Our collective mission to advance the health of the public has been fundamental to the advancement and prosperity of families in our region. 2022 Albert Schweitzer Fellow, Ruchika Mahapatra, took that same mission to heart when she joined a project to improve the health and well-being of students at Paul Quinn College in Dallas.
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, whose legacy of community service continues today.
We had the opportunity to discuss the inspiring work of some of this year’s DFW Albert Schweitzer Fellows – including Ruchika’s. These fellows continue to inspire us in the spirit of Dr. Albert Schweitzer by investing in our region’s health.
Removing Barriers to Health Education:
A Q&A with Ruchika Mahapatra
Q: What is your background and what has led up to this moment in your career?
A: I was born and raised in the Bay Area of California and was constantly inspired by the innovation and leadership of those around me. After graduating from a hypercompetitive high school in 2018 and then graduating from UC Berkeley in 2020, I yearned to put the knowledge earned from my Biochemistry and Molecular Biology major towards medical school. I dreamed of a fulfilling career, helping patients every single day. After starting medical school at UT Southwestern in 2021, I wanted to begin making a meaningful impact on other individuals as a student. This led me to take on the UTSW Paul Quinn Primary Care Project and become a Schweitzer Fellow.
Q: What is the main goal of your project?
A: The UTSW Paul Quinn Primary Care project aims to improve the health and well-being of students attending Paul Quinn College by providing health education workshops and individualized coaching on health care navigation and enhancing services provided by the school’s clinic based on identified health barriers. We are currently effectuating a four-tier curriculum, including a Mentor-Mentee Match-Up Program, Educational Session & Focus Group Series, COVID-19 Support initiative, and onsite Health Fair. The Project’s ultimate goal is to implement a sustainable health care program with stakeholders and students through the Paul Quinn clinic – providing services in chronic disease management, mental health, prevention, acute illness and injury care, diagnostic testing, and vaccinations.
Q: What does being an Albert Schweitzer Fellow mean to you?
A: I am profoundly grateful to be an Albert Schweitzer Fellow, as it has provided an avenue to take this project to the next level with funding, mentorship, and collaboration with other incredibly bright and empathetic individuals who are a part of this Fellowship. I have already learned so much about what it takes to lead a community-wide project from being a Fellow and speaking with current and past Fellows. Seeing the impact of my project at work and the impact created by other Fellows reinforces the one-on-one, compassionate care aspect of medicine I value so greatly and constantly reminds me why I chose a career in medicine in the first place.
Seeing the impact of my project at work and the impact created by other Fellows reinforces the one-on-one, compassionate care aspect of medicine I value so greatly and constantly reminds me why I chose a career in medicine in the first place.Ruchika Mahapatra
Q: What role do you think philanthropy plays in supporting research and innovation?
A: Without philanthropy, I find it hard to imagine research and innovation having the immense scope of benefits they provide to the world today. As a medical student who has avidly conducted basic science research, in silico research, and clinical and translational research studies, I am aware of the sheer amount of intelligence, creativity, and hard work it takes to produce good research work. I view philanthropy as one of the most instrumental vehicles to disseminate the resources and knowledge that stem from research to those who need help in the world. Anybody who takes part in a philanthropic cause can feel the power of it in their heart and see the impact of it directly in their society. This is why I feel blessed to be a Schweitzer Fellow, working on a project that means so much to me.
I view philanthropy as one of the most instrumental vehicles to disseminate the resources and knowledge that stem from research to those who need help in the world.Ruchika Mahapatra
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.