Four McGovern Medical School students have been named Schweitzer Fellows by The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship for the Houston-Galveston area. They will spend the year learning to effectively address the social factors that impact health, and develop lifelong leadership skills. In doing so, they will follow the example set by famed physician-humanitarian Albert Schweitzer, for whom the fellowship is named.
The McGovern Medical School fellows will join approximately 240 Schweitzer Fellows across the United States in developing and implementing service projects that address the root cause of health disparities in under-resourced communities, while at the same time fulfilling their academic responsibilities as full-time students.
“The Schweitzer Fellowship is a unique opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others, particularly those most in need of health care locally, while learning about project management and designing and implementing your own passion and innovative ideas and receiving mentoring from some of our best leaders in health,” said Gabrielle Morrissey Hansen, Ph.D., executive director of The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship Houston-Galveston. “We select those with the potential to become leaders in their own right and those with a drive to serve others. There’s no other opportunity to engage with a community for a whole year like this one for our youngest and brightest emerging leaders in health.”
The Schweitzer Fellows from the McGovern Medical School are:
Fourth-year medical student Hariharan Athreya will work with the YWCA and local partners to build a food prescription program. The goal of his project is to create a program that provides participants with healthy food, nutritional education, and the self-efficacy to manage Houston barriers to healthy living and non-communicable diseases related to diet and obesity. The program serves African-American women, and children ages 7-11. The project aims to utilize focus groups, needs assessments, community advisory boards, and local strategic partnerships. He hopes his project will make an impact on the population he is working with by building their self-efficacy to overcome barriers to healthy lifestyles, and by providing them with sustainable education for their communities.
Seventh-year medical and doctoral student Sahily Esteves is conducting a project at Jefferson Elementary School for families whose children attend the school. The families face significant health challenges, such as poor access to health care, lack of nutritious food, and a high risk for chronic illnesses (i.e. diabetes and hypertension). She will design activities to make the families more physically active and that will decrease the risk for chronic diseases that commonly affect Hispanic communities in this city. For her project, she plans to carry out weekly interventions throughout the school year in addition to a fitness class, and hold interactive lessons and discussions on obesity and chronic diseases.
Second-year medical student Chelsea King is creating a curriculum targeting stress management and behavioral health issues with residents at the New Hope Housing community center. New Hope strives to provide affordable, life-stabilizing housing to those with limited income. Most residents have faced housing instability, disability, and/or incarceration previously, and with the help of New Hope are integrating into a stable community. King and her partner, Jenna Norton, are holding weekly sessions with residents using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, as well as other motivational techniques to target issues, such as mental health, cognition, and goal setting. King hopes she will be able to empower residents to take action in reaching their own personal goals, and develop the skills necessary to ease the transition to becoming integral members of the community.
Second-year medical student Kavea Panneerselvam aims to prevent child abuse in Harris County by properly equipping families with positive resources to raise children while also educating medical students about the importance of addressing the psychosocial needs of parents and children in child abuse prevention when in medical practice. Her project will add to the University of Maryland’s Safe Environment for Every Kid (SEEK) model by including training for medical students and a help desk for parents. As a result of this project, she hopes parents will be better equipped to take care of their children through an easily accessible help desk and get help for their psychological issues, leading to lower abuse rates, and that healthcare professionals will be better equipped to address the root causes of child abuse and help in prevention.
The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship accepts project proposals in all areas of health. Applications are welcome between now and Wednesday, Feb. 1. To read more about the Houston-Galveston Schweitzer Fellows, please visit http://asfhg.org/prospective/