University of Vermont

Schweitzer Fellows Day of Service Brings Support to Area Non-profits

Chi An Liu '17
Chi An Liu from the College of Medicine Class of 2017 takes part in Schweitzer Day of Service on December 7 at the Burlington Emergency Shelter. (Photo by Raj Chawla, UVM Medical Photography)

“Neighbors,” “Stomach,” “Soul,” “Balance” – these themes and others filled a word collage created Saturday, December 7, 2013 at Hunger Free Vermont’s South Burlington, Vt.,  headquarters by University of Vermont College of Medicine students participating in the Schweitzer Fellows’ Day of Service. Organized and hosted by the 2013-14 UVM College of Medicine Schweitzer Fellows, the event provided an opportunity for members of the College of Medicine community to engage in community service activities in Chittenden County and beyond. The event, which was themed “Addressing Food Insecurity in Vermont,” brought UVM College of Medicine-affiliated volunteers to agencies such as Hunger Free Vermont, the Vermont Foodbank, the Burlington Emergency Shelter, Northwest Family Foods, and others.

The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship’s mission is to improve the health of vulnerable people now and for the future by developing a corps of Leaders in Service—professionals skilled in creating positive change with and in our communities, our health and human service systems, and our world. At UVM, ten medical students (working in five teams of two students each) recently completed five service projects, providing a total of 200 service hours per project. Current UVM Schweitzer Fellows – all in the Class of 2016 – include: Nez Nesbitt and Katia Chavez; Shravan Rao and Luke Neill; Reiko Sakai and Matthew Lin; William Thompson and Sarah Johnson; and Leslie Wenning and Janel Martir.

At the Hunger Free Vermont site, Dorigen Keeney, program director, and Anore Horton, child nutrition advocacy manager, presented to a group of four UVM medical students on information on food insecure households in Vermont and strategies for addressing this food insecurity.

According to Schweitzer Fellow Leslie Wenning, she and her group then “spent the day conducting a literature review on research questions that would support and guide Hunger Free Vermont’s mission to help Vermonter’s thrive.” Among the topics/areas her group researched were: The 3SquaresVT program’s ability to improve nutrition and/or health, reduce hunger and/or poverty, and increase consumption of fruits and vegetables among seniors; how best to provide nutrition education that effectively changes diet to improve health; how participation in free school meal plans impacts health outcomes like obesity reduction, improved nutrition, improved academic performance, and improved behavior; and whether or not providing healthy meals in birth to five childcare settings can impact health and education outcomes and a wider variety of diets in children.

Schweitzer Fellow William Thompson volunteered with three other medical students at Northwest Family Foods in St. Albans, Vt., along with Walt Gaskill, the coordinator for the food shelf. “We moved around 300 Hannaford ‘Helping Hands’ boxes from the warehouse to the shelves, sorted four pallets – with about 1000 food items each – of donations, and arranged all of the items on the shelving units,” says Thompson.

Volunteers at the Burlington Emergency Shelter helped paint a new center at the facility on North Street. Schweitzer Fellow Shravan Rao was the lead contact for the project. “We had a total of 14 volunteers, including first- and second-year medical students, as well as Professor of Neurological Sciences Diane Jaworski, Ph.D.,” he says.

A group of five UVM College of Medicine students and affiliates joined about 15 other volunteers from local churches and other organizations at the Vermont Foodbank in Barre, Vt., and packed about 875 boxes of food, says 2013-14 Schweitzer Fellow Reiko Sakai.

Learn more about the UVM College of Medicine Schweitzer Fellowship program here.