Two Students Awarded Prestigious Schweitzer Fellowship

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June 14, 2018 | Downers Grove, IL

Two Midwestern University students have been selected for the nationally-recognized Schweitzer Fellowship, a program for graduate students who aspire to become lifelong leaders in community service. Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine student Amean Amra and Chicago College of Pharmacy student Divya Khandekar will participate in the year-long service learning program that empowers Fellows to design and implement projects that help address the health needs of underserved Chicago communities.

For his service project, Mr. Amra plans to work to increase awareness of sexual and reproductive health in Arab youth at the Arab American Family Services by establishing a weekly educational program. Through his project, he hopes to provide access to information and services. "I wanted to spend my final year in school giving back in a way that would put to use my newly acquired medical knowledge," Mr. Amra shared. "What appealed to me most about the Schweitzer Fellowship was the systematic approach towards service; learning how to make measurable objectives to reach my desired goal and developing ways to monitor the success of my program. This is an invaluable skill I knew I wanted to possess. It wasn't enough to just volunteer, I wanted to know I was being effective at it."

For her project, Ms. Khandekar will initiate a program called 'Music for Mental Health' for older adults of South-Asian origin at the American Association of Retired Asians. Her program will focus on using Indian music as a way of combating loneliness and social isolation in this population. "I chose the 'Music for the Mind' project because I truly believe that music has the power to change lives," Ms. Khandekar said. "Music learning and listening rebuilds neural structures and have shown to be very beneficial for the elderly with Alzheimer's Disease, dementia, and depression. Through my program, I hope to bring the South-Asian elderly community together, to sing and learn music, discuss health and social issues, and create a strong support network for them where they feel loved and cared for."

Named in honor of humanitarian and Nobel laureate Albert Schweitzer, the Chicago Area Schweitzer Fellows Program encourages students to "make their lives their argument" by helping address unmet health needs among vulnerable Chicago residents. In collaboration with existing clinics, schools, social service agencies, and other community organizations, each Schweitzer Fellow provides 200 hours of direct service, separate from and in addition to their already demanding academic and clinical requirements.

As new Schweitzer Fellows, Mr. Amra and Ms. Khandekar join the Chicago program alumni who have provided over 120,000 hours of community service to more than 150 community groups over the course of the program's 20-year history. These alumni include Joshua Eastham, D.M.D., a 2016 graduate of Midwestern University's College of Dental Medicine-Illinois and Nicole Paprocki, a fourth-year student at the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine.