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School of Medicine’s Maliha Ahmed named Detroit Schweitzer Fellow

April 17, 2017

A Master of Public Health student at the Wayne State University School of Medicine was selected for a fellowship that will help her launch a sexual health education program for the Muslim community in May.

Maliha Ahmed is one of four students in southeast Michigan named to the Albert Schweitzer Fellows Detroit-based inaugural class. The fellowship is inspired by Dr. Schweitzer, a physician and humanitarian. Ahmed will continue to attend WSU while working on the project, titled “Create an educational program on sexual health literacy in the Muslim community.” The fellowship provides a $2,000 stipend that can be used toward designing and implementing the project.

“I was inspired to select this project because of my interest in maternal and child health. With my community service project, I hope to impact girls and women who would benefit from a safe and reliable space to discuss their sexual health,” she said. “There is a need for this resource in faith-based communities like the Muslim one, in which sexual health is often considered a taboo topic. Removing the barriers of access and stigma would help create a population that is more informed about their sexual health and choices. Given the high density of Arabs and Muslims in the greater Detroit area, the project will address the community need for sexual health literacy that is not only culturally-sensitive but accurate as well. The overall goal is to provide women and girls with resources, tools and services that promote empowered and informed decision-making about their sexual health.”

Ahmed’s project will provide accurate information on a variety of health topics, ranging from the human papillomavirus vaccine to sexual assault awareness. Information will be presented in a culturally-competent manner that considers the unique set of barriers Muslim women face. It will cater to all ages, providing resources and tools for parents whose children have limited exposure to sexual health education in their schools or mosques, including in-person seminars, and group and individual discussions.

The site partner is Zaman International, an Inkster, Mich.-based humanitarian program in which Ahmed also has served as a food pantry volunteer.

Ahmed is grateful to Master of Public Health Program Manager Elissa Firestone for taking the time to forward fellowship opportunities to program students; Program Director Kimberly Campbell-Voytal, Ph.D., for agreeing to mentor her during this year-long endeavor; and her fellowship program manager Dennis Archambault of Authority Health (formerly the Detroit Wayne County Health Authority), for connecting her to community resources during the application process.

She is in her first year of the graduate program, and expects to graduate in May 2018. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Health from the University of California at Berkeley.

WSU Sociology doctoral student Lindsay Toman also was selected as a Detroit Schweitzer Fellow, for the project “Improve the relationship between medical professionals and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community (LGBTQ).” The project will help prepare medical professionals and medical students with the understanding and skills to care for LGBTQ patients, and help the LGBTQ population in the Detroit area better understand the best way to care for themselves and live healthy lives.

Albert Schweitzer Fellows are graduate students in health care, social work, law, education and other fields who design and implement year-long service projects that address the root causes of health disparities in under-resourced communities, while also fulfilling their academic responsibilities. The process of moving their fellowship projects from initial concept to completion teaches Schweitzer Fellows valuable skills in collaborating with others in allied fields. They also learn to effectively address the social factors that impact health, and develop lifelong leadership skills by serving and empowering vulnerable people to live healthier lives and create healthier communities. ASF has 14 program locations in the U.S., including the newest in Detroit, and one in Lambaréné, Africa. Its national office is in Boston. The Detroit chapter is sponsored by the Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine. To date, more than 3,400 Schweitzer Fellows have delivered nearly 500,000 hours of service to nearly 300,000 people in need.

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