April 13, 2017

Two Wayne State University graduate students among four Albert Schweitzer Fellowship award recipients

The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship (ASF) recently announced the selection of its inaugural class of Detroit Schweitzer Fellows. Among the four honorees are two Wayne State University graduate students, Maliha Ahmed, a student in the Wayne State University School of Medicine’s Department of Family Medicine and Public Health Sciences, and Lindsay Toman from the WSU sociology program. They will spend the next year learning to effectively address the social factors that impact health and developing lifelong leadership skills. In doing so, they will follow the example set by famed physician-humanitarian Albert Schweitzer, for whom the fellowship is named.

“The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship excels in developing emerging leaders in health who will serve vulnerable populations not just in their fellowship year but throughout their career,” said Bruce Auerbach, M.D., chairman of The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship Board of Directors. “Our individual chapters supplement traditional education with programs focused on supporting emerging professionals’ desire to serve populations in need. Our new program in Detroit will make important and vital contributions that will create positive change and improve the lives of people in Detroit and the surrounding area.”

Ahmed’s work will focus on creating an educational program on sexual health literacy in the Muslim community. This program will provide accurate information on a variety of health topics, ranging from the human papillomavirus vaccine to sexual assault awareness. The information will be presented in a culturally competent way that considers the unique set of barriers that Muslim women face. It will be catered to all ages, providing resources and tools for parents whose children have limited exposure to sexual health education in their schools or mosques. Ahmed’s program will incorporate in-person seminars, followed by group and one-to-one discussions. The site partner for this program is Zaman International, a humanitarian program in Inkster, Michigan. The overall goal is to foster a community of women and girls who are better informed and confident about their health, reflecting the goals of Healthy People 2020 in creating “social and physical environments that promote good health for all.”

Toman's work will focus on improving the relationship between medical professionals and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community. The project will help prepare medical professionals and medical students with the understanding and skills to care for LGBTQ patients and help the Detroit area’s LGBTQ population better understand the best way to care for them and live healthy lives. Toman will employ educational seminars and training programs for medical professionals – physicians as well as other health professionals – including discussion of health disparities in this population. The seminars will include relevant topics such as how to appropriately identify transgender patients and address different kinds of gender identity. Medical professionals will not only learn about LGBTQ health topics, but how to be more culturally sensitive to this community. A second aspect of the program will involve an outreach to the LGBTQ community through health fairs, including health navigation advice and health information.

Schweitzer Fellows are graduate students in health care, social work, law, education and other fields who design and implement year-long service projects that address the root causes of health disparities in under-resourced communities while also fulfilling their academic responsibilities. The process of moving their fellowship projects from an initial concept to completion teaches Schweitzer Fellows valuable skills in collaborating with others in allied fields. As Schweitzer Fellows develop professionally, this skill is critical to their ability to affect larger-scale change among vulnerable populations.