Monday, June 24, 2024

Hinton native helps create the Student Association for Rural Health at the University of Iowa

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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KTIV) – According to the U.S. Census, approximately one-third of Iowa’s population lives in rural areas.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be away from the busy cities but it comes sometimes at the cost of a lack of health care close by.

A Hinton, Iowa native and University of Iowa graduate student says she wants to change the narrative for rural healthcare opportunities in Iowa.

“When you find something that you’re passionate about, no matter where you come from, you have a voice,” said Masters of Health Administration Candidate Hallie Vonk.

Hallie Vonk is graduating from the University of Iowa this May.

Vonk was raised in Hinton, Iowa, she realized she grew up with a different point of view on healthcare and accessibility.

“There were about five of us who realized that our experience with healthcare was a lot different than what other people had experienced. So we had all grown up in small towns, ” Vonk explained.

Vonk understood what it meant to grow up rural, so a big part of her time at the school was creating the Student Association for Rural Health (SARH).

“It was a ground roots effort, just from students that had an interest and passion in rural health,” said Vonk.

It’s an organization that provides learning opportunities for students while also raising awareness about the health and healthcare needs of rural communities to students at the University of Iowa.

“So growing up in Hinton, I would say was culturally rural, but close enough to Sioux City where it wasn’t necessarily a rural area compared to some of what my classmates had experienced. But regardless, what we were learning in our schooling was that rural residents had poor health outcomes just because there were a lot of barriers to accessing health care,” added Vonk.

Barriers like transportation, lack of insurance, shortage of workforce and migration of potential employers picking urban areas rather than rural ones.

The last two years for Vonk have been filled with deep discussions, field trips, networking, volunteering and working to engage students with more opportunities in rural healthcare.

“A lot of the students that are coming to Iowa, might have grown up in a very small town. What we’re trying to do is reinvigorate that passion and inspire students to move back to their hometown and to care for their family and their neighbors and give them tell him that most certainly poured into them while they were growing up,” explained Vonk.

Vonk along with two other students on the first executive team have found a place for future students to connect grow, and work to meet the needs of rural communities encouraging others to take a job back in their hometowns.

“You can share that passion and voice with others/ the joys and the opportunities of rural health care, and that’s been quite an enriching experience for my graduate studies,” said Vonk.

Vonk will be graduating from the University of Iowa on Friday, May 10 cheering on other upcoming students wanting to land a career in rural healthcare. She is passing the baton to other leaders for the Student Association for Rural Health to continue encouraging others to prioritize rural health.

If you are interested in learning more about SARH, email

Follow along for updates from SARH on LinkedIn by clicking here.

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