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Over nearly two decades, The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship (ASF) has selected and supported over 2,000 Schweitzer Fellows – exceptional graduate and professional school students who have delivered more than 400,000 hours of health-focused community service to people in need.

This month, the Indiana Schweitzer Fellows Program becomes the thirteenth and newest U.S. Schweitzer Fellows program site dedicated to developing a pipeline of emerging professionals who enter the workforce with the skills and commitment necessary to address unmet health needs.

“From launching Los Angeles’ first micro-health clinic for post-incarcerated female youth, to establishing mobile legal programs that empower rural domestic abuse victims, Schweitzer Fellows have made a difference in hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people’s lives,” says ASF President Lachlan Forrow, MD. “Thanks to major funding from Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation, among other generous sponsors including Clarian Health, we are thrilled to expand our programming to Indiana.”

Now recruiting its first class of multidisciplinary Schweitzer Fellows—each of whom will partner with a local community-based organization to create and carry out a yearlong 200-hour service project that addresses an unmet health-related need—the Indiana Schweitzer Fellows Program is hosted by Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. Funders include Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation, Butler University College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences, Clarian Health, Indiana University School of Dentistry, Indiana University School of Law, Indiana University School of Nursing, and the University of Indianapolis. Application information is available at www.schweitzerfellowship.org/indiana.

“The launch of this program will act as a catalyst for collaboration among the health sciences in Indiana, harnessing students’ ideas and thoughts about addressing health disparities,” says Indiana Schweitzer Fellows Program Director Douglas B. McKeag, MD, MS, who is also a Professor of Family Medicine at IU School of Medicine. “The collaboration between health science programs and the business community is unprecedented and extremely welcome. I look forward to watching the success of this program grow each year.”

In Indiana, as at ASF’s 12 other U.S. program sites, the vast array of Fellows’ Schweitzer projects will focus on health in a broad sense, reflecting the disparate perspectives brought to them by students from a wide range of disciplines including medicine, nursing, social work, law, and engineering.

“Several factors make the Schweitzer Fellowship’s programming such a valuable means of enriching students’ educational experience, and that interdisciplinary interaction is one of them,” McKeag says. “By learning to work respectfully and collaboratively with peers in other fields of study, Fellows broaden their understanding of the many social factors that impact health – and adjust their perspective and actions as future professionals accordingly.”

Accordingly, Indiana Schweitzer Fellows’ projects are likely to focus on everything from promoting early-childhood literacy and parent engagement, to launching and staffing community health centers and clinics, to encouraging healthy exercise and nutrition habits. Some projects will incorporate the 5-2-1-0 Healthy Kids Countdown, an initiative addressing childhood obesity sponsored by Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation and presented by ASF.

Another unique element of the Schweitzer Fellowship is the fact that it is not a “plug-in” volunteer opportunity; nor is it one that is undertaken while academic life is on hold. “Instead of simply volunteering to fill a pre-set role,” McKeag says, “Fellows partner with community-based organizations to identify an unmet health need, design a sustainable service project with an enduring impact, and bring the project from idea to implementation. By doing so over the course of a year and on top of their regular academic responsibilities, Schweitzer Fellows learn to integrate service to vulnerable people into their everyday lives.”

Upon successfully completing their initial Fellowship year, Indiana Schweitzer Fellows will become members of the Fellows for Life alumni network, a pipeline of emerging professionals with the capacity to effect change that will reduce and ultimately eliminate disparities impacting people’s health and lives.

“Our Schweitzer program will promote our partners’ internal service leadership while encouraging professional students to pursue their individual and collective ideas,” McKeag says. “Prospective applicants can begin applying now, and we will select our first class of Fellows in early spring of 2011. I can’t wait for them to begin carrying out their Schweitzer projects and impacting the health and lives of people in Indiana.”

Patrice Taddonio
Communications Manager
The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship