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School & Program Updates

School & Program Updates

Washington Undergraduate Upward Bound Class

More than 80 Seattle high school students were immersed in public health topics this summer, thanks to a six-week course co-taught by Dr. Sara Mackenzie, assistant dean and director of the undergraduate public health major at the University of Washington School of Public Health.

The School was asked to host the core curriculum for this summer’s UW Upward Bound program, which included an hour-long lecture, four days a week, followed by smaller discussion groups. Upward Bound is a federally funded project designed to help students from low-income families or those who would be the first in their families to earn a bachelor’s degree.

“My biggest goal is to get a much broader percentage of our population informed about public health,” Dr. Mackenzie said. She noted that helping these students get to college by itself reduces disparities, as college-educated adults generally live healthier, longer lives.

Public health is a perfect topic for the program because it spans the humanities and STEM topics (science, technology, engineering and math), she added. Subjects included epidemiology, biostatistics, behavioral change, health policy, public health genetics, health literacy, and the social determinants of health.

In addition, the program serves as a gateway to underrepresented communities, as some students may go on to study public health or consider public health careers, increasing diversity in the field.

Three current UW School of Public Health undergrad and graduate students, and one recent graduate, served as teaching assistants and discussion leaders.

They guided games such as the “poisoned picnic,” where participants played disease detective and had to figure out how people got ill. The high school students also kept food dairies, created mock public service announcements, and mapped their communities for factors affecting public health, such as lack of sidewalks or local parks.

Guest experts spoke on a range of subjects touching on public health. One guest, bestselling author Mr. Sherman Alexie, spoke about his experiences growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation.

Dr. Mackenzie encourages other schools of public health to consider working with some of the more than 800 Upward Bound programs across the nation. She is happy to share her public health curriculum and can be reached at

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