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School & Program Updates

School & Program Updates

Washington Summer Program Prepares Underrepresented Students for Health Professions

The University of Washington School of Public Health has partnered with the UW’s School of Medicine and School of Dentistry to oversee an academic summer program that will prepare underrepresented and minority students for careers in the health sciences. The six-week Summer Health Profession Education Program (SHPEP) is funded by a $355,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

saramackenzie leomorales

[Photos: Dr. Sara Mackenzie (left) and Dr. Leo Morales]

The goal of SHPEP is to increase the diversity of people studying and working in medicine, dentistry and public health as a way to improve health care delivery, policy and research in underserved communities.

“The program will emphasize a culture of health that allows students to see interactions between factors—from the cellular level to the global level—that influence health,” said Dr. Sara Mackenzie, a principal investigator from the School of Public Health. Dr. Mackenzie is assistant dean of undergraduate education, director of the public health major and senior lecturer in health services.

The University of Washington will serve as one of 13 program sites across the country where 80 young scholars can study for free. The curriculum is designed to build on students’ knowledge of and experience with the social determinants of health through the lens of social justice and service learning.

Rigorous coursework will focus on topics such as population health, basic sciences and biostatistics. The curriculum will feature lectures, active learning, discussions, peer mentoring and self-reflection. There will also be experiential activities, including clinical and public health shadowing, simulation exercises and community needs assessments.

“The program prepares students from underrepresented and disadvantaged backgrounds in Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, Idaho and Oregon for careers in medicine, dentistry, public health and other health sciences,” said Dr. Leo Morales, lead principal investigator from the School of Medicine and adjunct professor of health services at the School of Public Health. “Without programs like SHPEP, capable students with dreams of becoming physicians might not make it to applying to medical school.”

The School of Medicine celebrates 26 years of consecutive RWJF funding for intensive summer education programs. SHPEP was originally called the Summer Medical Dental Education Program. The program expanded to include the School of Dentistry in 2003 and the School of Public Health in 2015.

“Bringing SPH in as a partner will add intentional programming to highlight factors critical to healthy communities,” Dr. Mackenzie said. “Scholars will be challenged to consider how place, policy and history influence health and contribute to equity and disparity. Scholars will explore how they can be active participants for change in communities through any health professional career or through professional public health careers.”

RWJF funding covers student travel to Seattle, on-campus room and board, and a small stipend for the program participants. Funding also allows for students to participate in community outings and activities such as a trip to Mt. Rainier National Park.

Nearly 3,000 students have participated in an iteration of the RWJF-sponsored summer program at the UW. More than 32 percent of these students have gone on to enroll in medical or dental school.

Dr. Susan Coldwell, professor of oral health sciences and associate dean for student life and admissions at the School of Dentistry, is also a principal investigator.

The RWJF grant will be administered through the Center for Health Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at the School of Medicine. Students can begin applying for the program on Nov. 1, 2016. The final deadline is March 1, 2017. The first SHPEP program will begin June 18, 2017 and run through July 29, 2017.