Recognizing Disparities In Public Health

Master's student Rachele Hurt is uplifting her community through access and resources.

As this year’s Sinegal Fellowship recipient, Rachele Hurt is elated to have been given this award. Not only does it alleviate the stress of financing her education, but it also reaffirms the work she is trying to accomplish in addressing inequities in public health.

The Sinegal Fellowship is awarded to Costco Scholars who graduated from the University of Washington or Seattle University. The fellowship is a 2-year award with a stipend of $10,000 per year.

Rachele grew up in Spokane and is a member of the Spokane tribe, with connections to the Navajo tribe in Arizona. As a member of the tribal community, she saw the disparities Native Americans face when accessing health care, housing, and other necessities.

The disparities Native Americans face, in terms of healthcare, are large and I knew I wanted to do something to change that.
Rachele HurtMaster's of Public Health

Rachele Hurt and Secretary Deb Haaland at NIHB gathering.

In 2020 she worked as a fellow for the National Indian Health Board to help research and write proposals to present to her tribal community. The project focused on access to treatment centers for substance abuse disorders, especially in rural areas where public transportation is non-existent. 

Rachele’s desire to address these disparities led her to her previous role with the Seattle Indian Health Board, working as a case manager. While in this position, she worked with people experiencing homelessness; she specialized in preventative care, helping families who were close to being unhoused and providing them with financial assistance and other resources.   

Rachele is enrolled in her first year of a master’s in public health at UW, focusing on community-oriented public health. In this program, she will work with community partners in various fields.  

“Housing insecurity is deeply complex, and it’s often difficult to access these programs,” said Rachele. 

The impact of working with the unhoused community in Seattle expanded her understanding of being an unhoused person and the struggles people face with daily sweeps and finding shelter. During these sweeps, people are told that shelter will be provided; however, there usually are never enough beds for everyone.

There are also not enough volunteers to ensure each unhoused person can get the correct information to find a bed or shelter.

Rachele Hurt and other fellows at the National Indian Health Board gathering in D.C.

Rachele has also noticed that sweeps cause more damage because people have their belongings taken away and are made to start from nothing once again. “Ideally, everyone would have housing, but more shelters would be a great goal to achieve,” said Rachele. 

Since working with the unhoused community, Rachele has become more empathetic and understanding towards those experiencing homelessness. “I’m more aware of my interactions and have learned patience because you never know what that person’s day has been like,” said Rachele.  

Now she is working on her practicum, which involves studying environmental circumstances and how those influence public health.

This current project evaluates a program in Public Health — Seattle King County of their boxed fan filter distribution and the distribution of those kits during wildfire and smoke season. Her career goal is to one day work with Native Americans, help with Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, or work in housing projects that support people with limited access to resources.

“I am so grateful and feel extremely validated to have won this award. Now I can focus on my schoolwork and finishing up my capstone project,” said Rachele.

 

By Tatiana Rodriguez, UW Graduate School

Published on May 31, 2022