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More than 300,000 people in western Pennsylvania suffer from diabetes—and for those facing financial and language barriers, it’s often difficult to access health care education and services that would guide them in managing their disease.

Schweitzer Fellow Ruth Plasterer—an occupational therapy student at the University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences—is working to bridge that gap.

She partnered with the Birmingham Free Clinic in Pittsburgh’s South Side to launch support groups providing uninsured Spanish- and English-speaking patients with culturally competent diabetes management education.

“I developed this project out of my desire to increase the availability of comprehensive, culturally appropriate medical healthcare services for those with limited access to them,” says Plasterer, who majored in Spanish as an undergraduate. “My friendships with immigrants from Latin America and my Cuban grandmother have made me more acutely aware of the need for increased health care services to Spanish-speaking immigrants in the U.S., and a career goal of mine is to advocate for improved healthcare services for this often overlooked population.”

Plasterer’s support group sessions have resonated with the community she’s serving. “Highmark donated materials to the Spanish-speaker group, including healthy cookbooks in Spanish,” she says. “For tonight’s session, I made a soup, and one of the group members is bringing a low-sugar dessert.”

To learn more the Pittsburgh Schweitzer Fellows Program and the Fellows like Plasterer it supports, click here.

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