The Albert Schweitzer Hospital
Each year since 1979, The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship has selected four senior medical students to spend three months working as Schweitzer Fellows at the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Lambaréné, Gabon on clinical rotations. Fellows work as junior physicians, supervised by Schweitzer Hospital medical staff. Fellows generally spend the full rotation on either the Pediatrics or Medicine service.
Public Health Fellows
The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship selects and sends one or more Public Health Fellows to serve at the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Lambaréné, Gabon, helping the Hospital strengthen and expand public health aspects of its work. Public Health Fellows work with the Hospital’s staff, including the Community Health Outreach Program, which provides village-based health care. Public Health Fellows may work on issues of maternal/child health, HIV/AIDS education and prevention, TB education and follow-up, and malaria prevention and treatment. Involvement in one or more outreach projects of the Hospital’s world-renowned Medical Research Unit (www.lambarene.org) may be possible.
Medical and Public Health Fellows
The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship provides complete funding for Fellows (airfare, room, board, immunizations). Previous Lambaréné Schweitzer Fellows have received academic credit for their experience according to their school's policy. Many Fellows have found their three months to be among the most valuable of their profession training, and several have reported that their lives and career plans have been changed in major ways by their experiences in Lambaréné. Upon returning, Fellows will join a network of over 2,000 Lambaréné and U.S. Schweitzer Fellows – the Fellows for Life network – who are dedicated to maintaining service in their personal and professional lives.
Medical Fellows: Two Fellows serve from February 1 - May 1 and two serve from May 1 - July 31. Dates are not flexible. Students who cannot guarantee full participation during these dates should not apply.
Public Health Fellows: Lambaréné Schweitzer Public Health Fellows must be able to spend a minimum of three consecutive months beginning on or after May 1. Longer stays may be possible.
Medical Fellows: Students from any U.S. medical school are eligible to apply; however, priority may be given to students from schools affiliated with the U.S. Schweitzer Fellows Program (which has sites in Baltimore, Bay Area, Chicago, Columbus, Houston/Galveston, Greater Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Boston, NH/VT, New Orleans, North Carolina, or Pittsburgh). Students must have completed clerkships in Medicine and Pediatrics (surgery and OB-GYN are highly desirable) and fluency in French is required.
Public Health Fellows: Students or recent graduates in graduate-level degree programs in public health in the U.S. are eligible to apply. Priority may be given students and graduates from schools affiliated with the U.S. Schweitzer Fellows Program (which has sites in Baltimore, Bay Area, Chicago, Columbus, Houston/Galveston, Greater Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Boston, NH/VT, New Orleans, North Carolina, or Pittsburgh). Fluency in French is required.
1. Complete three full months of service during the dates specified.
2. Attend an orientation retreat in Boston tentatively scheduled for January 14, 2012.
3. Submit monthly reports and shorter mid-month updates by email during the rotation.
4. Submit a five to ten page final report documenting and reflecting on your experience within 60 days of return to the United States.
5. Publicize the work of the Schweitzer Hospital, and health care in Africa more generally, and recruit potential new Fellows through a presentation at your school about your experience at Lambaréné.
6. Help plan and lead the orientation of new Fellows the following year.
1. Because all patient encounters occur in French, a functional fluency of that language is absolutely essential.
2. Prior completion of clerkships in medicine and pediatrics are required. Surgery and OB-GYN are highly desirable.
3. Some background or coursework in tropical medicine or parasitology is important but not a prerequisite.
Public Health Fellows:
1. Because all public health work occurs in French, a functional fluency of that language is absolutely essential.
2. Strong public health background
3. Previous international experience is highly desirable but not required.
APPLICATION FORM AND DEADLINE
The application deadline for 2013 is November 15, 2012.
Click here to apply to serve as a Medical Fellow.
Click here to apply to serve as a Public Health Fellow.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT
Lachlan Forrow, MD, Program Director
Perspectives from Lambaréné Schweitzer Fellows:
"This fellowship has changed my life… I cannot adequately express my gratitude for the life-altering experience that was this fellowship. Completely against my expectations, I did find my own Lambaréné, rather than visiting someone else’s."
