From an art therapy program serving low-income women to an a cappella project thatâs helping high school students find their voice to an art-making group thatâs helping older adults overcome isolation,
the Schweitzer Fellowship has a multi-year track record of supporting
initiatives that address the intersection of health and the arts.
That intersection is exactly where Roland Dimayaâa student at
Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and a former teacher at the
Yale University Art Galleryâoperates.
As one of this yearâs Schweitzer Fellows, Dimaya has launched a community service project called âThe Art of Looking.â Partnering with organizations including Special People in Northeast Philadelphia (SPIN) and the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center,
Dimaya is leading regular, guided visits to Philadelphia art
institutions and mobile art galleries for people with physical and
ASF: Why did you decide to develop your particular project?
RD: Iâm a lifelong student in both the humanities
and the sciences. While pursuing my MPH, I led art lessons at the Yale
University Art Gallery that focused on visitorsâ personal perceptions of
the art that they viewed. I worked to build skills of guided inquiry to
facilitate visitorsâ ability to share their observations, encouraging
them to see and communicate about art subjectivelyâsteering away from
the often intimidating notion of art as an objective, exclusive field.
In developing my Schweitzer project, âThe Art of Looking,â I
identified and explored a connection between the skills of art museum
education and clinical patient interactions.Â During my first year of
medical school, in my case presentations to classmates and patient
encounters, I found myself asking the same questions I asked while
giving art lessons. The answers to these questions helped me to develop
more comprehensive diagnoses and to better understand patient symptoms.
Driven to further synthesize the connection between museum education
and patient interactions, I developed âThe Art of Lookingâ to reach
underserved populationsâparticularly those who are veterans and who have
mental and/or physical disabilitiesâthrough mobile art galleries and
visits to local art museums.
ASF: What do you hope will be the lasting impact of your project on the community it serves?
RD: Â Within the projectâs target populations,
participantsâ voices are often overlooked. As a result of stigma
attached to their disabilities, they may become disenfranchised from
sharing and interacting. I hope that by providing an open forum for
these individuals to interact with art, a subject completely independent
from their condition, the participants can see the power of simple
observations in answering, âWhat do you see?â and âWhat do you see that
makes you say that?â
As the project is carried outâboth now, with our current sites, and
in the future, with expansion to other community organizationsâI hope
that it will encourage participants to more freely share their personal
observations and perceptions. Through engaging these groups at
institutions like the Philadelphia Museum of Art, I hope that
participants can realize their ability to participate in local
Philadelphia art culture.
Another key goal of my project is to train medical and psychology students in rapport-building and inquiry skills.
ASF: What do you think is the most pressing health-related issue of our time, and how do you think it should be addressed?
RD: Philadelphia is considered a historical mecca of
American medicine, yet it exists as one of Americaâs unhealthiest
cities. I have limited clinical experience as a second-year medical
student, but I have seen the impact of patient education on gateways to
health, such as diet and exercise.
While âpatient educationâ has sometimes been reduced to pamphlet
distribution and referral to websites, I think a key action in
addressing health issues is the innovation of educational programs that
Iâve seen exemplified by my own Schweitzer Fellowship year. Tackling
health issues through dental clinics at breakfast missions or working
with teenagers on nutrition and body image are just some of the ways
that Iâve seen other Fellows find ways to affect peopleâs health before
they even step into the physicianâs office.
ASF: What has been the most surprising element of your experience as a Schweitzer Fellow so far?
RD: One of the most surprising aspects of being both
a Schweitzer Fellow and a medical student has been the critical lack of
emphasis on community service in some professional graduate programs. I
feel that community service is integral in seeing the real-life
applications of classroom lessons, and is particularly salient for
medical and health profession students.
Iâm heartened by the efforts of the Schweitzer Fellowship and the
Fellows for Life in championing support for community service efforts. I
hope that more and more schools will be receptive.
ASF: What does being a Schweitzer Fellow (and, ultimately, a Schweitzer Fellow for Life) mean to you?
RD: The network of Schweitzer Fellows represents,
for me, a group of service-driven women and men who think critically and
act creatively to effect positive changes among individuals and within
As a current Fellow and soon, as a Fellow for Life, I hope to mature
as healthcare provider both in the company of such innovation and from
the virtues of service. The Schweitzer Fellowship has allowed me to
explore the local community in ways that I would have never encountered
at my school alone; accordingly, it has enriched my experience as a
medical student and it will continue to drive my dedication to service
and to caring for the whole person.
to learn more about the Greater Philadelphia Schweitzer Fellows Program
and our work to improve health, develop leaders, and create change in
vulnerable communities. We are supported entirely by charitable donations and grants.