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Campus notes: N.C. Schweitzer Fellows will provide health care for underserved

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Dental students and Schweitzer fellows Kevin Holley, left, and Trevor Staton will deliver oral health education to elementary students in Pitt County.

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Sunday, July 16, 2017

Winterville native Kevin Holley and nine other East Carolina University graduate students have been named North Carolina Albert Schweitzer Fellows for the 2017-18 academic year. They will spend the next year making health care more accessible to populations that are often overlooked.

In total, 10 ECU students — five from the Brody School of Medicine and five from the School of Dental Medicine — were named Schweitzer Fellows. They represent nearly half of this year’s Schweitzer class, which comprises 23 students from ECU, Duke University, Wake Forest University, North Carolina Central University and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.

The fellows will partner with community-based organizations to implement service projects that address health disparities. They also will undergo leadership development training.

Holley and fellow second-year dental student Trevor Staton are picking up where an earlier Schweitzer project left off. In 2014-15, two dental students worked with the Greene Access Program (GAP), part of Greene County Health Care, to deliver oral health lessons to more than 1,200 elementary school children in Greene County. The fellows helped enroll the children in GAP clinical services, where they received preventative care.

Holley and Staton hope to expand GAP enrollment within selected Pitt County schools. Using public health data, Greene County Health Care has identified six schools in Pitt County with a high proportion of at-risk elementary students in need of dental services, both preventative and restorative.

For their Schweitzer project, first-year Brody School of Medicine students Reena Patel and Rebecca Jones are leveraging 12 collective years of nursing experience to provide no-cost prenatal and postpartum education to low-income mothers in Pitt County.

Patel, who worked as a labor and delivery nurse at WakeMed, and Jones, who spent time as a neonatal intensive care nurse at Duke University Hospital, will teach a five-week series to expectant and new mothers.

The classes will cover labor and delivery, birth and the immediate postpartum period, newborn care and safety, and infant CPR. The fellows are offering gas cards and free baby clothing as incentives for attendance. They are working with other area organizations such as Pitt County public libraries to provide additional prenatal and postpartum training to new mothers as well.

Third-year dental student Kiersten Bethea and first-year medical student Samantha Forlenza are teaming up to provide no-cost dental treatment and primary care for homeless patients.

They are establishing a clinic — based in Ross Hall and supported by the School of Dental Medicine — where dental students will treat patients’ emergency oral health needs. With their dental needs met, patients will then see medical students who will administer an HIV test and perform medical screenings to check basic measures of wellness such as heart rate, blood pressure and blood glucose.

Next, School of Social Work students will conduct depression screenings and connect patients with additional resources such as a food bank or counseling services. The students will refer patients to dental and primary care providers who can provide comprehensive, ongoing care.

Forlenza and Bethea plan to launch their clinic in August with the goal of serving at least 75 patients by spring 2018.

Additional ECU Schweitzer Fellows are dental medicine students Allen Bunch and Morgan Stroud, who will link pediatric patients to a dental home at the School of Dental Medicine, and medical students Katherine Mulligan and Yasamin Sanii, who are developing a project to help patients with chronic disease receive better continuity of care.

Since 1994, the North Carolina Albert Schweitzer Fellowship Program has supported 425 fellows from many academic disciplines through funding from various foundations, academic institutions and individual donors. This year’s 23 North Carolina fellows join approximately 240 others nationwide.

Fellows all work with mentors at one of 14 program sites across the U.S. and in Lambaréné, Africa, where physician-humanitarian Dr. Albert Schweitzer founded a hospital in 1913. Upon completion of their fellowship year, awardees become Schweitzer Fellows for Life and join a vibrant network of more than 3,400 Schweitzer alumni nationwide who are skilled in – and committed to – improving the health and well-being of underserved people throughout their careers.

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