By Sarah Kinney
Despite its theme “Building Healthier Communities: The Power of One,” speakers at the Albert Schwitzer Fellowship’s Nov. 2 conference emphasized the need for teamwork.
The keynote address was given by Robert L. Satcher, Jr., a physician and astronaut who went to the International Space Station via the shuttle Atlantis in 2009.
“It’s all about teamwork,” Satcher said.
In his speech he spoke about how important teamwork was for his crew and how it is easier to manage risk when you are working as a team.
While training for space, Satcher and his crew were dropped in the woods of Maine and left to survive through various scenarios. Many of the challenges focused on team building.
Lorraine Stanfield, a doctor at the Boston University Office of Medical Education and the Dorchester House, led a reflection session on building healthy communities.
She explained her interpretation of the “power of one” as being that as an individual you have certain strengths and abilities, but that we are not alone and people can pool their talents to do great things in the community.
She didn’t limit abilities to what people usually think of as strengths.
“It’s not just characteristics or talents,” Stanfield said. “It’s also flaws and obstacles you overcome.”
Former U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin said that one person can make a difference, citing a time as a college student when she spoke in need of STD education in schools.
Benjamin’s talk also focused on the need to transition away from the disease-treating method of healthcare to a prevention-based practice.
“We want to change the way we think about health,” she said.
She said that studies say the four major behavior indicators of poor health are a person’s poor nutrition, inactivity, alcohol use, and smoking, and she said that healthy choices needed to be easy and affordable.
“It shouldn’t be hard to be healthy,” Benjamin said.
She reminded the many healthcare workers to remember their own health.
“You need to take care of yourself or you’re no good for anyone else,” Benjamin said.
The closing speaker was Dr. Camara Jones, a senior fellow at the Morehouse School of Medicine, who spoke on “Racism and Health.”
She said many of the issues both with remedial healthcare and preventative healthcare is the continued disparity based on race and ethnicities using three allegories.
In addition to the plenary speakers, there were twelve breakout sessions with topics ranging from the Affordable Care Act to mobile devices role in healthcare.
Albert Schwitzer (1875–1965) was a theologian, organist, philosopher, physician, Nobel Peace Prize winner, and medical missionary in Africa.
The Schweitzer Fellowship started in 1940 to support his missions and support the health of vulnerable people. It has grown to 12 program sites and 3,000 fellows performing over 500,000 hours of service to 300,000 people in need.
The Schweitzer Hospital in Lambaréné, Gabon celebrates its 100 anniversary this year.