June 29, 2018
The Chicago Area Albert Schweitzer Fellowship Program, which provides yearlong fellowships to graduate health students for public service projects, awarded fellowships to University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry students Evan Fry, Bhavik Lakhani, and Viveka Patel.
Now in its 22nd year, the Chicago Area Schweitzer Fellows Program is the local chapter of the Boston, MA-based Albert Schweitzer Fellowship. The program also is supported and administered by the Chicago-based Health & 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 people’s health status.
The Chicago Area Schweitzer Fellows Program is dedicated to developing a corps of emerging health professionals who enter the workforce with the skills and commitment necessary to address unmet health needs.
Fry wants to conduct health education sessions for seniors with the theme of establishing consistent routines to maintain their overall well-being.
“These sessions will be integrated with screenings of chronic conditions and oral health in order to ensure the seniors’ health needs are being met and positively impacted through the incorporation of healthy habits,” Fry said. “I will lead these programs at senior living communities and senior centers in underserved areas on Chicago’s West Side through a partnership with the Rush University Center for Health and Aging.”
Fry hopes that seniors will feel more empowered about managing their existing chronic conditions through his program.
“Seniors are frequently overloaded with health information that is not presented in a patient-friendly way,” Fry said. “This program aims to break down the complex concept of managing systemic diseases into small actionable steps patients can take that will measurably improve their well-being.”
He also feels that “tying oral and systemic health around the common theme of managing chronic conditions would be a great experience for me to learn about treating the whole patient.”
Fry noted that the Schweitzer Fellowship “allows me to spend time with a variety of other health professionals and to gain from their perspectives. Additionally, it gives me the opportunity to develop and lead an initiative while in dental school.”
Lakhani proposes to create the Manu Project, in which he will organize and teach a series of oral health seminars at the Indian American Medical Association Charitable Foundation (IAMACF) at 2645 W. Peterson Ave. in Chicago for the South Asian immigrant population.
“Through my project, I hope to raise awareness about the importance of oral healthcare and address the factors limiting the immigrant population in seeking continuous oral healthcare services,” Lakhani said. “My host site solely sees patients for primary medical care reasons and I hope to introduce the importance of oral health in managing various systemic diseases.”
Lakhani noted that as a child of immigrant parents, he did not see the dentist regularly, although his parents were scrupulous about taking him to primary medical care appointments. When he was an undergraduate, one of his uncles passed away from Stage IV oral cancer, because he lacked knowledge about the effect of chewing tobacco on overall health.
“I chose my Schweitzer project to further look into why this mentality persists amongst not only the South Asian immigrant population, but immigrant populations in general,” Lakhani said. “Through the Schweitzer Fellowship, I hope to connect with patients outside of the clinical setting and understand why dental care may not be as valued in certain populations. The fellowship will help me evolve as a clinician by being involved in my community and educate patients on the importance of oral health, as it is a window into overall health.”
Patel’s community service project will initiate a holistic wellness and life-skills program for homeless youth at The Crib, 835 W. Addison St., the overnight youth shelter for The Night Ministry, which provides social services to adults and youth.
“The program will strive to encourage academic achievement and build career skills through a tutoring/mentorship program,” Patel said. “It will also aim to increase financial literacy through simulation activities, and to provide oral health and systemic health education through workshops focused on giving the participants the tools and knowledge to sustain health habits for their future.”
Participants will also have “opportunities to practice channeling their anger and frustration into wholesome activities such as dance, yoga, and art,” she added.
The project’s goal “is to provide homeless youth with the tools and knowledge to be successful as they age into young adults and transition into self-sufficient members of society,” Patel said. “I hope that through this project the participants are able to see the value of education, health, and managing finances and feel more confident with their own skills to succeed in society.”
Patel is President of the college’s chapter of the American Association of Public Health Dentistry. She hopes that her Schweitzer project will “teach me how to effectively organize and sustain service projects in underserved populations,” Patel said.
Fry, Lakhani, and Patel are three of the nine UIC students named Schweitzer Fellows in 2018. Each will receive $2,500 and provide at least 200 hours of service.
“Since 2007, with the exception of one year, the College has had at least one student accepted into this highly competitive and prestigious program,” said Dr. Caswell Evans, associate dean for prevention and public health sciences at the College.
For more about the Schweitzer Fellowship Program, log on to www.schweitzerfellowship.org/chapters/chicago/.
Photo: From left to right: Viveka Patel, Bhavik Lakhani, and Evan Fry