need help the most was inspiring. I couldn’t help thinking that we’re in good hands with this group of healthcare providers and practitioners as well as the many Fellows who come to the program from other disciplines.”

In fact, this year’s class is particularly professionally diverse and includes students in human development, law, disabilities studies, and dance therapy in addition to more traditional health graduate programs like medicine, nursing, and dentistry.

“I applied to the Schweitzer fellowship because it is a unique opportunity to be surrounded by a group of diverse but like-minded individuals who are dedicated to addressing the inequalities in our communities and in our world,” new Fellow Amy Krischer, an Occupational Therapy student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said. “I know that this community will inspire me to make social justice a pillar of my practice in the future.”

As new Fellows, Krischer and her peers join the more than 550 Chicago program alumni who have provided over 110,000 hours of community service to more than 150 community groups over the course of the Program’s 20-year history. These alumni include recent program graduate Joshua Eastham, a Midwestern University College of Dental Medicine student who completed his Fellowship this spring and is about to embark on a career in community-based work thanks to his experience in the Program.

“The Fellowship has made me realize how much I truly love working with the underserved, especially the Hispanic community,” Eastham shared. “I have learned a lot about myself and realize that I have the desire to work with and be a voice and an advocate for the community. I will be soon be working as a general dentist in a Community Health Clinic that serves a predominantly Hispanic population. I will have the opportunity to help the clinic expand and to improve the quality of care for this population. I do not think I would have realized my desire to do this without the Fellowship.”

“We are so proud to welcome this exceptional cohort of Schweitzer Fellows and look forward to guiding them throughout their year of service,” said Margie Schaps, Executive Director of Health & Medicine. “The inspiring work of our Fellows is made possible entirely through contributions from individuals, academic institutions, and local foundations including the Baxter International Foundation, the Michael Reese Health Trust, Polk Bros. Foundation, and the VNA Foundation. We are deeply grateful for these groups’ enduring commitment to the Fellowship and its work improving health in our community.”