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A stronger voice, a new beginning
by Matt Jardin |
Tia Hale used to think she missed an opportunity to do two things when her family relocated to Oregon in 1997: attend UAA, where she roamed the halls as a kid during summer camps, and work at the current Alaska Native Medical Center (ANMC), which she watched being built before her family’s move.
“If you asked me 10 years ago if I would be back in Anchorage, I would have said that I want to but don't know how that would happen,” said Hale. “Now that it’s real, I'm so happy for me, for my family, for my community and for my tribe. I feel like a salmon that left and returned home.”
Born in Anchorage, Hale’s parents worked at ANMC prior to the opening of its new campus in Anchorage’s U-Med District in 1997. Her father was chief operating officer while also serving as a captain with the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service, and her mother worked as a secretary in maternal child health.
After finishing high school in Beaverton, Hale enrolled at Oregon State University in Corvallis and graduated with an undergrad degree in exercise sports science. She planned on a career in athletics that peripherally connected to her heritage of health care professionals. As time went on, the call to not only pursue nursing grew stronger, but to also return to Alaska.
“When I moved back, I realized how much more influence I had and how much more my voice could carry,” said Hale. “I had more of a sense of purpose. I knew this was where I needed to be to make a difference.”
Before returning home, Hale earned a nursing undergrad degree from George Fox University. She worked in Salem, Oregon, and Spokane, Washington, before moving back to Anchorage with her husband in 2017. Once home and perhaps making up for lost time, she quickly checked off both the opportunities she feared she missed: landing a position at ANMC in the labor and delivery wing and enrolling at UAA to become a family nurse practitioner.
Additionally, desiring to be more connected to her mother’s tribe, Hale joined the Eklutna Community Clinic as chairman where she worked with tribal leaders to chart the future of their clinic while addressing the public health needs of their community. Her expertise and leadership have been especially helpful while navigating the COVID-19 pandemic and the constant challenges and new norms associated with it.
“I never considered myself a leader,” said Hale. “But [at UAA] we talked about our roles as nurse practitioners and how we have to take leadership roles to make change. It’s an honor to stand with a community that provides so much support to the state and is willing to invest in us.”
This August, Hale will begin a new dream job at Southcentral Foundation in inpatient pediatrics. She has also taken a page from her father’s book and applied to join the Commissioned Corps as a public health officer.
As the spring 2022 graduate degree hooding ceremony student speaker, Hale hopes that her story — changing career paths, moving away, returning home, and raising two children while pursuing a graduate degree — provides her classmates with a sense of shared optimism about the path ahead.
“We're all going to make a huge difference with this new beginning because of what we've had to face in the last three years,” said Hale. “That's exciting for us individually, for our families and for our community, and so I'm excited to be part of that.”