Health & Medicine Policy Research Group: Chicago Area Schweitzer Fellows Program
To date, over 400 Chicago Schweitzer Fellows have contributed over 80,000 hours of service.
From 1998-2013, Health & Medicine received $490,000 in Responsive Grants for general operating support for the Chicago Area Schweitzer Fellowship, a service learning program that addresses the health and well-being of underserved and vulnerable communities throughout Chicago while also cultivating a cadre of aspiring professionals to embark on a lifelong path of service. Annually, 30 graduate students are selected from diverse fields to become Fellows who will design and implement year-long direct service projects aimed at improving health and strengthening communities. Fellows partner with existing community organizations. Many such agencies are grantees of the Michael Reese Health Trust. To date, over 400 Chicago Schweitzer Fellows have contributed over 80,000 hours of service. In 2006, Health & Medicine succeeded with launching a “Fellows for Life” program that enables Schweitzer alumni to continue to remain in contact with each other, and to provide them with further leadership development and volunteering opportunities.
Brief Agency Overview
The original Schweitzer Fellowship was created to recruit medical students to help at the Schweitzer Hospital in Gabon. Twenty years ago, the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship began a U.S. Urban Fellowship to cultivate aspiring health professionals to be involved with the growing population of underserved Americans without adequate access to health care. The first U.S. program was inaugurated in Boston in 1992. Currently there are 13 U.S. Fellowship sites, including Baltimore, Bay Area/San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, Columbus (OH), Houston, Indianapolis (IN), Los Angeles, New Hampshire/Vermont, New Orleans, North Carolina, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
Health & Medicine Policy Research Group has a 30-year history of independently evaluating local health policy with a mission focused on improving the health of the poor and underserved. Health & Medicine established the Chicago Area Schweitzer Fellows Program in 1996. Schweitzer Fellows participate in a 13-month Program that includes developing and implementing a direct service project involving a minimum of 200 hours through a community-based organization, monthly Fellows’ meetings, public symposia on health, and community service days. Fellows receive an annual stipend of $2,000. Fellows’ sites also receive a stipend between $500 to $1,000 for their participation. The “Fellows for Life” alumni program, inaugurated in 2006, provides Schweitzer graduates frequent opportunities to network, strengthen their leadership skills, and volunteer.
In December, 2010 Health & Medicine was awarded a $35,000 grant for general operating expenses for the Chicago Area Schweitzer Fellows Program.
- Improve the health and well-being of diverse, underserved Chicago individuals and communities
- Engage and cultivate graduate health students to creatively address health disparities and to become lifelong, effective leaders in service.
- Provide continuing leadership development, skill-building, networking and volunteering opportunities for Schweitzer graduates.
The Fellows served diverse populations and expanded the capacities of 28 non-profit organizations throughout Chicagoland while strengthening their cultural competency, project planning, and leadership skills. The 2010-11 Fellows provided 6,826 hours of service to 3,060 clients that were mainly low to moderate income and from diverse backgrounds. A majority of the individuals Fellows served were minorities and immigrants (Afr. Am. 53%; Lat. 26.5%; Non-Hisp. White 8.4%; Middle Eastern 3.7%, Asian 2.7%; Indian/Pakistani 1.7%; Other 4%); a little over half were female (53%), and a wide range of ages were represented (children 0-18 years old 54.3%; non-elderly adults 37.2%; seniors 8.5%). The Fellows projects focused on a wide range of needs, including addressing childhood overweight and diabetes, health outreach to homeless LGBT youth, helping migrant workers with chronic illnesses maintain their health, violence prevention, tutoring school children, and promotion of healthy nutrition through community gardening.
93% said the Fellows increased their community’s knowledge and skills about a topic of concern, 83% said the Fellows succeeded in changing community members’ health behaviors, and 72% said the Fellows increased access to health promotion and prevention services.
Evaluations completed by the Site Mentors at the CBOs confirmed that the Fellows successfully engaged with and helped community members with important health needs. 93% said the Fellows increased their community’s knowledge and skills about a topic of concern, 83% said the Fellows succeeded in changing community members’ health behaviors, and 72% said the Fellows increased access to health promotion and prevention services. 83% of the sites reported that their Fellow had promoted leadership within the community. 79% of sites indicated that they would try to continue to support and sustain their Fellow’s project beyond the Fellowship year.
Nearly all (96%) of the Fellows said that their participation in the Schweitzer Program had helped them with the skills necessary to develop projects with measurable objectives. Other areas of personal/professional growth included the ability to measure a project’s impact on the community (36% were very confident at the beginning of the year vs. 58% at the end of the year); leadership (71% were very confident at the outset vs. 86% at the end of the year); understanding the social determinants of health (67% very confident at the outset vs. 86% at year-end); integrating themselves into a community in a culturally appropriate way (71% very confident at the outset vs. 86% at year-end). When asked about the value of the Fellowship as a complement to their formal university coursework, 83% of the Fellows gave the Program the highest possible rating.
A post-Program Year survey of the Fellow’s Faculty Mentors helped us learn about the impact of the Program not only on the Fellows themselves but also on their respective university communities. A majority (68%) indicated that their Fellow had a strong impact on increasing other students’ awareness of the needs of underserved communities. Thirty-six percent of Faculty Mentors also indicated that their Fellow had increased the awareness of other faculty and staff of the needs of underserved communities. Nearly half (48%) said that the Fellows had increased other students’ commitment to community service.
Among notable program outgrowths, the Schweitzer Fellows program has led to:
- The continuation of a nursing student mentoring program launched in partnership with Rush University a few years ago, through which under-represented student nurses receive the support of a Schweitzer mentor. A total of 29 nursing students have been matched with mentors, and the Schweitzer Fellowship will continue to administer the Program in the coming year.
- A new mentoring program piloted in partnership with the Night Ministry, another Health Trust grantee. Fellows for Life from a variety of fields have volunteered to mentor 8 youth and young adults living in the Night Ministry’s Open Door Shelter.