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Schweitzer Fellow: Leadership conference boosts optimism

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Danielle Zanotti

For more than seven months, I have been part of Tulsa’s inaugural class of the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship. As a Schweitzer Fellow, I am designing and implementing a yearlong 200-hour community service project that addresses a chronic health need in the Tulsa community, participating in interdisciplinary leadership training and taking advantage of other opportunities afforded me by the fellowship. One such opportunity was the chance to attend the annual Albert Schweitzer Fellowship Leadership Conference in Boston, Massachusetts.

On Nov. 4, I hopped on a plane at the Tulsa Airport bound for Boston. Joined by four other Tulsa Schweitzer Fellows, we were excited to meet Schweitzer Fellows from around the country and connect with national leaders doing incredible work addressing health inequities. At the conference, we attended keynote speeches and breakout sessions on topics such as reducing racial disparities in medical care, the role of art in cultivating cultural humility with clients and avoiding contextual errors in healthcare settings. The discussions and follow-up questions during these sessions often extended past the allotted hour given to the speaker and continued over lunch or coffee. It was exciting to be around so many people with shared interests in doing something concrete to make our communities healthier.

The Albert Schweitzer Leadership Conference fell on the weekend preceding our nation’s presidential election. It was obvious to me that there was a sense of strong concern about how the results of the election would impact our healthcare system and the communities we serve. Everyone I met at the conference strives to provide high-quality care to all people and specifically to underserved and at-risk communities. The general feeling was one of nervous anticipation, knowing that no matter the election results, our actions and our work serving vulnerable populations matters more than ever. Attending the conference left me confident that there is a deep and committed sense of purpose within the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship community, a group of which I am honored to be a part. I left the conference with the resolve that change requires individuals who are willing to use their strengths for the betterment of those around them. Through the Schweitzer Fellowship, I have found a group of people who have a similar commitment to serve. The connections we formed in Boston are just an example of the many things that make the Schweitzer Fellowship so special. The community service, skills and relationships we cultivate during our fellowship year will only continue to grow as we endeavor to dedicate our careers to being agents of meaningful systemic change. I left Boston with a firm belief that this would happen for me and for the other Tulsa Fellows who attended.

As we head into the next presidential term, I am going to do my part to continue the work of Albert Schweitzer and the fellowship that now exists in his legacy. In the words of Dr. Schweitzer, “Do something wonderful, people may imitate it.” I will continue to strive to do good for the people I encounter through my Schweitzer project and for the rest of my career. I aim to follow in the footsteps of the leaders I met in Boston, and I hope that in some small way my actions will be worthy of imitation to bring more care, compassion and quality health service to the Tulsa community.

Danielle Zanotti is a fourth-year clinical psychology doctoral student at TU. She is an Albert Schweitzer Fellow and has held many roles in the university’s Tulsa Institute of Trauma, Adversity and Injustice. Her Schweitzer project is in partnership with the Coffee Bunker and addresses parenting difficulties often experienced by veterans following discharge from military service.