Even though Cecilia Jiang is fortunate enough to be healthy, she has spent much of the past five years helping people with disabilities.
Her efforts resulted in her being named as a 2010 Albert Schweitzer Fellow.
"People with disabilities are just as important as everyone else," said Jiang, a first-year student in the entry-level Doctor of Physical Therapy program at the MGH Institute. "I hope to be able to do something that will help them and their families have a better quality of life."
She will work with Asian families through the non-profit organization Joni and Friends of Greater Boston, for which she already volunteers. Her project aims to connect these families, most of whom live in Chinatown where 30% of residents in that neighborhood live below the poverty line, with suitable respite care resources and connect the mothers with bi-monthly support groups through the non-profit organization.
Jiang, who grew up in Taiwan, graduated in 2008 from the University of Virginia with a degree in biochemistry. During the next year, she plans to facilitate discussions on the Boston graduate school campus, focusing on health care disparities, cross-cultural sensitivity, and the spiritual aspects of caring for individuals with disabilities.
One thing she wants to ensure is creating something that continues after her year-long fellowship ends, noting that improving health care for people with disabilities is not only cost effective but is a matter of basic civil rights.
"I've seen too many programs fall apart after the person behind it leaves," noted Jiang, who will receive a $3,000 stipend as a Fellow. "I hope to become a physical therapist who will provide quality care to all patients, and that this project will be a small step towards achieving quality and equality in the American health care system."
"I was thrilled to learn of this award for many reasons, given Cecilia's commitment to serving diverse populations through being a volunteer," said Assistant Professor Elise Townsend, DPT, PhD, PCS, Jiang's advisor in the Department of Physical Therapy. "I am looking forward to seeing her rise as a leader in the years to come."
Assistant Professor DJ Mattson, EdD, DPT, SCS, will serve as Jiang's academic mentor during the Fellowship, which begins in April 2010.
See list of all Institute students who have become Albert Schweitzer Fellows.