University of Washington School of Public Health

Graduate Student Profile


Sara Marquis

MPH student in Health Services
Hometown: Yakima, WA

Why did you choose UW?
I have a long history at the University of Washington. I went to the UW as an undergraduate and I worked at the UW Medical Center as a Clinical Research Coordinator for three years before applying to my current program. I chose to go back to the UW for my MPH because I was very familiar with the plethora of resources and connections that would be available to me as a UW student. The UW is a pillar for many public health agencies in the Pacific Northwest.

Why did you choose Health Services? 
I chose Health Services because I felt it was the “bread and butter” of public health. My program provides a very broad-based and applicable skill set for individuals who want to work closely with communities to improve health outcomes. 

What motivates you about public health?
Growing up in a poor community in the Yakima Valley, I witnessed on a very personal level how health disparities affect lives. My childhood drove an interest in improving health outcomes for all individuals and my work experience showed me that healthcare quality and access is only one of many factors that influence health. Public health works to address the broad-level, upstream factors that have the largest impact on the health of populations.

What’s your thesis about?
Correctional facilities account for the majority of all inpatient psychiatric beds in most states. This problem is particularly true in Washington State, which is currently facing a significant inpatient psychiatric bed shortage. There is concern that individuals who are faced with mental illness are being disproportionately incarcerated rather than receiving adequate treatment. I hope to do a qualitative study to better characterize issues around incarceration of mentally ill individuals in King County.

Tell me about your extracurricular activities or jobs.
I currently work at Fred Hutch as a Research Coordinator under Dr. Steven Pergam. The research I help facilitate involves infectious diseases and changes in the microbiome among individuals who do not respond normally to an infection due to a weakened immune system. Also, for my MPH practicum, I am working to develop the referral network for University District Street Medicine, an interdisciplinary group aiming to create a student-led clinic for homeless individuals in the University District.

What are your future goals?
I hope to do work that impacts vulnerable communities in a meaningful way. 

Do you have any advice for other students?
It’s easy to be less than candid about where we are in life and hesitant to ask for help if we need it. It’s also hard sometimes to remember that our mentors, under all of their experiences and accolades, are simply fellow human beings. I have been trying to be more open with my mentors and have yet to be disappointed. I would advise other students to be open with their mentors as well.

What do you like most about Seattle?
I moved to Seattle from the dry side of the mountains a little over 10 years ago and I think that the water and greenery are some of the best features of the city. Living in Seattle means I can pack a small picnic, rent a canoe from the UW Water Activities Center, and paddle around the arboretum. I feel pretty lucky to live in a city where that is available to me.

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