Stanford alumna named a 2012 Gates Cambridge Scholar

A Stanford alumna who is the executive director of a tutoring and mentoring program for middle school students in Palo Alto is one of 40 Americans recently selected as 2012 Gates Cambridge Scholars.

Sarah Mummah portrait

Sarah Mummah

Sarah Mummah, '10, who earned a bachelor's degree with honors in human biology, with a self-designed concentration in addressing inequities in health and education through social interventions, has been named a 2012 Gates Cambridge Scholar.

The Gates Cambridge Scholarships enable exemplary students from outside the United Kingdom to pursue graduate studies in any subject at the University of Cambridge. She plans to conduct research examining approaches to new health behavior changes through Cambridge's recently established Behaviour and Health Research Unit.

Mummah was one of 40 Americans selected for 2012 scholarships by the Gates Cambridge Trust. The new scholars are outstanding men and women who are intellectually stellar, likely to be future leaders and committed to improving the lives of others.

Mummah, 23, of Atherton, Calif., will pursue a master's in public health at Cambridge.

Currently, Mummah is the executive director of DreamCatchers, a nonprofit she founded as a Stanford undergraduate in 2008 that aims to build a highly effective afterschool model for improving the health and education outcomes of low-income middle school students.

DreamCatcher's Academic Program provides students with tutoring, mentorship and study skills coaching, while its Health Behaviors Program provides healthy snacks, nutrition education and family cooking classes.

Under Mummah's leadership, the nonprofit has received several awards, including a Community Star Award from the City of Palo Alto Mayor and, most recently, a U.S. Congressional Certificate of Recognition.

During her senior year at Stanford, Mummah conducted her honors thesis on a randomized controlled nutrition trial under the guidance of Associate Professor Christopher Gardner in the Stanford Prevention Research Center at the School of Medicine. She served as lead author on the manuscript currently under review for publication.

After graduating from Stanford, Mummah conducted public health research in Oaxaca, Mexico, during the 2010-2011 academic year under a Fulbright Grant.

"In the indigenous community of San Andrés Zautla, I met a traveling dance troupe of elderly women," Mummah wrote in her Gates Scholar application.

"Although they had initially formed the group to reclaim their indigenous heritage, in time, they had come to value the strength and physical vitality that dancing and exercise gave their bodies. These women unknowingly embodied a new approach at the forefront of the field that I had studied at Stanford: a 'stealth' intervention, grounded in behavior-change theories that engage people in healthy behaviors using motivations apart from health. Instead of focusing on outcome motivators such as weight loss, which can easily become discouraging, this group focused on process motivators – such as pride in reclaiming their culture and the joy of social interaction – to create sustainable and meaningful changes in health behaviors."

In her Gates Scholar application, Mummah said she intends to "champion a new approach to obesity prevention exemplified by these women, by building a series of highly effective health-behavior change interventions designed to usher in a paradigm shift in the way we tackle our obesity crisis, both domestically and abroad."

The Gates Cambridge Scholarship program, established in 2000, was funded by a $210 million donation by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. More than 1,000 Gates Scholars from nearly 100 countries have received scholarships since 2001.