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Med students awarded Schweitzer Fellowships lead health-care programs for underserved youth

Two Stanford School of Medicine students are among the 11 recipients of this year's Albert Schweitzer Fellowship – San Francisco Bay Area Chapter. Founded in 2006, the fellowship supports health-focused graduate students in year-long projects working with vulnerable communities to address health disparities locally. Michael Fu and Karen Hong, both second-year med students, chose projects that align with their personal values of providing community service and working with youth. Fu’s project provides a seventh-grade class with weekly, thirty-minute mindfulness-based stress reduction sessions over 10 weeks. He described his work in an e-mail:

Our project has two goals. First, through our mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program, we hope to positively impact students’ abilities to perceive and cope with stress. Second, we hope to build a self-sustainable curriculum that can be implemented by the entire Ravenswood City School District as a behavioral intervention tool. … Each session is structured around one of four central themes (paying attention to the present moment, paying attention with kindness, paying attention with curiosity, and responding vs. reacting) and involves a combination of formal mindfulness practices and reflection.

Hong is working with Prevent Blindness Northern California and told me:

They are a community based non-profit that screen preschool children using a high-tech screening device called the Retinomax. It is quick and extremely effective in detecting possible vision problems. Vision problems in this age group are important to detect and treat, as more emphasis is placed on using these years to ensure school readiness for kindergarten. Vision problems can result in permanent vision loss, or children being mislabeled as inattentive or behavior problems. … [Our project] will be piloted primarily in low-income schools, with great attention given to connecting those who fail the screening with appropriate vision care for full exams and treatment, if indicated. This is an expansion of a current program currently using paid staff and will be the first time it will be implemented by volunteer screeners.

Fu and Hong both said that service will continue to be part of their careers beyond the scope of their projects and their terms as medical students. Fu noted that a collaborative component of the Schweitzer Fellowship - previous fellows providing mentorship and consulting help to the current ones, and monthly meetings of the 2013 class - underscored the importance of team work in any service project.

Previously: Getting back to the basics: A student’s experience working with the Indian Health Service, Sowing the seeds of change: Medical students pen book on leadership, action and social innovation, What I did this summer: Stanford medical student works to improve pediatric surgical care in Tanzania and Stanford team provides healthcare in rural Guatemala

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