Students Awarded Schweitzer Fellowships
Two Feinberg School medical students have been awarded Schweitzer Fellowships to direct innovative programs involving 200 hours of direct service to the medically underserved in Chicago.
First-year students Janet Lee from California and Birtukan Belew, a native of Ethiopia, join 29 other graduate students from throughout Illinois in developing programs to improve health and access to health care for the uninsured, immigrants, homeless, minorities, and the working poor.
Lee will partner with the American Indian Center of Chicago to develop health education and nutrition programs for the Chicago Native American population that she hopes will be adopted on reservations nationwide. Her program will target the high incidence of diabetes, obesity, alcoholism, and hypertension that are prevalent in this group. “It is an honor to partner with the Native American community as a Schweitzer Fellow and spread the word about cultures that may die out if nobody intervenes,” she said.
Lee graduated from Yale University with dual majors in molecular biophysics and biochemistry, and the history of science and medicine. Presently she is enrolled in the combination master’s in public health/medical doctorate degree program at the Feinberg School.
UPLIFT Community School in the Uptown area of Chicago will be the site for Belew’s program, which focuses on educating and motivating adolescents to exercise and eat right to prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes. Named “ENERGIZE,” the program combines classroom sessions on nutrition, digestion, and body image with 45-minutes of physical exercise for 10- to 18-year olds, which Belew will design and lead. “I am interested in focusing my intervention efforts on adolescents because adolescence is a period when lasting behaviors are established,” Belew says. “Adolescents also have power to influence their peers in a positive way and an intervention project like mine can benefit from this spill-over effect.”
Belew graduated from Macalester College with double majors in chemistry and biology and a minor in anthropology. She also holds a master’s degree in public health in epidemiology from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, which she attended as a Macarthur Fellow.
Working under the guidance of Elizabeth Ryan, EdD, assistant professor of family medicine, John Leahey also was awarded a Schweitzer Fellowship to support a sports program for children and their families in Chicago’s Albany Park. Leahey is pursuing a master’s degree in public policy and administration at the Northwestern University School of Continuing Studies.
“The program should improve access to physical recreation by providing equipment, and by hosting weekly events in a safe environment,” says Leahey. “Overall, I hope the program can make an impact in the community by lowering the high rates of obesity and diabetes.”