For Immediate Release: August 29, 2001
Reprinted from the 2001 DMS Digest
Contact: DMS Communications (603) 650-1492
Schweitzer Fellows Foster Humanitarian LegacyBy Sara Connolly, Dartmouth College '01, DMS Communications Intern
For 2000-01, the New Hampshire/ Vermont Program chose six DMS students to perpetuate the life's work of Albert Schweitzer in the Upper Valley:Ted Sears '04, Gerri Mournian '04, Stan Weinberger '04, Amanjit Dhatt '04, Catherine Lenkoski '04, and Shannon Lucas '04.
The Schweitzer Fellowship provides a forum to get out of the classroom and become intimately involved with the community, according to Ted Sears who will work to reduce firearm violence and decrease gun-related injuries and deaths in New Hampshire through education. "The biggest issue in New Hampshire and northern New England is gun suicides," he says. "I'm really interested in finding ways to educate those who have contact with people at high risk for self-inflicted firearm injury, and making them aware of the connections between guns and suicide. " He cites New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services findings that between 1992 and 1996 more state residents were killed by guns than by motor vehicle accidents and of the 464 deaths, 85 percent were suicides. "I think that it is possible and desirable to make small day-to-day changes in the ways that we use and store our weapons that will greatly decrease the numbers of injuries and deaths in our state," says Sears.
Gerri Mournian will focus on food. Working with different local agencies, she will author a cookbook of low-cost, nutritionally balanced recipes for disadvantaged individuals and families. Having worked with emotionally disturbed children and teens in San Diego, Mournian saw firsthand the correlation between poverty and poor nutrition. "I saw so much hunger and so many kids who missed school due to simple illness exacerbated by poor nutrition or poor knowledge about nutrition," she recalls. "I began to construct a ‘someday' vision of my own community health clinic with an education room for cooking classes. " She saw an outlet for her nutrition program in New Hampshire. "I suddenly realized that there was no reason for me to wait until I became a doctor to start the community education component of my dream. It was as if the lights went on in my mind!" Those lights have led her to collaborate with the Lebanon Housing Authority in gathering favorite recipes of local community members. Although Mournian has yet to create any new recipes, she is working hard to combine both the needs and wants of the community. "It is better to get as much input from those who will actually use the cookbook in contrast to solely my own ideas and preferences,"she says.
Stan Weinberger plans to design a total health resource guide for low-income residents. The guide will focus on increasing basic care as well as health information, and will be developed in conjunction with the Good Neighbor Health Clinic. "I had done some similar work in Colorado and I realized that there was very little information out there, especially directed to patients, particularly low-income ones, about the various resources," he says. Hoping to reach a wide portion of the Upper Valley,Weinberger concedes that his project will work best if sufficiently used and complemented by a constructive website.
Amanjit Dhatt will design and conduct workshops on diabetes prevention. A native of California, she began to work with diabetic patients at the University of California, Davis. Dhatt believes that the prevalence of diabetes as well as its serious repercussions requires an abundance of information, particularly for low-income residents. "My goal is to establish workshops aimed at teaching the diabetic patients, their families, and others with increased risk of developing this disease about how to prevent and/or better manage this condition,"she says. Dhatt is working in conjunction with the Good Neighbor Health Clinic, where she hopes to empower patients and their families in making sound medical and lifestyle choices.
Committed to women's health, Catherine Lenkoski is carrying the torch of previous Schweitzer fellow Angela Sanchez '03, helping the pregnant women of Hannah House. She works as a DOULA, a labor support person who assists a pregnant mother and her family with the birthing process. "The DOULA makes the birthing experience as positive as possible for the family," says Lenoski, who became interested in working with pregnant women last year when she volunteered at a birth center in south Texas helping low-income Mexican women. With aspirations of becoming a family practitioner of women's health and obstetrics, Lenkoski recognizes the importance of continuing the work of previous Schweitzer Fellows. "It was a main impetus in applying for the fellowship. It is also great to do volunteer work with the support of a great organization behind you. "
Shannon Lucas will be help Latina women access health care in Manchester. As a health educator for the community outreach Women-to-Women Program (part of the New Hampshire Minority Health Coalition), Lucas will teach Latina women about health care issues and the US health care system. "I worked with many individuals and families from Mexico and Central America who left their countries of origin because of civil wars, or extreme poverty," she says. "I was so impressed by their desire to seek a better life for themselves and their families. " Lucas made a life-changing decision to pursue her childhood dream of becoming a doctor. She returned to college to complete her pre-med coursework, was a Spanish-English translator, traveled to Mexico with The Flying Doctors and worked on a research project at San Francisco General Hospital assessing health concerns of Latina mothers. The NH outreach service typically involves health education meetings and discussions about topics such as HIV, birth control, and controlling diabetes.