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In light of the ongoing oil spill disaster in the Gulf Coast, and the upcoming five-year anniversary of the devastating Hurricane Katrina, it’s clear to see that New Orleans has dealt with more than its fair share of adversity—adversity that has made life even more difficult for the city’s most vulnerable people.

From their orientation weekend spent learning about how the environmental health of the local wetlands contributes to the overall health of the community, to their individual projects working to target the varied social determinants of health, the 2010-2011 class of New Orleans Schweitzer Fellows is poised to do something about it.

Take Tulane School of Medicine student Jessie Kittle, who this year will not only work with the New Orleans Syringe Access Program to reduce HIV/Hepatitis C infection and drug overdose by implementing health and safety trainings for injection drug users, but also will work to increase their access to health care and substance abuse treatment programs. (If you’re in the New Orleans area, watch WWL (Channel 4) tomorrow morning to see Kittle, Jerrine Morris, John Moustoukas, and Chelsea Singleton discuss their Schweitzer projects.)

Or Megan Burns from the LSU Health Sciences Center School of Public Health, who will work with local elementary school children to develop a community based school gardening program in an effort to increase their knowledge and skills regarding growing, preparing, and marketing fresh produce.

Over the next year, Kittle and Burns, as well as 9 other New Orleans-area professional school students representing a diverse array of disciplines, will conceptualize and carry out service projects that address the health needs of underserved individuals and communities throughout the Greater New Orleans area.

We’ll keep you posted as these new Fellows address unmet health needs in New Orleans (and develop into Leaders in Service in the process)—we hope you’ll be as excited as we are about the impact they’re aiming to deliver. In the meantime, you can browse the new New Orleans Schweitzer Fellows’ projects here, and click here to read an earlier blog post about two New Orleans’ Fellows work to improve the health and lives of the area’s homeless veterans.

Click here to support the New Orleans Schweitzer Fellows Program. Click here to download an informational one-pager about the New Orleans Schweitzer Fellows Program.

New Orleans Schweitzer Fellows bond with each other as they embark on a yearlong and lifelong journey of service.