PopHealthExperience: a Public Health Primer for High School Students.
PopHealthExperience: a Public Health Primer for High School Students
PopHealthExperience (PHE) offers rising 8th-12th graders the opportunity to develop foundational public health skills and explore public health careers. PHE will return to the Boston University Medical Campus July 10–21 .
After two weeks immersed in the field of public health during the summer after his sophomore year of high school, Dominic Muratore developed a heightened awareness of the health disparities in his own backyard.
“Every day to get [to school], I drive through South Providence, which has the highest rate of asthma in Rhode Island because it is next to all the industrial factories. South Providence also has the lowest income levels and is mostly communities of color, so that just shows the effects of systemic racism in city planning on public health,” says Muratore, now a junior at La Salle Academy, a high school in Providence.
Muratore learned how to form research questions, find accurate data, and pitch evidence-based solutions as a participant in last summer’s PopHealthExperience (PHE). An initiative of SPH’s Lifelong Learning Office, PHE offers rising 8th-12th graders the opportunity to develop foundational public health skills and explore public health careers. The program will return to the Boston University Medical Campus July 10 – 21 for its fourth year.
“What makes our program unique is the access it provides students,” says Leslie Tellalian, assistant dean of Lifelong Learning and PHE founder. “They connect with our faculty, and we get them into places they might not get to go otherwise. We emphasize experiential learning.”
SPH faculty and graduate students engage PHE participants in workshops, case studies, policy analyses, and field trips around Boston. A visit to the Massachusetts State House led by David Jernigan, professor of health law, policy and management, was the highlight of PHE for Muratore. Students met with a state representative in the morning and ended the day with a game of Frisbee on Boston Common. He credits the experience with reinforcing his dream to one day work in public health as an environmental lawyer and politician.
PHE’s interdisciplinary curriculum covers a spectrum of public health: advocacy and policy, environmental health, biostatistics, and epidemiology.
“There was really something for everyone,” says Hanna Gialil, now a sophomore at Boston’s Commonwealth School. Touring the National Emerging Infectious Disease Laboratory (NEIDL) with PHE last summer inspired her to pursue an internship studying infectious disease. She recently presented her research on the parasite Toxoplasmosis gondii at her school.
Instruction in effective public communication is integrated throughout PHE, says Tellalian. “Participants are empowered to have a voice, to take a stance and create something.” Over the course of the two-week program, students work together to write and produce a short digital media advocacy piece on a public health issue of their choice.
“This was right around the time that Roe v. Wade was overturned, so my group wanted to focus on advocating for abortion access,” recalls Gialil. She teamed up with Muratore to create a video showing how limiting abortion access negatively affects minority women. On the last day, they shared their work with an audience of their parents and peers.
Gialil says she is still in touch with Muratore and other students she met at PHE. She stays connected with SPH faculty and staff on LinkedIn. Muratore, who hopes to attend BU in the future, also keeps up with SPH on social media.
It delights Tellalian that students keep in touch. “There’s a lot of time built in to make sure that they get to know one another—fun icebreakers every morning, outdoor lunches in the courtyard, public health Jeopardy—we’re making sure that it’s playful,” she says. “It’s been fun for our faculty, staff, and graduate students too. The cohorts have been great, and we love having them on campus.”
Tellalian recently learned that one of last year’s PHE participants will be a freshman on BU’s Charles River Campus in the fall. His mother shared in a note to Tellalian, “I appreciated the opportunity for my son to interact with students from other schools in the heart of Boston. He got to explore public health—a new topic for him—from the perspective of data sciences and media, two things that are in his area of interest. He really enjoyed special opportunities like visiting the NEIDL.”
“There’s nothing else like PHE,” Tellalian says. “It’s just so special.”
Muratore says, “The friends and knowledge I gained—[PHE], genuinely, was one of the best experiences in my life.”
Register for PHE Summer 2023 here.
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