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Changing Lives as Fellows For Life

What if we lived in a world where doctors, lawyers, social workers, dentists, nurses, therapists, pharmacists, and others specializing in health care focused careers cared about the world enough to understand the social disparities in their patient’s or client’s lives?


What if we lived in a world where these professionals looked at us as a whole person and searched for underlying causes of health inequalities, such as the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age when determining the state of their health?



What if they then worked to build treatments, programs, and resources to overcome the challenges faced  to address those health disparities and the social determinants of health?



What if these people considered their career, skills, or passions as a vehicle to live a life of professional and vocational service?



There are those people. And many of them – 2500 across the US to date – do this thanks to their acceptance to and involvement in the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship(ASF) Program. In Pittsburgh, over 200 Schweitzer Fellows have provided over 44,500 hours of service, since 1997, to Pittsburgh’s most vulnerable communities by partnering with area community-based organizations.

This Fellowship Program brings together some of the best and brightest graduate students as they develop into leaders who transform and bring positive change for people and their surrounding communities.

This year, the 23 fellows have implemented projects “working with children with asthma, refugees, seniors, LGBT people, and other under-served groups to improve their health and lives,” says Joan Haley, Program Director, Pittsburgh Schweitzer Fellows Program.

These projects and the work of the fellows needs the support of donors tomorrow, October 3, 2012 for Pittsburgh Gives Day of Giving. Day of Giving is a 24-hour online donation drive, hosted by The Pittsburgh Foundation..

The Pittsburgh Schweitzer Fellows Program is grateful for any gift on this day where your donation will be partially matched by the Pittsburgh Foundation and fully matched by the PSFP Advisory Board if you are a new donor or you’re a previous donor who has increased the amount you give.

Says Haley, on the matching funds for donors given by The Pittsburgh Foundation on Day of Giving, “donations for the efforts of these emerging professionals, who do so much to improve our community, will be magnified.”

Now, maybe you’ve never heard of Albert Schweitzer.  For many of the Fellows, neither had they. But, by learning about Schweitzer’s work in Africa to improve the health and lives of people there, and by connecting with the spirit of his attitude of serving vulnerable and under-served populations, the fellows find ways to use their disciplines and talents to improve the lives of people in our communities.

The following video highlights the 13 ASF Programs across the US, including fellows from Pittsburgh, while giving a great understanding of what they do.


“Schweitzer Fellows focus on health as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO): a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.  Rooted in this holistic understanding of health, Schweitzer projects address not only clinical health issues, but also the social determinants of health.”

In order to become a Fellow, potential candidates must complete a competitive application process that includes a description of a project that reflects their passion and interest.

Some of the past Pittsburgh initiatives include:

• Setting up permanent TB and Hepatitis B screening programs for homeless and jobless adults
• Educating parents and caregivers of special need children on oral health preventive measures
• Establishing an OB/GYN clinic that provides both preventative and acute reproductive care services for under-served women
• Training a network of community health liaisons for Pittsburgh’s Burmese refugee population
• Providing culturally competent legal counsel and referrals to Pittsburgh’s Hispanic community
• Coordinating care for inmates with mental health and substance abuse issues

Says past Schweitzer Fellow, Elizabeth Cole, Pittsburgh, “[The Fellowship] has changed the way I view myself as a future dentist; it has broadened my knowledge about the lack of access that many people in my community experience on a daily basis; it has expanded my network of relationships in the healthcare sphere; and it has allowed me to grow, develop, and learn from my amazing peers in the other health disciplines. I honestly feel like Pittsburgh might possibly be better from our year of service, but that we, as Fellows, are forever changed.”

Pittsburgh fellow Samantha Teixeira, a member of the inaugural Environmental Fellows cohort for PSFP’s Class of 2011-2012, was  the focus of a Pittsburgh Post Gazette article. Sam helped Homewood teens advocate for environmental changes in their community. By using PhotoVoice, the teens took pictures of what is positive in their community and what they would like to change.

Strong Women, Strong Girls of Pittsburgh was a winner of a Youth Service Challenge National award (one of seven in the nation) for the “Support a Cause” project developed and delivered by Pittsburgh Schweitzer Fellow, Jonelle Saunders as her Schweitzer project. After writing a curriculum about safe, healthy, and natural personal care products, Jonelle taught 3rd – 5th grade girls how to make them. The girls sold their products and donated their proceeds ($200) to Pittsburgh’s Homeless Children’s Educational Fund. While a Schweitzer Fellow, Jonelle was a graduate student at CMU’s Heinz College.

The overwhelming majority of Pittsburgh Fellows are not originally from southwestern Pennsylvania, but almost half of the fellows each year stay in SW Pennsylvania to launch their careers, or further their education.

And for these participants, once a fellow, always a fellow is the motto. Upon completion of the program, they are invited and choose to become Fellows For Life (FFL). The FFL Network of Schweitzer Fellowship alumni includes 2,500 physicians, nurses, lawyers, public health specialists, social workers, pharmacists, occupational therapists, and others in health related fields.

Simply Put – Your donation on Day of Giving to The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship Program will continue to support the efforts of young professionals as service leaders AND the valuable work they do through other community organizations.

  1. October 3, 2012 at 11:21 PM

    Keep working ,great job!

  1. October 3, 2012 at 7:59 PM

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