The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship and the Inspiration and Legacy of Dr. Albert Schweitzer
For 75 years, The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship (ASF) has remained true to its mission of supporting and extending Albert Schweitzer’s legacy. Founded in the U.S. in 1940 to support Dr. Schweitzer and his hospital when supplies from Europe to Lambaréné, Africa were cut off during World War II, ASF was the first of several international Schweitzer Fellowships to be established with the purpose of supporting the hospital.
By the time that ASF was officially chartered in 1956, Dr. Schweitzer had broadened the Fellowship’s mandate to include advancing the principles and services of his philosophy of Reverence for Life, which he considered his most important legacy. Under this mandate from the 1960 through the 1970s, ASF supported programs and projects such as civil rights organizations; the education of African exchange students in the U.S.; and helping to finance the Biafra children’s relief program in Africa. Additionally, ASF sponsored concerts, lectures, and was instrumental in the founding of the Aspen Institute. As the first and only U.S. organization endorsed by Dr. Schweitzer, ASF owns the U.S. rights to the collection of Schweitzer memorabilia and photos which are housed at Syracuse University.
Today, ASF primarily promotes Dr. Schweitzer’s legacy through four core programs: Lambaréné Fellows, U.S. Fellows, Fellows for Life (alumni), and public education and outreach activities including the annual Schweitzer Leadership Awards and Conference.
Supporting Schweitzer’s Work in Lambaréné
In 1979, under the leadership of Board Chair Emeritus Mark L. Wolf, ASF began sending senior U.S. medical students to serve three-month rotations at the Schweitzer Hospital as Lambaréné Schweitzer Fellows. To date, more than 150 Fellows have served at the hospital as medical assistants in internal medicine pediatrics and obstetrics as well as public health.
ASF continues as the U.S. liaison to the Schweitzer Hospital in Lambaréné, and also serves as the U.S. affiliate of the Association International de l’oeuvre du Dr. Schweitzer de Lambaréné (AISL) the international network of organizations that supports the Commission for the Spiritual Work of Albert Schweitzer and maintains Dr. Schweitzer’s original manuscripts, correspondence, and related materials, which are housed in Gunsbach, France.
Promoting Reverence for Life in the U.S.
In 1992, realizing that health disparities needed to be addressed here in the U.S., as well as in Africa, Wolf and President Emeritus Dr. Lachlan Forrow, a 1982 Lambaréné Schweitzer Fellow and the then ASF Vice President, launched the U.S. Schweitzer Fellows Program with the goal of developing emerging health professionals as who are trained and dedicated to effectively serving vulnerable and underserved people.
The Schweitzer Fellows programs have emerged as the centerpiece of ASF activities, offering the most substantial and tangible demonstration of Schweitzer’s influence in the U.S.—an influence that will live long into the future as Schweitzer Fellows for Life move into positions of leadership in their workplaces and communities.
By the numbers:
- Each year, approximately 250 graduate health and human service professional students partner with community-based organizations to identify unmet health needs, design sustainable service projects and bring the projects from idea to implementation.
- Fellows annually deliver more than 50,000 hours of service to more than 25,000 clients nationwide.
- The U.S. Fellows program requires a year-long commitment and involves academic tutelage and on-site mentoring. It is a cross disciplinary, inter-professional and multi-cultural training that helps students gain firsthand knowledge and develop skills rarely found in traditional educational settings. Under the direction of the local program director, students meet regularly in fellowship with one another and learn from each others’ experiences. Over 3,000 Fellows have completed the program, becoming Fellows for Life who move into their careers as a corps of professionals who are trained in and dedicated to addressing health disparities. Through their work, they influence and inspire others, exponentially magnifying ASF’s impact throughout the country and the world.