- Ethel Weld, Lambaréné Fellow
"This experience will certainly serve as a reminder of fragility and inequality of life…a reminder that health care is not a privilege but a basic human right. Schweitzer’s “reverence for life” philosophy serves as a perpetual example of how a single individual truly actualized humanism and love in this world and he didn’t even begin until he was well into his 30’s."
-Benjamin Gilmer, Lambaréné Fellow
"My interest in community health has been strengthened. I was impressed with the work of the Protection Maternelle-Infantile, and enjoyed my time working directly with the villagers to prevent disease before it happened. Overall, the experience reinforced my sense that my natural intellectual interest lies in questions of public health, and I look forward to finding ways to combine my clinical work with an attention to larger societal determinants of health."
-Kohar Jones, Lambaréné Fellow
"Towards the end of my stay, I started to envy the German researchers for their opportunity to stay in Gabon for nine months or more. I simply did not want to leave. Had I been given the chance to extend my stay, I would have taken it without hesitation. It is still not entirely clear to me why I found my daily work in Gabon so gratifying. Seeing children get better, parents’ gratitude and learning to trust my clinical instincts certainly played a role. As a consequence, I can easily picture myself in similar settings in years to come."
- Elizabeth Shae Whitacre, Lambaréné Fellow
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Is the Hôpital Albert Schweitzer (HAS) a teaching hospital? Is education of students a priority?
A. No, HAS is not a teaching hospital, and teaching/mentoring visiting students is not a core part of the job description of the medical staff. Most of the doctors have no formal training as educators, and the teaching/mentoring they provide is out of their generosity. Many Schweitzer Fellows have found the individual physicians wonderful teachers and mentors, and some have even found their supervising physician one of the most cherished mentors in all of medical school. But other Fellows have been frustrated that the doctor they worked with did not view teaching as a priority, and so the Fellow's learning has had to be largely self-directed.
Q. What rotations do medical Fellows do? Is there a choice?
A. Two Fellows serve for each of the three-month periods (February 1-May 1; May 1-July 31). The bottom line is that Fellows work where the Medical Staff of the Hospital choose. This has almost always meant that one Fellow works the full three months in medicine and one Fellow works in pediatrics. It is vitally important that Fellows approach their assignments with a willingness to jump in and help wherever they are needed. While occasionally a Fellow has worked in surgery, this is not common -- Fellows should not expect to be able to work in surgery. Experience has shown that the harder the Fellow works to try to help wherever/however needed, the more generous and flexible the physicians are about trying to make the learning experience as positive as possible.
Q. Do I really need to speak French fluently?
A. Yes! All interactions with patients, staff, and community members will be in French. It is imperative for Fellows to be comfortable communicating fluently in French, both verbally and in writing, and to be familiar with medical French before their arrival. HAS does not have interpreters.
Q. What cultural differences can I expect in Lambaréné?
A. We encourage Fellows to learn as much about the culture in Lambaréné as they can before leaving by talking with Fellows for Life (alumni) and researching Gabon. Virtually all Fellows who have not spent significant time in Africa find the culture in Lambaréné is very different from what they have experienced in the past. It is crucial that Fellows approach this culture with an open mind and non-judgmental attitude -- learning as much as they can and, even if the Fellow feels critical, trying to understand the roots of different cultural traits or individual attitudes or behaviors.
Q. How is Dr. Albert Schweitzer’s ethic Reverence of Life practiced at HAS?
A. HAS is a working hospital with many of the challenges common to health and human service facilities with limited resources around the world. While HAS continues to be dedicated to promoting Reverence for Life, the reality is that some of the staff sometimes exhibit behaviors that conflict with that ethic. Other staff, however, have struck Fellows as having an inspiring “Schweitzer spirit”.
Fellows expecting HAS to be a perfect oasis of Reverence for Life are likely to be disappointed. Some have even felt betrayed, even though at orientation the previous year’s Fellows try hard to paint an honest picture. Often Fellows who have been disappointed at ways in which HAS or some staff fall short of a full commitment to Reverence for Life come to realize that what is most important, and still possible, is to nurture one’s own commitment to Reverence for Life, which can become stronger and deeper in part because the Fellow realizes that it is so deeply needed, even in a place that bears Dr. Schweitzer’s name.