Julia Swanson

Family Medicine, Valley Medical Center

About Me

I grew up in the close-knit community of Brownsville, Washington, the daughter of a public health educator and a librarian. Their careers inspired me to become a physician. I see my future as a rural family physician parallel to the work that they have accomplished—creating thriving communities by embracing, promoting, and providing access to many aspects of health.

While in college, I baked bread each week raising money for and volunteering with community partners to address social inequities in the Inland Empire. This experience brought me face-to-face with the fact that social identity is one of the strongest determinants of health. Many of our partners were fighting for access to basic human necessities—clean water, clean air and nutritious food. Through this work, I began to understand the privilege that had been woven into my upbringing. These experiences grounded my mission to use that privilege to improve the lives of those furthest from health access.

After college, I coordinated a program that fosters youth empowerment through cycling in underserved schools within the greater Seattle-Tacoma region. One of the students I worked with wanted to join our bike club, but had never ridden a bike before. I worked with Lul every week in the parking lot after school until she was able to ride on her own. During a ride one day, her skirt became tangled in the spokes of her bike. This was a scary moment for all of us and she was understandably shaken. As a young Islamic woman, she wore a traditional hijab and a long skirt. I showed her how to tie back her skirt and the next week I wore a skirt to our bike club in solidarity. Young women of color like Lul rarely, if ever, see themselves represented in the cycling world. My role was to show that the act of cycling belonged to anyone and everyone.

I learned first-hand what equity means. In that moment, Lul needed special care. She needed the acceptance of her identity as a muslim woman in a western country and a solution that responded to this identity, rather than a requirement that she adapt to the often narrow margins of cycling culture. This experience grounded my mission to improve people’s lives not only through providing access to health resources, but also by working to transform the system and the culture of healthcare so that race, class, gender identity, and other identities are not barriers to high health standards.

My medical school journey

I was drawn to WSU for its mission to serve as a leader and advocate for the needs of communities in Washington. I embraced the opportunity to serve as a student trustee for the Washington Academy of Family Physicians. In wanting to support my peers’ exploration of family medicine, I joined the leadership team of our Family Medicine Interest Group and LGBTQI+ Interest Group. I sought opportunities to become a better advocate for patients outside of the clinic through community organizing, political lobbying, and reproductive health initiatives at local public schools.

Hopes & Aspirations

I want to become a full spectrum family physician serving in a rural Washington community. Rural family medicine is where I see myself having the greatest impact on structural barriers to health. First, by providing care to those who are critically underserved. Second, by using my public health background to address community concerns.