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Third Annual Public Health Summer Institute Inspires Philadelphia-Area High Schoolers

high school summer institute

July 28, 2023

Drexel University’s Dornsife School of Public Health (DSPH) hosted its third annual Public Health Summer Institute for high school students from July 17-21, 2023. Eighteen incoming junior and senior high schoolers arrived on Drexel’s campus with a range of interests such as environmental sciences, medicine, global health, policy, sociology, psychology, and more.

Through classes and field trips to DSPH partner organizations across the city, participants gained a better understanding of public health, its many disciplines, and areas of specialization. They heard from Drexel faculty, staff, and researchers with expertise in various disciplines of public health as well as Philadelphia community leaders who are working to improve access to healthy food, mental health resources, healthcare, public transportation, and more.

This week-long summer program is led by Tariem Burroughs, MSEd, MSODL, MA, Director of Experiential Learning and Career Services.

Drexel Dornsife 2023 Summer Institute participants

On day one, participants heard from Gina Lovasi, PhD, MPH, Dornsife Associate Professor of Urban Health and Associate Dean for Education at DSPH, and Felice Le-Scherban, PhD, Associate Professor of Epidemiology at DSPH, who provided a look at urban health specializations and epidemiology and biostatistics.

The second day’s speakers included Kayla Brown, Deputy Chief Program Officer at the Share Food Program; Tanieka Mason, MPH, Director Health Equity, Community Wellness for Tower Health; and Amy Verbofsky, Manager, Health and Resilient Communities at the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC). They spoke about food insecurity, community wellness and the role of hospital systems, and building public health infrastructure for resilience in neighborhoods.

In addition to hearing from SHARE staff, participants took action by packing food for families in need. They boxed up four pallets worth of groceries.

Midweek they toured campus with Katie Kantor, MA, Associate Director of Admissions, and heard from Brent Langellier, PhD, MA, Associate Professor at DSPH; DeAnna DeHaas, PsyD, Clinical Psychologist at AIDS Care Group (ACG); and Will Herzog, MS, Strategic Planning at Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA). Presenters spoke about health management and policy translation, mental health challenges and opportunities, and how public transportation impacts health and wellbeing. 

During the final two days, participants met Loni Philip Tabb, PhD, Associate Professor of Biostatistics, Graduate Biostatistics Program Director, Co-Lead of Research and Data Core, Urban Health Collaborative at DSPH; Jen 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; Val Sowell, Staff Training and Enrichment Manager at Philadelphia FIGHT; Fatuma Doka, CRNP, Founder at Tender Grassroots; and Erin Durkin, MS, Executive Director for Student Events and Engagement at DSPH. In these sessions, participants learned more about careers in epidemiology, policy translation, health care centers, global health, and higher education. Doka introduced the institute participants to children in the Tender Grassroots program in Uganda to say hello virtually as well as talk about public health issues in both countries.

Before parting ways, participants also met one of Drexel's resident therapy dogs, Espresso AKA Essie. The university's beloved therapy dogs (four in total with one in training) are Cane Corsos who can be found regularly attending community events on campus.

Next they were presented with a Certificate of Public Health Summer Institute completion after they shared reflections. Throughout the course of the week, they gained valuable networking connections, broadened their knowledge of public health initiatives locally and globally, and explored a wide range of professions that focus on promoting and protecting the health of populations.

Learn about the Summer Institute

This program is proud to have received an Innovative Curriculum honorable mention from the Delta Omega Honorary Society in Public Health in 2023.