Today’s current events continue to remind us of the importance of public health, reinforcing the need to address the social determinants of well-being in our region and beyond.
In 2015, Southwestern Medical Foundation joined with the Dallas-Fort Worth Schweitzer Fellowship Program (ASF) to bring the innovative service and leadership program to medical and graduate students in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The Fellowship aims to address local health disparities and the social determinants of health while developing future leaders. It was coined as a nod to the renowned physician-humanitarian and health care hero, Dr. Albert Schweitzer, who continues to inspire the legacy of community service through health care.
We had the opportunity to discuss the inspiring work of some of this year’s UT Southwestern ASF students, who continue the spirit of Dr. Albert Schweitzer and serve as modern-day health care heroes.
An Interview with Meghana Reddy: Improving Health Literacy for Women
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and what has led up to this moment in your career?
Growing up, my family was very involved with our greater community and from a young age, I developed an interest in staying informed and connected with the members around me. Stemming from this, in college I majored in public health and participated in various community engagement activities. These opportunities deeply widened my perspective on the various extrinsic determinants that contribute to one’s health and outcomes. Coming into medical school, I started volunteering at Center of Hope, a local women’s shelter, by leading smoking cessation classes for the residents. Working with these women inspired me to want to pursue a more long-term engagement with the shelter and that’s when I found the opportunity as an Albert Schweitzer Fellow.
“I learned that health was not just the pathological state of disease but also the way one interacts with society, their environment, and their identity.”
What is the main goal of your project?
My project aims to improve health literacy and attitudes towards positive health behaviors for women currently residing at Center of Hope. Through this project, I hope to create a health lecture and workshop series that engages the residents on topics that they find to be important and interesting. Additionally, I hope to create small group health coaching sessions for interested women to encourage them to set short-to medium-term health goals and support them in reaching these goals.
What does being an Albert Schweitzer Fellow mean to you?
Being a Schweitzer Fellow means so many things to me! I love that I am now part of a supportive community of Fellows and alumni, where we support and learn from each other throughout our journeys in creating our projects. This fellowship also gives me many opportunities to critically understand my identity and positionality, learn important methods in creating a project, as well as continuously learn about important ways to be a thoughtful ally and contributor to a community that may not necessarily be my own.
What role do you think philanthropy plays in supporting research and innovation?
I think both entities are interconnected; it is difficult to have one entity succeed without the other.
“Philanthropy – whether it is in the form of donations, resources, or time – supports research and innovation in important ways.”
Without the contribution of generous sources, it would be difficult to develop as much research and innovation. Additionally, I believe research and innovation can contribute to many avenues of philanthropy. Innovative methods can help giving organizations determine the most effective ways to contribute.
The Legacy of the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship
The philosophy that ASF champions aligns with the principles the Foundation has represented since its founding. Both ASF and the Foundation were established during World War II to develop leaders in service and inspire great citizenship through philanthropy. ASF was founded by Helene Bresslau Schweitzer and Albert Schweitzer in 1940. During the same time period, Southwestern Medical Foundation instituted the Ho Din Award.
Through the Ho Din Award, the highest honor bestowed on a graduating medical student from UT Southwestern, the Foundation has supported students who exemplify knowledge, understanding, and compassion. The Fellowship Program personifies these values, instilling a life-long philosophy of compassionate patient care, and paving the way for better health for all.
The Fellowship is open to students in eight local universities, including Baylor University, Southern Methodist University, Texas Christian University, Texas Woman’s University, University of Dallas, University of Texas at Arlington, University of Texas at Dallas, and UT Southwestern Medical Center.