Schweitzer Fellowship Supports Student’s Focus on Improving Health Outcomes

Julia Routman was volunteering at a needle exchange on Skid Row when she discovered that the program was started by a Schweitzer Fellow. Ironically, at the same time, her husband, currently a medical student at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, was volunteering on a project at HomeBoy Industries that was also started by a Schweitzer Fellow.

Neither Julia or her husband were familiar with the program but once they learned more they decided to apply for a Fellowship so they could work on a project together.

They are among 15 graduate students who will spend the next year learning to effectively address the social factors that impact health as well as developing lifelong leadership skills. Both were excited by the fact that the program was interdisciplinary and intercollegiate. She is the only nurse in this cohort, which also consists of dental, public health, pharmacy and occupational therapy.

Schweitzer Fellows develop and implement service projects that address the root causes of health disparities in under-resourced communities, while at the same time fulfilling their academic responsibilities as full time students. Each project is implemented in collaboration with a community-based organization.

"Schweitzer Fellowships change lives, both of the individual Fellows as well as those of the many vulnerable community members they serve through their Fellowship projects," said John Su, Program Director of the Los Angeles Schweitzer Fellows Program. "Our Fellows learn to lead and innovate as they tackle complex health needs-skills they will use again and again throughout their professional careers. Meanwhile, their project participants learn information, skills, and behaviors that will assist them in leading healthier lives."

Routman currently works at Northeast Valley Health Corporation (NEVHC). Based in the San Fernando Valley, there are 13 health clinics working with disparate health populations focused on preventing and managing chronic health problems for people in medical need. She would leave meetings where management discussed that there were so many projects they wanted to take on to improve the health of their patients, but there was a lack of time, money or staff. Routman and her husband approached the NVCH and said "we are doing a year-long project – what can we help you with?" After sorting through a number of ideas, the Routmans ultimately picked a project that is targeting diabetics who should be taking statins but have not been.

The American Heart Association recommends statin therapy for people with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes who are 40 to 75 years old. Statin therapy can significantly reduce morbidity and mortality in diabetics. For every 23 patients who are diabetics and take statins over five years, one death will be prevented.

At the San Fernando Valley Clinic, they are currently following 40 patients who fit the criteria – over 50 with an LDL greater than 100 who have never taken statins. As they started to contact patients, they found there were a variety of reasons for the non-compliance: doctors hadn't prescribed, patients never picked up the prescription or think they can make lifestyle changes to avoid taking the medicine.

Learn more about the Schweitzer Fellowship Program