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A passion for service leads five students to be awarded Schweitzer Fellowships

The 2006-07 Schweitzer Fellows from the Brody School of Medicine are, left to right, Brooke Merritt, Marie Rowe, Shelby Kaplan, Rachel Simpson and Paige Clark.
GREENVILLE, N.C.   (Oct. 11, 2006)   —   In a competitive selection process, five students from the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University were selected as 2006-2007 N.C. Schweitzer Fellows. Their projects focus on educating kindergarteners about the importance of good health, teenaged mothers on prenatal care and parenting skills, and commercial fisherman on skin cancer awareness.

Honoring the legacy of Dr. Albert Schweitzer by committing to a year of service with a community agency, these fellows will devote more than 600 hours of service to communities in Pitt County and eastern North Carolina.

Shelby Kaplan and Brooke Merritt will speak to kindergarteners in Pitt County about what it means to be healthy through their "Healthy Smile, Healthy Child" program.

Rachel Simpson created and implemented a health education outreach and support for approximately 20 teen mothers in Pitt County.

Marie Rowe and Paige Clark created an awareness campaign on the occupational and recreational risk of the sun and its role in skin cancer for children and commercial fisherman in Carteret County and surrounding areas.

Kaplan and Merritt plan to visit kindergarten classes in Pitt County from September through February to promote a healthy lifestyle for the children.

"Through our project, Healthy Smile, Healthy Child, we are visiting the majority of kindergarten classes in the public schools in Pitt County to educate the children about the importance of being healthy by observing the ABCs: avoiding sugar, brushing their teeth and consuming calcium. We are distributing information for the kindergarteners and their parents with hopes of creating a lasting impact on the youth in Pitt County," Merritt explained.

Her project partner, Kaplan added, "Obesity is a major problem in the United States and it is much easier to prevent obesity and weight-related problems than it is to treat them later in life."

They wrote in their project proposal that in educating children about consuming less sugar, several overall health problems and poor oral health can be prevented.

The "S.O.S. Save Our Skin" project of Rowe and Clark focuses on creating awareness of the occupational and recreational risks of the sun and the role it plays in skin cancer to school children and commercial fishermen in and around Carteret County.

According to Rowe and Clark's research, Carteret County has one of the highest melanoma death rates in North Carolina. Through programs at community events such as the annual N.C. Seafood Festival and a free screening at the health department, Rowe and Clark plan to teach people how to perform an examination of their skin for skin cancer, the value of using sunscreen and the correlation of sun exposure and skin damage over time.

"Sun safety and skin cancer education will serve to increase this quality and years of healthy life through prevention, as well as early detection, of skin damage and disease," Rowe said.

Rowe's partner for the project had a personal brush with the damages the sun's rays can cause. Clark's mother had to have several spots removed from her legs due to sun damage, even though she faithfully used sunscreen with a high sun protection factor rating.

For her project, Simpson met throughout the summer with teenaged mothers in Pitt County focusing on their overall health and wellness. She also discussed several topics, including nutrition for the mothers and their babies, immunizations, breastfeeding and parenting issues.

In speaking with school nurses for the public high schools in Pitt County as she planned her project, Simpson learned there were approximately 40 adolescents who were pregnant or had a baby in the previous six months.

Through her program, Simpson said, "I hope to gain an understanding of what teenagers experience as new mothers. Gaining this understand


Contact: Jeannine Manning Hutson | 252-744-2481