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 Alison Liu: Improving Health Care Access for the Homeless Population
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and what has led up to this moment in your career?
As a kid, I used to spend my Sundays reading in the empty labs at the university where my father worked, which is what first piqued my interest in science. But I loved stories so much that I majored in English and for a while, I thought I’d be a writer. While in college, I began volunteering at an FQHC, a suicide hotline, a hospital in an underserved area, and other local health-minded nonprofits. Community engagement helped me recognize that my two passions—science and important stories—are not mutually exclusive. Afterward, I stayed in Houston to complete my MPH in community health practice, studying the importance of patient-centered care and community-based participatory research.
Community engagement helped me recognize that my two passions—science and important stories—are not mutually exclusive.
– Alison Liu
What is the main goal of your project?
The Patient Navigator Program (PNP) is an effort by more than 40 really dedicated medical and graduate students at UT Southwestern to improve health care access among individuals experiencing homelessness. I’m working with an amazing team right now to design an elective curriculum that will teach students how to help patients navigate the complex health care system and local resources. We will then connect these trained students with high-need patients at Union Gospel Mission homeless shelters, whom the navigators will assist with both continuous care and acute referrals. I am also working on the pilot program design, which is scheduled to launch in August to inform quality improvement measures for both students and patients in a larger practice. We hope that, in this way, we’ll be able to build a sustainable program that has a lasting impact on a really vulnerable and underserved population in our community.
I’m working with an amazing team right now to design an elective curriculum that will teach students how to help patients navigate the complex health care system and local resources.
– Alison Liu
What does being an Albert Schweitzer Fellow mean to you?
It’s so important to hear the perspective of others who are passionate about making a difference. I’m grateful that I have the opportunity to listen to the stories of my colleagues, and every month find myself more inspired by the work they are accomplishing. The
Schweitzer Fellowship also allows us to receive feedback on our projects from our peers, promoting constructive discussion and learning on really important topics—from building sustainability, to developing cultural sensitivity, to listening actively and improving allyship.
What role do you think philanthropy plays in supporting research and innovation?
Much of the work that is being done in research and in the community would not be possible without the generosity and support of others. Especially during times of crisis, philanthropy allows for program sustainability, which I think is so important in the process of effecting meaningful change in a community. In situations that might otherwise make it difficult to achieve long-term impact, philanthropy is one of the best ways to encourage innovation and social change in our communities.
In situations that might otherwise make it difficult to achieve long-term impact, philanthropy is one of the best ways to encourage innovation and social change in our communities.
– Alison Liu
Click here to learn more about The Patient Navigator Program (PNP).
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.
Read more in the 2020 Albert Schweitzer Fellow Series: