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Faculty Profile

Clarence Spigner

For Dr. Clarence Spigner, health and well-being are personal. As an African American growing up in the midst of racial segregation and poverty in Orangeburg, South Carolina, Spigner knew he wanted to pursue a career making a positive difference for those living in marginalized communities. Over the last 30 years, Spigner has worked hard to make this difference through a career in public health.

Spigner, who is an associate professor in the Department of Health Service's Social and Behavior Science Track, divides his time between involvement in numerous community public health projects, researching health disparities in conjunction with racial inequalities, and teaching in several departments at the University of Washington (UW), including the American Ethnic Studies Department and the African Studies Program in the Jackson School.

One of Spigner's recent projects involves determining the impact of stress on heart disease among African Americans living in Seattle. Spigner, along with Dr. Doris Boutain, employs a qualitative approach that asks respondents to relay their experiences with living with hypertension. "Tons of datasets exist on hypertension and African Americans, but few published studies have addressed what people with hypertension think about living with the disease. Many of our respondents spoke to wrestling with the same day-to-day realities that elevated their blood pressure," Spigner explained.

In addition to researching hypertension among African-Americans, Spigner is involved in a project that takes a community-based approach to tobacco cessation in minority populations living in Washington State.

Spigner's passion to ameliorate health inequalities in marginalized communities goes beyond research. At the end of this summer, he led an exploration seminar entitled "Dark Empire: Race, Health and Society in Britain." Offered through Comparative History of Ideas (CHID) Program, Spigner led 20 undergraduate students in a 4-week course at the University of Greenwich in London. Through this seminar, students explored the underlying historical, political, and social contexts of the health of black populations in Britain. Students were rewarded with Spigner's firsthand knowledge regarding issues of race and health in Britain. Spigner worked for the National Health Service during the early 1980s as a health planner. "A quarter century later I'm back with my own study-abroad program that continues to ask the question about the realties of racial disparities in societies in spite of their differing systems of health delivery," stated Spigner.

In addition to creating rewarding learning opportunities for students, Spigner also serves as the director for the Global Partnerships Travel Grant Program, which is offered through the International Health Program. Each year, 3 to 5 graduate students are awarded up to $4,000 to conduct health-related research in developing countries.

Besides his other teaching assignments within and outside of the Department of Health Services, Dr. Spigner instructs "Introduction to Health Promotion Planning" (HSERV 561) offered through the Extended MPH Degree Program in both winter and spring quarters. Through this course, Spigner offers his expertise in the evaluation and implementation of health promotion interventions.