Every Tuesday, Beyond Boulders runs a five-question interview with either a current Schweitzer Fellow or a Schweitzer Fellow for Life (ie, a Fellow whose initial year with ASF has been completed, but whose commitment to lifelong service continues).
This week, we talk with 2008-2009 Bay Area Fellow and University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine student Hugo Torres, whose Schweitzer project expanded on the work of a 2007-2008 Fellow Francisco Valles (the guy behind this mosaic!). Valles, and then Torres, worked at the Clinica Martin Baro in the Mission to provide information about San Francisco’s health care system to immigrants from Spanish-speaking countries.
Why did you develop your particular project?
I developed this project for two reasons. First, research shows that Latinos are less likely to enroll in programs for which they are eligible due to inadequate knowledge about them. Secondly, it followed from similar work I did in Los Angeles during my undergraduate years. I feel that education is the most powerful tool we can give a community to empower it to improve its circumstances.
What was the lasting impact of your project on the community it served?
Ultimately, my goal for the Mission is simple: to improve its health. The way I chose to do that is to improve people’s access to care.
What do you think is the most pressing health-related issue of our time, and how do you think it should be addressed?
I think the problem of obesity is by far the most troublesome and costly health issue our society has to remedy. It can predispose individuals to diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, and is increasing at an alarming pace. The country ultimately has to show a willingness to work in a bipartisan fashion to confront obesity at multiple levels: rethinking farm subsidies to corn growers that reduce the cost of unhealthy high-fructose corn syrup, supporting stronger research into creative ways to get people to eat less, and reforming the nutrition labels to make people even more aware of the harmful things that go into their diet on a daily basis. Also, health access for all is a critical component to help healthcare professionals resolve the issue as a team.
What was the most surprising element of your experience as a Schweitzer Fellow?
Definitely it is the extent to which I learned from the other fellows. Everyone has such creative ideas and unique perspectives on addressing health disparities. It’s great to work with a wildly diverse, multi-disciplinary team.
What does Albert Schweitzer’s legacy mean to you, and how have you carried it with you since your initial year as a Fellow drew to a close?
Albert Schweitzer means commitment to principles that value life over all else. Everything I do will be with that in mind; as a future physician, these principles will guide my every decision.
ASF’s Bay Area program was founded in 2006 with major funding from Anthem Blue Cross Foundation and The University of California, Berkeley’s School of Public Health. This year, 15 new Fellows from the Bay Area’s top colleges and universities have been selected to join the program’s ranks, each partnering with a local agency and devoting more than 200 hours of service—click here for details on the new Fellows’ projects.