Profile: Sandi Pruitt

1998 Public Health Researcher

Sandi Pruitt works to get to the bottom of some of health care’s most vexing social problems: the reasons why certain populations don’t get the medical treatment they need.

Pruitt is a research instructor of medicine at the Washington University School of Medicine’s Division of Health Behavior Research in St. Louis, Mo. While she was an undergraduate at Evergreen—where she says she “was interested in studying health issues across different cultures”—she entertained the notion of becoming a midwife and a doctor. Eventually, she realized she was more interested in working with populations than individuals.

She enrolled in graduate school at the University of Texas Houston Health Science Center's School of Public Health, where she analyzed—and published journal articles about—such concerns as media coverage of emergency contraception and geographic disparities in the prevalence of adolescent girls being vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV), the primary cause of cervical cancer. Her dissertation probed the relationship between socioeconomic status and cancer screening. In 2008, Pruitt received her doctorate in behavioral science and health promotion.

After completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the Washington University School of Medicine, Pruitt joined the school’s faculty. She is expanding her earlier HPV work and continuing to study geographic, socioeconomic, and racial health inequalities. She recently received a three-year career development award to document regional disparities in late-stage colorectal cancer across the United States and determine the role other factors, such as diagnostic delays, play in those disparities.

Pruitt says Evergreen’s emphasis on social justice, which gave her the ability to explore issues of inequality, “is critical to what I do everyday. There are rampant disparities in health care in the U.S. One of my main motivations comes from a social justice perspective. I’m doing my little part to identify and clarify what the inequalities are so that we can move towards doing something about them.”