Nine Geisel students awarded Schweitzer Fellowships

by Alec Rossi | 5/25/18 2:25am

Nine first-year medical students at the Geisel School of Medicine have been awarded the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship, which provides students with funding to complete innovative projects that improve the health, safety and welfare of the community. Each project will receive $2,000 in funding from the foundation.

This year’s recipients are Shuaibu Ali Med’21, Tianrae Chu Med’21, Kathryn Collier Med’21, Julia Danford Med’21, Jacqueline Gresham Med’21, Kira Gressman Med’21, Lindsay Holdcroft Med’21, Sand Mastrangelo Med’21 and Kenneth Williams Med’21.

The nine Geisel students are part of a larger group of 23 fellows from New Hampshire and Vermont.

Director of the New Hampshire and Vermont chapter of the Schweitzer Foundation Nancy Gabriel said that the number of applications from Geisel has remained largely constant over the last several application cycles.

Chu said that he will work with teenagers to determine what constitutes healthy relationships, consent in sexual relationships and safe sex. Chu said he hopes to explore how pornography shapes unrealistic perceptions of relationships in order to promote positive relationship dynamics.

Holdcroft said that she and Danford will be working with the Grafton Country Senior Citizens Council to increase access to healthcare among the elderly. In addition to this work, Holdcraft said that she and Danford hope to address social isolation among elders. The two will work at Quail Hollow, a senior living community in West Lebanon, to create programming that promotes social interactions with residents in the living community.

Holdcroft said that the community service aspect of the fellowship encouraged her to apply.

“Coming into medical school, the community service piece was always really important to me,” she said. “Sometimes it can be easy to feel like you lose touch with those communities that you are ultimately trying to serve [during the first two years of medical school], and so that is what inspired me generally to apply for the Schweitzer [Fellowship].”

Collier and Gressman will be working to address issues of drug abuse. Partnering with the HIV/HCV Resource Center, the pair hopes to educate users about how to prevent overdoses. They also hope to provide clean needles and community support to intravenous drug users.

Geisel Schweitzer Fellowship faculty advisor Timothy Lahey said he has noticed that more student projects are addressing the opioid crisis in the Upper Valley.

“This is the second year in a row that we have had a project aimed at getting clean needle exchanges going in New Hampshire,” Lahey said.

Gresham said that she and Mastrangelo are partnering with Rural Outright, an organization that serves LGBTQIA+ teens and allies in the area, to create a mentorship program between college-age students and area youth.

Mastrangelo said that students at the College will be able to apply to become mentors to students in Claremont, New Hampshire. Interested students and mentors will each fill out an interest survey used to create mentor-student pairings, she added.

“Some students are going to be working on personal statement writing for college applications, some students are looking for more activity-based mentorships and some are just looking for someone to talk to about navigating high school as an ‘out’ teen,” Mastrangelo said.

Mastrangelo said that before coming to Geisel, both she and Gresham worked with students in the past.

“Prior to coming to medical school, [Gresham] and I were involved with students in various capacities,” Mastrangelo said. “I was a ninth grade English teacher in Colorado and the faculty mentor of the LGBT alliance. [I recognized], from personal experience and faculty experience, the need for support for LGBTQIA+ students — especially ‘out’ students navigating high school.”

Ali said that he and Williams will be working with students at Hartford High School to build relationships with students interested in STEM fields. In addition to completing science projects with students, Ali said that he and Williams will try to build a robust mentorship program among students, the College’s graduate schools and professors.

“We see an opportunity to get kids who may not have really seen themselves as scientists exposed to science, and we’ll hopefully use that as a leverage point for [college matriculation],” Ali said.

Ali said that he was motivated to apply for the fellowship because of his prior career as a community health educator.

“One of the hardest things for me [as I was] coming to medical school was leaving the kids that I worked with,” Ali said. “I jumped on the opportunity to be able to affect my local community by working with youth and empowering them through mentorship and education.”

Gabriel said that this year is unusual because three of the fellows’ projects are continuations of projects from last year. According to him, this is because it takes time for impactful and meaningful programs to become fully sustainable.

Lahey said he believes that participation in the Schweitzer fellowship augments the medical school experience by allowing students to apply the skills they learn in the classroom to their communities. Additionally, he said that participation in the community allows students to see how their learning can make a difference.

“I think of medical school as this great combination of scholarship and making a difference in the world,” Lahey said.