MPH alum is committed to community health

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Katie Hart

MPH alum is committed to community health

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Meet Health Hero Katie Hart, MPH '23

Inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic, Katie Hart earned a Master of Public Health degree, focused on health systems and policy, in 2023.

What inspired you to pursue a master of public health?

At the start of the pandemic, I was working as a community health worker and predominantly doing social service work. I had the opportunity to begin working as a field lead with OSU’s TRACE COVID-19 project and quickly grew interested in the impacts of social determinants of health on resource access and the disparate health outcomes of people infected with COVID-19.  

Working with Oregon State students and faculty inspired me to explore a graduate degree in public health, and OSU felt like the obvious choice for me after seeing the expansive and community-based work conducted through the college.

Tell us about your time at Oregon State and in the college. Is there someone who helped you be successful?

The faculty at Oregon State encouraged me to push myself and engage in coursework outside of my area of expertise.  

My advisor, the epidemiology faculty, and the School of Public Policy faculty all supported me in designing a degree path that reflected my interests and allowed me to stretch myself — do math — to become a more well-rounded student and professional.  

I am especially grateful to Annie Hommel, Jeff Bethel and Mark Edwards for their encouragement and support.

What challenges did you overcome along your academic journey?

One of the most difficult parts of my academic journey was balancing the competing priority of maintaining a full-time career in public health.  

I was able to leverage what I was learning in the classroom by applying biostatistics principles to better understand statistically significant population-level health indicators or bioethics frameworks to consider how to address limited resource allocation in rural communities.  

I also made friends with my local baristas and relied on many quad-shot lattes to power through.  

Were you involved in any organizations or clubs when on campus?

I was involved with the University Legislative Scholars program through the School of Public Policy, a super fun and unique program that allows students to engage with the Oregon policymaking process and better understand how legislation is shaped and enacted.  

I was also involved with the MPH Ambassador program through the College of Health.

What is your current position, and what was your career progression? What do you enjoy most about your career in community health?

I am currently the community engagement manager at Umpqua Health Alliance, a coordinated care organization that serves the Medicaid population in Douglas County.  

I came into this role after spending two years in non-profit social service work, a year in COVID-19 response through my Local Public Health Authority, and two years managing the Traditional Health Worker program through the Eastern Oregon Coordinated Care Organization.  

I really enjoy the opportunities I have had to work closely with community-based organizations and see their passion for the health and well-being of their community.  

A large part of my role is to conduct a countywide Community Health Assessment and Community Health Improvement Plan, a multi-year project that centers health equity to address health needs and the social determinants of health across the region.  

I love this project because it allows me to blend my passion for community-based work with assessment and evaluation tools, letting me leverage my Oregon State education to take on big and complex problems and identify creative solutions.

If you could deliver a message to future students, what would you say?

I would encourage future students to keep an open mind coming into their graduate education. You never know which classes, concepts or problems might be exciting to you!  

Public health is an omnipresent field with endless career pathways, and I would urge future students to connect with faculty and staff to ask for guidance or opportunities; they’re incredibly thoughtful and well-connected.