Schweitzer Fellow for Life James R. Carter, MPH, a doctoral student at The Ohio State University College of Social Work, realized that there was little awareness of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) among the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender population. HPV is the most common sexually-transmitted infection and it impacts both men and women. While not everyone who is infected with HPV gets ill, those who do get ill can experience quite serious symptoms ranging from genital warts to certain cancers. The more he learned about HPV, the more Carter wanted to make raising awareness of the infection the focus of his Schweitzer Fellow Project.
Q: Why did you decide to develop your particular project?
A: I was approached by a member of my community about a very personal experience that had inspired him to want to do more. We discussed the idea of doing a very grassroots program to get a conversation started in the gay and lesbian community of Central Ohio about the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). As we thought about our own personal knowledge, and asked some of our friends about their knowledge of HPV we realized very few people are aware of this emerging health concern. It was at that time that I heard about The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship and realized it was the perfect outlet for this type of project. Thus the project was developed, submitted, and accepted.
Q: What do you hope will be the lasting impact of your project on the community it serves?
A: I hope that the lasting impact of my project will be a couple key things. The first is that a conversation is started and awareness created about HPV and its potential role in later in life conditions. In age groups where it is appropriate, our city provides services for vaccination against HPV through my partnering agency, Columbus Public Health. So we are empowering people with not only information, but services that protect them.
The other lasting impact I hope the program has is an increase on the participant’s ability to find information about health conditions and be critical consumers of the information that they find. Within the context of HPV, the program is empowering participants with skills applicable to a wide range of health conditions and related decision-making.
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 health issue of our time is actually the Internet. And I know that this answer may cause some people to say, ‘What?,’ but the Internet is such a conduit of information dissemination, as well as behavioral facilitation. In other research I have conducted the Internet has quickly established a central-role in facilitating much of our human interaction, both virtually and physically. There is the issue of so much information, so quickly available to people, and the program I am conducting takes aim at this by guiding participants through trusted sources of information (i.e., the CDC) and accessible sources of critical services (i.e., vaccination at places like Columbus Public Health).
Q: What has been the most surprising element of your experience as a Schweitzer Fellow?
A: I think the most surprising element of my experience thus far has been a number of things. My mentor Dr. Randi Love, and site facilitator Dr. Audrey Regan, have been such amazing advocates for me, and provided such valuable assistance. Early on the original conception of the project was not working as efficiently as it could, and with their assistance we were able to quickly change the look of the project. This has ultimately made the project vastly more impactful, reaching more community members and in a more meaningful way, I believe. Also the experience of meeting with the other Fellows has provided many opportunities to look at my project differently and consider different ways that change is created.
Q: What does being a Schweitzer Fellow for Life mean to you?
A: I am really excited to expand my exposure to the Schweitzer legacy by joining the Fellows for Life program at the conclusion of my program. Being a part of such a group of driven people, and dynamic views on social problems will be inspiring and provide me motivation to keep looking around and trying to figure out how to answer the problems that our society faces.
Click here to learn more about the Columbus-Athens 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.