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The Impact of Mentorship: The Chicago Area Schweitzer Program

Guest Author
June 18, 2014
We’re pleased to share a guest post from one our recent 2013-14 Schweitzer Fellows, Bernice Man, a student at Chicago State University’s College of Pharmacy. This article originally appeared in the Official Newsjournal of the Illinois Council of Health-System Pharmacists.

I have regularly visited Chicago’s Chinatown neighborhood with family and friends since moving to Chicagoland in the early 1990s. My reasons for coming to Chinatown have expanded from eating the delicious food to improving the health literacy of older adults who live there. I am currently serving as one of thirty-two 2013-2014 Chicago Area Schweitzer fellows. The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship is a service fellowship with a goal to cultivate future healthcare leaders who will address health disparities and improve health outcomes for underserved communities. The 2013-2014 Chicago Area Schweitzer fellows include students from medicine, nursing, optometry, social work, public health, art therapy, dentistry, psychology, law, and disability studies. Each fellow is required to create and complete a yearlong, 200-hour service project that addresses a health need in an underserved community under the guidance of multiple mentors.

My Schweitzer project takes place in Chinese American Service League (CASL) Senior Housing, which is a government subsidized, residential housing complex near Chinatown Square. The project’s goal is to improve the health literacy of Chinese older adults by providing disease state presentations, medication reviews, and health screenings. The site population’s main barrier to healthcare is language. The vast majority of the residents speak various dialects of Chinese and have very limited English proficiency. For this reason, I have presented all materials in Cantonese, and have included topics such as arthritis, cholesterol, blood pressure, eye disorders, and cold/flu symptoms.

The Schweitzer Fellowship requires that each fellow have four different mentors, including an academic mentor, student mentor, advisory council mentor, and site mentor, who all serve to provide guidance on various aspects of the fellow’s project:
  • My site mentor is Virginia Lai, the social service coordinator at CASL Senior Housing. Because she is the person most familiar with my site’s population, Ms. Lai has provided great insight into what health topics would be of most interest and of most use for the CASL Senior Housing residents. She has also helped me to foster a bridge of trust between the residents and myself by introducing me to the residents and promoting my project’s services.
  • The academic mentor is an educator at the fellow’s academic institution. My academic mentor is Dr. Diana Isaacs, one of my professors at Chicago State University College of Pharmacy and the Chair of the Illinois Council of Health-Systems Pharmacists (ICHP) New Practitioners Network. She has provided vital guidance on the health education and pharmacy practice aspects of my project, as she reviews all of the disease state information and medication reviews before I present the material at my project site.
  • The student mentor is a current healthcare student who served as a Chicago Area Schweitzer Fellow in previous years. My student mentor is Jordan Becerril, a third-year medical student at Rush Medical College. Because he recently completed the Schweitzer Fellowship, Jordan has been very helpful in providing feedback on different aspects of my project.
  • The advisory council mentor is a healthcare professional who serves as a resource for the fellows. My advisory council mentor is Dr. Mark Stoltenberg, a former Chicago Area Schweitzer Fellow who is a current second-year resident physician at Northwestern University McGaw Medical Center. He has been helpful in my project’s development, as he has suggested further ways in which I can expand my project.
  • Ray Wang, the Chicago Area Schweitzer Fellows Program Director, and Bonnie Ewald, the Chicago Area Schweitzer Fellows Project Coordinator, have both served as informal mentors for my project. They both have provided valuable suggestions on how I can improve my project and have helped me access various healthcare resources.

The mentorship provided to me has been invaluable, as I truly believe that I could not have made my project a success without my mentors’ advice and support. When I applied for the fellowship, I had theoretical ideas on what I wanted to do for my service project and hypothetical ideas on how I wanted to complete it. Putting my project ideas into practice would have been much more difficult and time-consuming had I not had mentors who had previous experience in different facets of my project and who were willing and able to guide me through my project’s development. I have grown because of my mentors’ experiences and their willingness to share the knowledge that they possess.

Because of the Schweitzer Fellowship experience and because of my mentors, I have become confident that I can tackle any project going forward and that I will find a way to make that project successful. Because of the relationships that I have developed with my mentors during the fellowship, I anticipate that my mentors will continue to be resources that I will contact in the future when I need counsel. During the past year, I have learned how important it is to have mentors who can help guide me not only in how to tackle a project, but also in how to direct my career path both during and after pharmacy school. Because of the great experiences that I have had with my mentors, the Chicago State University College of Pharmacy Student Society of Health System Pharmacy (SSHP) chapter started a P1 – P3 mentoring program where P3 students can give advice to P1 students about school. The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) currently offers the Mentor Match program, where any ASHP member can be matched with a mentor or mentee based upon their preferences and profile. I encourage everyone to find mentors for themselves, and I hope to serve as a mentor for pharmacy students in the future.