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Experiential Learning in the School of Public Health

Experiential Learning often takes students into the community and can be a valuable bridge between the classroom and life.  The University of Washington School of Public Health (SPH) is committed to facilitating experiences which provide students an opportunity to integrate and apply classroom learning in a real-world environment.  In this article, we share some concrete examples of how the undergraduate programs in public health at UW Seattle facilitate experiential learning. 

Capstone

Health Informatics and Health Information Management (HIHIM) is an exciting major representing a field of information governance, the practice of acquiring, analyzing and protecting digital and traditional medical information vital to providing quality patient care.  HIM professionals are highly trained in the latest information management technology applications and understand the workflow in healthcare provider organizations from large hospital systems to a private physician practices.  Recent graduates in HIHIM have been employed as Release of Medical Information specialists, clinical data specialists and data analysts.  Evaluating appropriate legal release of medical information requires legal and ethical thinking and discrete sensitivity in many situations related to patients’ health records and health care.

The HIHIM program places a strong emphasis on practical experience to prepare students for their professional career. For the culminating capstone project, HIHIM 462, students are matched with a Seattle-area health care provider, vendor or organization to gain experience in areas such as management, problem-solving, systems analysis, health information systems implementation, change management and regulatory compliance. One student is deeply involved in coding infant care which means tracking treatment, billing charges, and patterns of revenue loss.  Ensuring that doctors are submitting timely and accurate documentation of treatment assists the organization in quality assurance and effective patient care. 

Research

You read about environmental health problems every day:  diseases spread through unsafe drinking water, cancer-causing toxins, poor air quality leading to respiratory disease, and deadly foodborne illness outbreaks.  Have you ever thought about being part of the solution to these problems?  In environmental health science, you can, by studying the link between the environment and human health. 

The Bachelor of Science in Environmental Health program has been training students to work on these issues for decades.  Now in the Supporting Undergraduate Research Experiences in Environmental Health (SURE-EH) program, underrepresented students are funded to work with experienced faculty on a project addressing the relationship between environmental exposures and human health. Participants work alongside faculty as a paid student researcher for up to 2 years, full-time during summer and part-time during the academic year. 

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), one of the largest research agencies dedicated to improving human health, has funded this opportunity which would like to invite applications from underrepresented community college students who plan to transfer to UW in summer or autumn 2016.

Visit their website for more information or contact the program manager, Trina Sterry, with any questions. 

Study Abroad:  Exploration Seminar

Studying abroad is one of the best ways to learn not only about a new part of the world but also about yourself. There are several programs that specifically allow students to explore aspects of population and international health including the long running Dark Empire: Race, Health & Society in Britain exploration seminar offered by Dr. Clarence Spigner in the Department of Health Services. Last year, 27 students lived and studied in the city of London with its incredibly rich, diverse history which provided the perfect setting to examine race, culture and other social determinants of health. In this interactive seminar driven by student discussion, participants take advantage of field trips to several of the many free museums, hear from a wide range U.K. health professional guest lecturers, and are encouraged to attend the Notting Hill Carnival, the world’s second largest street festival. While this program is the only international experience directly affiliated with the Public Health Major, there are several health related UW Study Abroad Programs to help students explore their interests. You can study a range of topics in a variety of places: Global Health and Human Rights in Cambodia to Psychosocial and Community Health in Thailand, New Zealand or Kenya. Find a program that best fits you and plan ahead!

—Tory Brundage, Connie Montgomery, & Trina Sterry