April 08, 2016

Public health graduate gives back to her community

While at St. Kate's, Khaonou Vang ’13 studied in Bolivia, where she helped establish an electronic database for Bolivian nursing students. Photo by Mary Hearst.

National Public Health Week (NPHW) 2016 takes place April 4–10. This year’s “Healthiest Nation 2030” campaign call to actions says, “It’s not enough to provide access to quality health care. We also need to build safe, healthy communities with a foundation of social justice for all.”

St. Kate’s public health alum Khaonou Vang ’13 lives out this duty as a care coordinator and targeted case manager at Resource Inc, where she provides people access to a better and healthier lives.

Paying it forward

Vang works with individuals who have different struggles from chemical dependency to mental illness. Through Resource Inc., she provides services to better their lives by helping arrange stable housing, job searching and training. “When I meet with my clients, we talk about hopes and dreams and what they want to accomplish. Their goals aren’t just for themselves, but also for their community and how they will give back,” she says.

Vang strives to give back to her community in a meaningful way because she says, “without them I wouldn’t be where I am today.” Her parents came to Minnesota as immigrants who spoke no English, but through community outreach they were able to gain access to services that helped them and their children attain a better life.

Katie educated

Even before graduation, Vang set out to make a difference in public health. As a student, she collaborated with Mary Hearst, director of public health, to set up an electronic database for Bolivian Nursing students. This system enables the nurses to keep records of patient information more effectively.

“Learning about how diversity and history impact us as a community and whole culture is important, because the people who I serve today are individuals living in poverty and their whole families have lived and come from poverty,” she says.

Vang says public health is about both the individual and the community, and has a ripple effect. “It’s hard to help anybody else when you have no food or shelter. What’s important is getting the services individuals need so that they can in turn give back to everybody else, because that’s how the world should be.”

To achieve NPHW’s goal of making the U.S. the healthiest nation by 2030, Vang offers this tip: “Stop judging the world, take care of yourself and contribute.”

By Alyssa Brisson ’16