Health Equity Challenge finalist Samantha Deveaux

Coming from a low-income community of color, I personally witnessed how generations of systemic racism and economic corruption have led to a powerful mistrust in the health care system.

My Black grandmother was one of many who did not receive the medical attention she needed or deserved and passed away incredibly young from stage IV cervical cancer. Before her passing, my grandmother would share her struggles with accessing quality care. She shared plenty of occasions where she faced challenges not only in finding a doctor but also in being taken seriously. The medical information was confusing, her providers looked nothing like her, and she felt dismissed.

Entering college, I realized I wanted to delve deeper into the challenges of communities like mine rather than leave them. I wanted to use what I experienced to my advantage in my academic and professional public health journey. Although I am not originally from L.A., the community struggles I have seen reflect my own back home in Florida. Volunteering with the UCLA Mobile Clinic Project allowed me to be on the ground floor of supporting those who are unhoused and witnessing the impact that it has on people’s lives and the communities they’re a part of. The struggles of the people and their community reminded me of my grandmother, and it inspired me to want to make a difference in a community reminiscent of mine.

“Before her passing, my grandmother would share her struggles with accessing quality care. She shared plenty of occasions where she faced challenges not only in finding a doctor but also in being taken seriously. The medical information was confusing, her providers looked nothing like her, and she felt dismissed.

As a first-year MPH student in the Department of Health Policy and Management and a 2024 UCLA Health Equity Challenge finalist, I developed an idea for a specialized training initiative, “Maternal Methods: Empowering Pregnant Support in the Community.” The training program is designed to enhance the knowledge and skills of workforce members working with unhoused pregnant women, with a focus on Black women, in the South Los Angeles area. Providers should meet patients where they are, and I hope to highlight that mindset within the training program.

Within the past year alone, L.A. County has seen a 20% increase in the number of unhoused pregnant women, and the population continues to grow. Both health care providers and community health workers frequently interact with unhoused pregnant women, emphasizing the importance of ensuring that they receive the quality care that they deserve. The population within L.A. is incredibly diverse, and it’s important that providers can provide patients with inclusive and empathetic care.

My goal and hope for my project is to create a supportive environment where unhoused pregnant women, especially ethnic minorities, feel empowered to access high-quality health care from equitable providers. The goal of the program is to support those completing the training to gain practical skills and knowledge that address health care disparities and foster a culture of health equity and cultural sensitivity.

I felt that it was crucial to develop a program that meets the specific needs of unhoused pregnant women in South Los Angeles and collaborate with local community organizations for sustained impact. I could have thought of no better opportunity to make this important change than during the UCLA Health Equity Challenge.

    Samantha Deveaux


    By Samantha Deveaux

    2024 Health Equity Challenge Finalist
    Samantha Deveaux is currently a first-year student pursuing a Master of Public Health in the Health Policy and Management program at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.

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