Emory University | Woodruff Health Sciences Center
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Lasting Effect

Revitalizing neighborhoods with health in mind

By Pam Auchmutey

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The library has become a popular spot for families at Delowe Village Apartments, thanks to the efforts of Fuld Fellow Parissa Salimian.

Parissa Salimian 17N 18MSN knows how to energize a room. In her case, the Emory nursing student transformed an empty space into a cheerful lending library for children and teens living a half-hour’s drive from the School of Nursing.

The library fills a need for families living at the Delowe Village Apartments in the city of East Point near the Atlanta airport.

Salimian came up with the idea for a library while serving on the board of the Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership (ANDP), a nonprofit that creates affordable housing for low- and middle-income families.

 Parissa Salimian

"I learned a great deal about nonprofit leadership. It gave me the chance to meet a lot of people and expand my network outside of nursing. It gave me a lot of room for innovation."

-Parissa Salimian, who served as a non-voting board member with the Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership

Serving on a nonprofit board was a requirement for Salimian as a Fuld Service Learning Fellow at the School of Nursing. Fellowships target second-career students with a special interest in social responsibility as part of nursing practice. Funded through a grant from the Helene Fuld Health Trust, fellowships help defray the cost of tuition for students enrolled in Emory’s Accelerated BSN+MSN program.

Salimian has been service-minded since high school, when she volunteered with various organizations in her home state of California. She continued volunteering while studying psychology and public health at Boston University. After graduating from BU, she entered the nonprofit workforce, eventually joining Boston Children’s Hospital as a research coordinator and observing what nurses do firsthand.

“I loved interacting with patients and families and hearing their stories,” says Salimian. “I was drawn to nursing’s holistic approach to health—the psychosocial and the physical.”

The Fuld Fellowship and the nursing school’s emphasis on social responsibility attracted her to Emory. In her first year, Salimian was matched with ANDP and served as a non-voting board member for more than two years.

“I learned a great deal about nonprofit leadership,” she says. “It gave me the chance to meet a lot of people and expand my network outside of nursing. It gave me a lot of room for innovation.”

Her commitment to ANDP extended beyond board meetings. After seeing the vacant room at Delowe Village, she went to work gathering books to create a lending library. Emory nursing students and faculty, friends, and family members supported the project, donating more than 600 books.

ANDP pitched in by decorating and furnishing the library space. But its efforts didn’t stop once the library was completed. Inspired by the seed that Salimian planted, the agency started a library reading program, expanded its kids’ club around healthy indoor and outdoor activities, and launched an art therapy program.

Although Salimian has graduated from the School of Nursing and moved back to California to seek work as a pediatric nurse practitioner, her influence continues to guide ANDP in addressing the factors that affect the health of Atlanta-area residents. This spring, ANDP will begin offering classes for adults at Delowe Village, based on their interests. The topic of their first class? Healthy cooking.

The class exemplifies how ANDP has expanded its vision, thanks to ideas generated by Salimian and ANDP board chair Kathryn Lawler, executive director of the Atlanta Regional Collaborative for Health Improvement. During the economic downturn of the late 2000s, when home foreclosure rates soared, ANDP focused more on acquiring vacant properties to help residents reclaim their neighborhoods at affordable prices.

“Throughout the downturn, we kept hearing about the connection between health and home environment and how a safe, comfortable home is important to all age groups, especially seniors,” says ANDP staff member George Burgan.

As a result, ANDP incorporates green rehabilitation standards into the homes it builds and renovates. Delowe Village was a special case, given that the 88-unit complex lacked amenities where children and teens could learn, socialize, and play outdoors.

“As advocates for affordable housing, we tend to focus more on bricks and sticks—building houses and making them affordable,” says Burgan. “When Parissa and Kathryn joined our board, they broadened our thinking. They helped us understand that we need to create built environments that promote health beyond the physical.”

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