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UNC School of Medicine students Avani Desai, Rayad Shams, and Josh Tanner were named among 29 NC Albert Schweitzer Foundation fellows to address health disparities throughout North Carolina.

The North Carolina Albert Schweitzer Fellowship announced the selection of its 2023-24 class of Schweitzer Fellows, including three from the UNC School of Medicine:  Avani Desai, Rayad Shams, and Josh Tanner. Twenty-nine graduate students will spend the next year learning to effectively address the social factors that impact health as they develop lifelong leadership skills.

Avani Desai

This year’s class represents Fellows from medicine, dentistry, physical therapy, occupational therapy, public health and law.

Desai is teaming with Lisa Regula at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health to support individuals who are low-income and have recently undergone trauma and emergency general surgery. They will provide patients with durable medical equipment, wound care guidance, and support for food security to reduce post-surgical financial toxicity. The fellows, along with a team of student ambassadors, will also conduct weekly check-ins with each patient to provide social support, appointment reminders, education for patients and caregivers, and resource connection to

Rayad Shams

promote improved post-surgical outcomes and support patients’ return to independence.

Shams and Ashkan Habib at Gillings are partnering with Piedmont Health Services, a federally qualified health center, to send

mobile health clinics to the rural medically underserved areas of Chatham, Alamance, Caswell, and Lee counties to provide free medical and dental care. They will provide referral to the nearest PHS clinic for any necessary follow up care.

Josh Tanner

Tanner is leading the implementation of in-person psychiatric intake visits for inmates booked at the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians correctional facility. Given the burden of substance use and drug-related charges in the population, further efforts to improve mental health care for these individuals will be incorporated such as motivational interviewing, medication assisted treatment, and the coordination of long-term treatment following discharge from the detention center.

Go here to read more about the other Schweitzer fellows from UNC-Chapel Hill and other North Carolina universities.