Public service program provides pharmacy students an avenue to enact change in their communities


December 14, 2021

Public service
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The Columbus-Athens Schweitzer Fellowship Program provides students a unique opportunity to put into practice the compassion, knowledge and patient-centered care skillset that they learn in the classroom to benefit the community through public service initiatives.

Students participating in the program work to address social determinants of health in local underserved communities. The program grants graduate and professional students a $3,000 stipend to carry out a year-long community service project of at least 200 service hours. One-hundred hours involve direct service to communities. The students develop and lead their own projects, relevant to the program’s mission, with a community-based partner and academic mentor.

“The program is about getting students out into communities to work with them to foster change that betters the lives of individuals within those communities,” said Dr. Jennifer Rodis, associate dean for outreach and engagement and clinical professor of pharmacy practice at the college.

The Columbus-Athens Schweitzer Fellowship is a subsidiary of the national Albert Schweitzer Fellowship that was established in 1940 as a way for physician Dr. Albert Schweitzer to dedicate his career to public service by working with and determining a population’s health needs outside the walls of a hospital or clinic. Once needs were determined, he connected underserved individuals with community partners that provided resources.

A pillar of the program is showing students how to learn from a community and to listen to their needs. Students partner with a community organization to collaborate to address health-related issues.

“This program works to enhance listening skills in professional students, so they know how to engage with communities and external partners; there is a focus on servant leadership with attentiveness to community-identified needs,” Dr. Rodis said.

Programs developed to address health-related issues can involve direct care and/or education on health conditions or available resources and services. For example, PharmD candidates Jadelyn Cheng and Riley Evans provide direct care through blood sugar screenings for an underserved community in their 2021-2022 project. PharmD candidate Nidhi Kanchan, another 2021-2022 fellow from the college, is providing Medicaid education to patients at the Saint Vincent DePaul Charitable Pharmacy to improve the enrollment rate, giving the population access to more health care services.

Some fellowship projects serve as pilot programs that become sustained community initiatives lasting even after a professional student has graduated and continue to provide resources for that underserved population.

“This work not only equips students with skills to engage in a meaningful way with communities outside of healthcare settings, but additionally empowers community members with knowledge and resources to take charge of and improve their health,” Dr. Rodis said. Health care is so much more than clinical care.