Schweitzer Fellow for Life Lina Shayo, a student at the University of New Hampshire School of Law, recently completed her Schweitzer Fellowship in which she helped recent African immigrant women access healthcare in Manchester, NH. She created a pamphlet that explains their right to access healthcare. She also worked with community leaders to help train women to advocate for their right to access care. “My ultimate hope is that they will be able to use the skills they acquire to become better self-advocates in all aspects of their lives,” Shayo explained.
Q: Why did you decide to develop your particular project?
A: As a new law student, I was learning about the law, the power it has and the protection it gives us. I was so eager to put the things I was learning in practice and when I learned about the Schweitzer Fellowship it seemed like the perfect fit. I focused on immigrant women because as an immigrant, I felt I had a better grasp of the issues. This Fellowship drew me in because it was a chance to combine the two things I was passionate about—immigrant rights and the law.
Q: What do you hope will be the lasting impact of your project on the community it serves?
A: A focus of the Fellowship was creating a pamphlet explaining the benefits of using an interpreter, as well as patient rights. The goal is to have this pamphlet translated into different languages and displayed in health centers in my community. I hope eventually it will be prominently displayed in health care centers across New Hampshire! Also, as part of my Fellowship, I conducted workshops teaching women about how to be their own advocate as they access healthcare. My ultimate hope is that they will be able to use the skills they acquire to become better self-advocates in all aspects of their lives.
Q: What do you think is the most pressing health-related issue of our time, and how do you think it should be addressed?
A: I think the most pressing issue is the lack of access to basic preventative health care. I see this problem within the demographic I work with, where many people never see a doctor until it’s too late. Part of this is influenced by culture, but also by cost. Hopefully this will change when the new federal health law is implemented and every American will be able to access basic health care.
Q: What has been the most surprising element of your experience as a Schweitzer Fellow?
A: The most surprising element has experiencing how open and available various people have been in helping me with this project. When I first began my Fellowship, I had an idea of what I wanted to do but did not know where to start. As I reached out to leaders in the immigrant community and the health care field, I found many people who were concerned about this issue and were willing to give their time and knowledge to help design and implement an effective and sustainable project. I am grateful for all the help I have received.
Q: What does being a Schweitzer Fellow for Life mean to you?
A: It means being part of a community of people who value service. This year, being a Fellow has given me a chance to work within my local community to affect change. I hope it will help me continue to serve my community as I progress in my career, and to inspire others to do the same, just as other Schweitzer Fellows have inspired me.
Click here to learn more about the New Hampshire/Vermont Schweitzer Fellows Program and our work to develop leaders, create change, and improve health in vulnerable communities. We are supported entirely by charitable donations and grants.