Rush Students Awarded Schweitzer Fellowships for Community Projects

July 25, 2018

The Chicago Area Schweitzer Fellowship, a yearlong service learning program that empowers aspiring health professionals to design and direct innovative community service projects, announced five Rush University students have been selected for its newest fellowship class. The students from the College of Nursing and Rush Medical College are among this year’s group of 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 Albert Schweitzer, MD, PhD, 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.

“I have a unique opportunity to deepen my development as a leader in service and to fill this upcoming year of my medical education with inspiration, growth and community,” says Schweitzer fellow Mallory Davis, a fourth-year Rush Medical College student.

Using a broad public health lens, the new fellows will work to improve community well-being and target 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 Bradley (College of Nursing) plans to initiate health education and literacy classes for the young men and women that attend after-school programs at the Young Men’s Educational Network, or YMEN. These classes will foster the development of healthy lifestyles and contribute to YMEN’s goal of empowering the youth of North Lawndale.
  • Davis will work to improve the Pilsen community’s knowledge about nutrition and wellness, increase access to healthy foods and physical activity, and improve navigation of the health care system. She will connect community members with primary care providers in Pilsen by working with Community Garden, Healthy Hood and 5+1=20.
  • Dipika Gaur (Rush Medical College) proposes to host group meetings and develop a toolkit for emotion and mood regulation among formerly homeless women and families at Facing Forward to End Homelessness. The sessions and resources will serve as a first point of accessing mental health care for many women and families who have previously lacked these services.
  • Ronisha Johnson (College of Nursing) proposes to develop and facilitate a holistic curriculum geared toward increasing student academic success for low-income African-American and Latino high school students with ambitions in the health care field. The sessions will impart didactic content, leadership opportunities and foundational college prep skills that will allow students to successfully navigate career and college opportunities.
  • Molly Narrod (College of Nursing) proposes to work with LGBTQ+ adults at iFACES in a community group setting. The focus of the group meetings is to provide mental health promotion activities and serve as an outlet for social support, self-empowerment and community leadership.

“The Schweitzer Fellowship serves as a vehicle for me to act on my commitment and passion for social justice and health equity,” Gaur says. “Through this opportunity, I have the privilege to work directly with community members to identify and address unmet needs that influence their health on a daily basis. This experience strengthens my desire to learn about people from all walks of life and partner with them to improve their relationships with the health care system.”

The new fellows join a network of more than 580 Chicago program alumni who have provided over 116,000 hours of community service to community groups over the course of the program’s 23-year history.

“It’s important to provide service to vulnerable communities to create healthier minds, bodies and people,” Johnson says. “I believe that supporting black and Latino students at Richard T. Crane Medical Prep is the perfect opportunity to uplift the community. I plan to engage students in health disparities while promoting academic success so that students become the conscious and attentive physicians, surgeons, therapists and nurses that will continue to improve the conditions of their community.”

Johnson and her peers were selected through a highly competitive application process. 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 Rush’s alumni network and the Schweitzer Fellowship Advisory Council.

“The Schweitzer Fellowship provides an incredible opportunity to not only learn about the complexities of health disparities throughout the city of Chicago but also to take a step toward promoting practical change,” Bradley says. “I am confident that this experience of seeking justice through health care will be foundational for my future practice as a nurse.”

Learn more about the fellows and their service projects online.