Five Rush University Students Awarded Schweitzer Fellowships

May 31, 2017

The Chicago Area Schweitzer Fellowship, a year-long service learning program that empowers aspiring health professionals to design and direct innovative community service projects, has announced that five Rush University students have been selected for its newest fellowship class. The students from the College of Nursing, Rush Medical College, and the Occupational Therapy Doctorate program in the College of Health Sciences join 30 exceptional graduate students who proposed impactful, 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 Fellowship program 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 new fellows will work to improve community well-being and target the social determinants of health — the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age that have a profound impact on health and quality of life. The Rush Schweitzer fellows are planning the following community projects:

  • Kelly Leffler (College of Nursing) proposes to provide individualized health mentoring for African-American ex-offenders living in Chicago’s West Side. Weekly sessions will work toward client-centered goals via health management, education, and mental health and substance use support.
  • Marlena Mosbacher (College of Health Sciences) will facilitate a series of creative self-expression workshops for adults with lived experience of cancer. These sessions will use art as a means of personal reflection in an effort to promote empowerment, self-love and resiliency.
  • Hannah Moser (Rush Medical College) will initiate a peer-led reproductive health program at Richard T. Crane Preparatory High School. The program will aim to improve students’ knowledge of reproductive health issues as well as provide mentoring for students interested in the medical professions.
  • Shaina Shetty (Rush Medical College) will create a space for students of color to develop health literacy and advocacy skills, using the framework of 5+1=20 at Chicago Public Schools throughout Pilsen.
  • Alyssa Stella (College of Nursing) hopes to empower the children on the children’s psych unit at Lakeshore Hospital to better their mental and physical health through the unique platform of jump rope. The program will increasing physical activity, self-esteem and knowledge about heart health.

Visit this website to learn more about the fellows and their service projects.

“I believe that by investing in community and students we might begin to address social issues and health disparities,” says Shetty. “Through my project with the 5+1=20 program at Benito Juarez Community Academy in Pilsen, I hope to create a space for students to develop health literacy and advocacy skills.”

The 2017-18 Schweitzer fellows represent 11 area universities and a diversity of health professions and public service fields including medicine, public health, nursing, art therapy and optometry. Through this interdisciplinary approach, the program exposes students to real-world interprofessional, collaborative care.

“The Schweitzer Fellowship provides a unique opportunity to learn from the process of implementing a community improvement project rather than the outcome,” says Mosbacher. “I see community activism being a major part of my life beyond school, and the extensive network of mentors and like-minded individuals surrounding Schweitzer gives me confidence that this fellowship is an important first step in developing the skills I need to pursue a lifetime of sustainable, impactful service.”

Mosbacher and her peers were selected through a highly competitive application process that saw submissions from almost 100 area graduate students. In addition to their service projects, the fellows 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 and project sites and mentors from our alumni network and the Schweitzer Fellowship Advisory Council, which oversees the program.

“In the face of ongoing uncertainty in our health care system and increased threats to the services our most vulnerable residents rely on, the role of our Schweitzer Fellows as ambassadors of hope is more important than ever,” says Arthur Kohrman, MD, chair of the advisory council and a board member at Health & Medicine Policy Research Group, the non-profit health policy center that administers the Chicago Fellowship. “The Schweitzer Fellowship brings the creative ideas and energy of these remarkable health students to underserved communities. In so doing, we are not only helping them address their present day needs, we are cultivating the next generation of compassionate health care professionals dedicated to making change.”

The new fellows join a network of 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 22-year history.

“We are so proud of the Schweitzer Program’s extraordinary legacy of service and are thrilled to welcome this new cohort of inspiring fellows,” says Margie Schaps, executive director of health and medicine. “This sort of community impact is only possible through the steadfast commitment of the many individuals, academic institutions, and local foundations that support this program including the Baxter International Foundation, the Michael Reese Health Trust and the VNA Foundation. We are deeply grateful for their generosity as we welcome this dynamic group of Fellows to the Schweitzer community.”