, ,


On October 4, Los Angeles Schweitzer Fellows Matthew Calzetta, Saskya Byerly, and Kimberly DeQuattro — competing as “Team Fellows That Tri” — raced in the 2009 Los Angeles Triathlon; each took one leg of the race.

All three Fellows are students at USC’s Keck School of Medicine, and are tackling health disparities via their Schweitzer projects (Calzetta is developing a community garden program in the Boyles Heights community; Byerly and DeQuattro are launching a comprehensive education and mentoring program targeting high risk young women in the East Los Angeles area).

In conducting their projects, Schweitzer Fellows frequently encounter “boulders” — and the same was true of the trio’s participation in the triathlon. According to LA Schweitzer Fellows Program Director John Su, MD, MPH — himself a Schweitzer Fellow for Life — Calzetta, Byerly, and DeQuattro faced the worst surf conditions in the 10-year history of the race, headwinds on the bike course, and a very hilly running course.

“The greatest parallel I saw between the two [endeavors] is that I was training for the unknowable,” Byerly says. “I had certain expectations — like, ‘I’m going to swim about 1500 m,’ just like for Schweitzer, ‘I’m going to set up X program’ — but you don’t actually know what obstacles you’re dealing with until you show up. ”

“The swim had a wicked current and big waves,” Byerly adds. “Many people (including some pros) never got past the breakers.” But Byerly dove into the base of the waves, and then “used the less choppy sections to stretch out and pull away from the pack so that my teammates would have a good position for their legs of the race.”

Her dedication paid off. “[My teammates’] efforts preceded and bolstered my own, for their hard work carried a hidden momentum,” says Calzetta, who ran the last leg of the race and says his “teammates’ motivation fueled the whole experience.”

“Teamwork and hard work tempered by real-life responsibilities share each others’ company in all collaborative endeavors, whether that be a triathlon or a Schweitzer project,” Calzetta says.