June 9, 2017
University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry Student Joseph Deek recently was named an Albert Schweitzer Fellow for the 2017-18 year.
Deek earned his fellowship through the Chicago Area Schweitzer Fellows Program, a chapter of the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship, and through the Health and Medicine Policy Research Group, an independent policy center that conducts research, educates, and collaborates with other groups to advocate policies and impact health systems to improve the health status of all people.
Schweitzer Fellows spend a year working to address barriers impacting the health of underserved communities and develop lifelong leadership skills. In doing so, they follow the example set by famed physician-humanitarian Dr. Albert Schweitzer, for whom the Fellowship is named.
“Joe’s selection is further testament to the strength of our students in the highly competitive environment of Schweitzer Fellowship candidacy,” said Dr. Caswell A. Evans, Associate Dean for Prevention and Public Health Sciences. “Joe’s project will focus on advancing the initiative at Jesse Brown Veterans Administration (VA) Medical Center started by Dr. Nisha Garg as her Schweitzer Fellowship project two years ago.”
Dr. Garg provided oral hygiene information to military veterans ineligible for oral health care at the VA Center and therefore initiated a Veterans’ Screening Day at the College in 2016.
“I am very excited to be advancing Nisha’s project because we still have veterans contacting Nisha and the College seeking dental care,” Deek said. “I believe that my project will fill in a void for veterans who have no dental home and also help the vets prevent oral health disease.”
Deek intends to visit the Jesse Brown VA for various events to promote education sessions he will host on how veterans can care for and prevent oral health disease, and on dental treatments.
Deek’s work will build on Dr. Garg’s by hosting several screening days at the College and by creating a database of the veterans “so that I can follow up with them and see that they are receiving treatment,” Deek said.
While some veterans become patients of the College, Deek also plans on collaborating with the Chicago Dental Society to help veterans “find dental homes outside the College,” he said. “We are looking to set up a network of CDS dentists who could foster a veteran patient in order to maximize our outreach.”
He also will hold education sessions at the College, featuring panel discussions and experts. “Many of these formats will be lunch-and-learns where students and faculty can learn about the oral healthcare needs of this population.”
At the VA, Deek will host information sessions for the veterans featuring oral hygiene instruction and general oral healthcare information.
Dr. Susie Chung, Director of General Practice Residency at Jesse Brown VA, is Deek’s advisor there, and Dr. Evans is his advisor at the College.
The fellowship runs from May 2017 to May 2018. “I have one year to complete 200 hours of service for my project.”
Deek learned of the Fellowship through a lunch-and-learn at the College, where he met Dr. Garg. The application process involves essays about the applicant and the project followed by an interview for selected finalists.
“Most veterans have very limited dental insurance, if any at all.” Deek said. “The veteran population as a whole has serious unmet oral healthcare needs. I feel like working with the veteran population is a great way for me to give back to the men and women who serve this country. It is heartbreaking to see that more than 10% of veterans are homeless. I am glad that I am able to give my time and talents to such an honorable population that has done so much for our country.”
Since the 2006-07 year, the College has had 15 students serve as Schweitzer Fellows.
Photo Caption: Besides being a Schweitzer fellow, student Joseph Deek (right), along with Matt Seimer (left) of Mobile Care Chicago, are members of the Oral Health America Associate Board.