At the conclusion of a year-long nomination and selection process, attorney and Loyola University clinical law professor Emily Benfer has been chosen to receive the Schweitzer Leadership Award. The annual award honors an individual who has done significant work to mitigate the social determinants of health in their community, and whose commitment to service has influenced and inspired others. This is the inaugural year for the award, which provides the recipient with a $1,000 cash prize. The award will be presented to Ms. Benfer on Thursday, Feb. 27 at a reception held at the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum.

Ms. Benfer is founder and director of the Health Justice Project at Loyola University Chicago School of Law, a legal clinic in which students identify and address social and legal issues that negatively affect the health of low-income individuals. As an attorney, Ms. Benfer has fought for the rights and well-being of homeless families, children and youth; preschool-aged children with special education needs; individuals with disabilities; and low-wage workers.

According to Loyola University Law School alumna Elisa Pleasant, Ms. Benfer’s Health Justice Project addresses a wide range of issues that impact the health of its clients. “Student attorneys have been able to stop evictions, successfully get health and disability benefits for impoverished individuals, and assist students with learning disabilities to obtain resources in school,” said Ms. Pleasant. In addition “health care providers have been able to refer patients with persistent problems to the legal clinic when they find that the medical interventions they are able to provide are insufficient to address the health needs of their patients. This medical-legal partnership therefore fills an important gap and gives doctors a greater ability to care for their patients.”

The award is named in honor of famed humanitarian and Nobel laureate Dr. Albert Schweitzer who encouraged people to incorporate service to others in their lives. The Chicago Area Schweitzer Fellows Program, which is organizing the Leadership Award, also provides Fellowships to local graduate students who design and implement year-long projects to improve the health and well-being of underserved communities. The Chicago Area Schweitzer Fellows Program is housed at Health & Medicine Policy Research Group, a Chicago non-profit dedicated to challenging inequities in health and healthcare.

For further information about the award, or to request a reservation to the reception, please contact Erica Martinez, emartinez@hmprg.org.

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