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A Guest Post From New Schweitzer Fellowship Board Chair Bruce Auerbach, MD, FACEP

As an emergency physician and hospital administrator, I have seen firsthand how social factors like poverty and education impact the health of individuals, families, and communities. This complex interplay is all too evident in the crisis situations that we see in emergency departments across the country—crisis situations that could have been prevented through access to community-based interventions.

That is why I’m so passionate about The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship (ASF)’s work to develop a corps of professionals who are committed to improving health and skilled in creating positive change with and in our communities, our health and human service systems, and our world.

This organization’s unique method for training the next generation of health professionals and developing their leadership capabilities combines mentored, entrepreneurial community service projects with a yearlong, reflective leadership development program. It’s a dual approach that delivers immediate impact on pressing local health needs, and also equips our graduate student Schweitzer Fellows with an enduring ability to carry out effective interventions that address health and its social determinants.

I am honored to begin my term as Chair of the ASF Board of Directors at such a pivotal moment, against the backdrop of health care reforms that will bring 30 million previously uninsured people into the system. The need for health professionals with cultural competence, experience working with low-income communities, and a commitment to social justice has never been greater.

This is our work—and it extends the legacy of Dr. Albert Schweitzer, who nearly 100 years ago traveled to Africa to address unmet health needs. 2013 marks the Centennial of the Schweitzer Hospital—his life’ work, and our symbolic home. We continue to send senior U.S. medical students to serve at the hospital each year. 2013 also marks our 20th year of working to improve community health in the U.S.

We have now trained more than 2,500 Schweitzer Fellows. Whether it’s launching a clinic that provides health education and services to uninsured LGBT people in the San Francisco Bay Area, reducing barriers to healthy food access in Boston, or working to improve the health and quality of life of teenagers experiencing homelessness in New Orleans, ASF is working towards creating our vision of an America, and a world, in which all community members have access to the health providers, services, and education they need.

If our vision resonates with you, I hope you’ll support us and take advantage of the opportunity to attend our Schweitzer Leadership Conference in Cambridge, MA on November 3. For the first time, this national conference is open to the general public and not just our Schweitzer Fellows for Life (program alumni).

In the meantime, I hope you’ll participate in conversations about improving health, developing leaders, & creating change on this blog, our Facebook page, and via our Twitter feed. We’re at a pivotal moment. Join us and seize it.

Bruce Auerbach, MD, FACEP, Chair of the Board of Directors of The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship (ASF) and previous president of the Massachusetts Medical Society, is also the vice president and chief of emergency and ambulatory services at Sturdy Memorial Hospital in Attleboro, Massachusetts. While Auerbach spent most of his career at Sturdy Memorial Hospital, he also practiced at Newton-Wellesley Hospital in Newton, Massachusetts. He is an instructor at the Harvard School of Public Health, an assistant clinical professor of community medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine, and an instructor in emergency medicine at University of Massachusetts Medical School. He is also a consultant for the Annals of Emergency Medicine and sits on the Physician’s News Digest editorial board. He has served as a member of the board of directors for ProMutual Group (now Coverys), the largest medical liability insurance company in Massachusetts. He is also vice chair of the state Department of Public Health’s emergency medical care advisory board.