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Earlier this month, Drexel University College of Medicine student Karen Li was selected as a 2010-11 Schweitzer Fellow in Greater Philadelphia. As a Drexel news piece explains, over the next year, she’ll be working with the Nationalities Service Center to develop and implement a culturally competent nutrition program for immigrant and bilingual seniors:

Li is working on a nutritional guidance program at the Nationalities Service Center, which provides resources including social, educational and legal services to immigrants and refugees in the Greater Philadelphia area. She’s recruiting medical students to talk to older adults about eating habits and educating them on the link between diet and health.

“One thing that’s a little different about my project is that it uses motivational interviewing,” says Li. This style of discussion is a more therapeutic way of communicating with people on how to change their lifestyles. To integrate this method, Li has partnered with Robert Chapman, Ph.D., clinical associate professor of the Department of Behavioral Sciences at Drexel University.

“We are providing culturally sensitive materials such as food diaries and services tailored to specific ethnicities.” For example, Li is working on alternative versions of the conventional American food pyramid. “Instead of seeing whole grains, they would see a bowl of rice; instead of seeing salt, they would see a bottle of soy sauce,” explains Li, who’s also fluent in Chinese. Materials will also be printed in multiple languages.

Li isn’t Drexel’s only newly selected Schweitzer Fellow. Guensley Delva — a post-baccalaureate premedical student, and a second-generation Haitian — will partner with the Haitian Coalition of Philadelphia to create and conduct health education prevention workshops pertaining to breast cancer, diabetes, and depression:

“During this fellowship year, I plan to concentrate on breaking down the barriers that exist among different cultures and healthcare,” says Delva. In addition to dealing with silent killers, like hypertension and diabetes, Delva wants to apply his knowledge from his previous career as a teacher in Bronx, N.Y. “I’m working on a baby project that targets mental health issues and breaking through associated stigmas,” says Delva, who formerly worked with special needs children.

Both Delva and Li are enthused about their Fellowships, and the impact they aim to deliver:

“What is fantastic about this program is that it encourages Fellows to partner with community services and work with each other. I’ve learned about so many different opportunities and organizational skills that can be used even after this fellowship. It takes a lot of experience to create a lasting and sustainable project, which is what I plan to do,” says Li.

To read the full Drexel news piece, click here.