D19’s Anne-Marie Vu and Tabitha Lewis: Making Boston a better place through their Schweitzer Fellowships

The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship is a one-year interdisciplinary, mentored fellowship program focused on health-related community service and leadership development. Since the program’s inception, Schweitzer Fellows in Boston—competitively chosen from health-focused graduate student applicants in a variety of fields—have worked tirelessly to address health disparities and the social determinants of health throughout the greater Boston and Worcester areas. 

 Anne-Marie Vu’s Albert Schweitzer project (Miles of Smiles) involves working with children with autism spectrum disorder at the Joseph Lee School in Dorchester, MA. The Lee School has over 180 students with autism spectrum disorder, making up 32% of the student population. Her goal was to provide oral health education to the children by compiling a set of interactive games and activities for them. Because going to the dentist could be an unfamiliar and scary experience for kids, one of Anne Marie’s goals is to make the experience of going to the dentist fun through role playing. Her hopes are that this project will continue by TUDSM’s AADMD club volunteers.

Tabitha Lewis addressed oral health inequities and increased the self-efficiency of homeless children living in Roxbury shelters through her project Coloring Smiles.  Coloring Smiles seeks to increase self-efficacy and co-create an oral health education and disease prevention plan with homeless children through artistic, musical and collaborative sessions. Tabitha’s group of kids have begun creating a music album, book, story, song, dance and painting of not only the importance of their teeth but also how important and valuable they are.

Tabitha reflects on her experience to date: “ ‘All that you touch you change. All that you change changes you.’ I recently was introduced to this quote from Octavia Butler, renown author and speaker. Being an Albert Schweitzer Fellow means that I can continue to be a changing agent and be changed. I have seen and experienced the beauty that results from the “touching” of lives of vulnerable populations and being “touched” by the communities I serve. This irreplaceable and life-changing exchange of change has been integral to my personal and professional pursuits. Reflecting on my journey thus far, the joy I’ve experienced investing in individuals from disadvantaged communities has led me to conclude that these treasured experiences will mirror the manner in which I will practice quality primary care.”