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Local High School Students Explore Public Health at 2022 Dornsife Summer Institute

Participants learn about public transportation in Philadelphia in one of SEPTA’s retired trolleys
Participants learn about public transportation in Philadelphia in one of SEPTA’s retired trolleys.

August 2, 2022

The second annual Public Health Summer Institute for ambitious junior and senior high school students at the Dornsife School of Public Health (DSPH) took place from Monday, July 25 through Friday, July 29, 2022. This year’s week-long event on Drexel University's campus attracted 19 students from the city and surrounding counties.

Participants came with a range of interests—medicine, global health, environmental sciences, policy, sociology, psychology, and more—making the summer institute a fitting opportunity for the students to delve into potential career paths in the wide-ranging field of public health.

Tariem Burroughs, MSEd, MSODL, MA, Director of Experiential Learning and Career Services at DSPH, organized and led the summer institute.

The goal for participants was to explore various aspects of public health, learn how to promote health for all, and understand the work of creating healthier populations through field experiences and presentations from DSPH faculty and community leaders.

On Monday, participants heard from Jennifer Kolker, MPH, Clinical Professor of Health Management and Policy, Associate Dean for Public Health Practice and External Relations, and Director of the Center for Public Health Practice at DSPH, who introduced health management and policy facets of public health.

Next they heard from Casper Voyles, MPH, PhD, Global Alliance for Training in Health Equity Research (GATHER) Trainee and Post-Doctoral Trainee at DSPH, who shared his experiences in the field of community health and prevention (CHP) and the role of public health practitioners in improving health among LGBTQ populations.

Day two included a Drexel University campus tour led by Katie Kantor, MA, Associate Director of Admissions. Participants then heard from Val Sowell, Staff Training and Enrichment Manager at Philadelphia FIGHT, a comprehensive health services organization providing primary care, consumer education, research, and advocacy for people living with HIV/AIDS and those at high risk.

In the afternoon, they utilized the city’s trolley system to go to the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) headquarters where staff discussed how public transportation plays a role in residences' health and wellbeing. Speakers from SEPTA included: Will Herzog, MS, Strategic Planner; Kenneth Divers, Assistant Director of Transportation; Allison Long, Drexel Student and Public Health Intern; Cynthia Hayes, Acting Director Customer Experience & Advocacy; and Jeff Erinhoff, Medical Director.

Midway through the program, participants discovered environmental and occupational health topics from affordable housing to injury prevention in the workplace. They heard from Jerry Fagliano, MPH, PhD, Associate Clinical Professor and Chair at DSPH, and Lizbeth Gomez, MPH, PhD Candidate and GATHER Trainee.

In the afternoon, the Health Commissioner for the City of Philadelphia, Cheryl Bettigole, MD, MPH, addressed participants and shared the unique challenges of the city’s Department of Public Health and opportunities to improve health in urban settings.

On Thursday, participants explored mental health and public health, epidemiology and biostatistics, additional disciplines within CHP, and anti-oppression. Speakers included: Michael Long, PsyD, Supervising Psychologist and Team Leader at AIDS Care Group; Scarlett Bellamy, ScD, Professor and Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion at DSPH; Jen Breaux, DrPH, MPH, CHES, Associate Teaching Professor, Director of Undergraduate Education at DSPH; Anushka Aqil, MPH, PhD, GATHER Trainee and Post-Doctoral Trainee at the John Hopkins School of Public Health; and Ana Diez Roux, MD, PhD, the Dana and David Dornsife Dean of DSPH.

On the final day, Fatuma Doka, CRNP, Founder of Tender Grassroots, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing the Ugandan community with resources, knowledge and skills that will empower the community to end the cycle of poverty, discussed global health opportunities. And lastly, Ellie Crowell, Delaware County Program Director at SHARE Food Program, discussed food insecurity that impacts the region and how they could get involved in addressing hunger.

Over the course of the week, students also engaged in a public health case competition to come up with real-world solutions to a public health problem. In small teams they created cooling strategies for vulnerable populations impacted by extreme heat then presented proposed solutions to their peers.

The summer institute culminated with the participants receiving a Certificate of Public Health Summer Institute completion.

Before parting ways, participants also exchanged contact information with one another to remain in touch. Over the course of the week, they made lasting connections, broadened their knowledge of public health professions, and resolved to be agents of change.

Learn more about the Summer Institute

Students at the 2022 Public Health Leadership Institute for High School Students receive their certificates at the end of the week.
Students at the 2022 Public Health Leadership Institute for High School Students hold up their certificates at the end of a full week.