Michaela Banks ’16

Michaela Hope

I’ve wanted to be a nurse since I was young. I completed nursing prerequisites while in Running Start, then entered SPU as part of the Quick Admit program trial run, which provided me a guaranteed place in the nursing program and allowed me to graduate in three years rather than four.

Initially, I thought I wanted to go into pediatrics, but I was surprised by how little I enjoyed acute care. Being in the hospital, I felt I couldn’t be my best professional self. I was looking for relationship, prevention, and empowerment, but not sure where those fit into our healthcare system.

During my community health rotation senior year, I was placed with Neighborcare, a nonprofit community health organization with clinics around Seattle, and I loved it! In this setting, I was challenged to develop a breadth of clinical skills ranging from diabetes counseling to wound care to sexual health. I continued through graduation, then accepted a position to work as a primary care nurse in the same clinic immediately out of college.

Working closely with underserved communities was very impactful — it changed much of how I had grown up seeing the world. Collaboration with and opportunities to listen to those who were living the experiences of incarceration, homelessness, and substance use disorder forced me to contend with the systemic factors that were outside of individual control. It was beyond the over-simplified binary of good and bad choices that had so long been my professional and religious lens.

My husband later got a job in Denmark, and while abroad I pursued a Master’s in Public Health at the University of Liverpool. The program was 100% online, so I worked with classmates from all over the world, learning about the complex ways that our policies, countries, race, class, and zip code affect our lived experience. Around this time, I also began reading and learning about systemic oppression in the U.S..

In January 2020, shortly after returning to the states, I joined the Communicable Disease and Epidemiology Section at King County as a Public Health Nurse. When COVID-19 hit, I observed what I had been studying: disparate experiences of this new virus, disparate access to resources, racial scapegoating, and distributive injustice, and it all affected health outcomes. All of this was not unrelated to the violence against Asian Americans, nor the police brutality against Black Americans. That summer I started Sweet Sweet Justice, a fundraiser for social justice organizations, to reconcile my powerlessness and grief.

In fall of 2020, I moved into the role of program manager to support homeless service sites, and in that role built an outbreak response for correctional facilities, as well as a program to partner with community engagement teams across Public Health. That is the work I continue to do.

donna kang

Donna Kang’s Story

“I never thought I would be where I am now. After graduating from nursing school, I was certain I was done with school forever. Yet, here I am ten years later about to graduate with a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree.”