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Born in Juneau to parents who were teachers in the winter and fished commercially in the summer, Joerene Savikko Hout’s elementary and high school years were spent in Ketchikan. When her parents were away fishing, she lived with Anna Rosenblad in the Tsimshian Indian Village. Anna, a widowed mother with seven children was instrumental in Joerene’s choice of profession. As a young girl, she observed the difference in health care and social acceptance. Three of the Rosenblad children were congenitally deaf and four had no physical disability. Some were allowed to attend the Ketchikan public schools and others had to attend the Indian school.
Achieving her B.S. in Nursing from the University of Washington in 1957, Joerene had interned at Firland’s Sanitarium in Seattle, a hospital for Native tuberculosis and special needs patients. Joerene discovered young patients who had no idea where their parents were and found they were often placed in foster homes rather than returned to their villages because of lost records and lack of communication in the health system.
Becoming a public health nurse, Joerene was determined to be a catalyst for change in how Native people were treated in the public health system. When she discovered that many children were taken from their village homes and transported to Anchorage or Seattle for medical care by the public health service without consent forms or informing the parents of the children’s location and condition, she was determined to be the liaison to assure and secure travel rights for one parent to accompany the child. Joerene became an advocate to reconnect children with parents.
Returning to Juneau in 1957, Joerene became a school nurse for Juneau-Douglas School District. As a public health nurse at Fairbanks Health Center (1961-1963), she volunteered to teach evening pre-natal classes to couples expecting their first child, and taught home care for families with a disabled family member. As the first itinerant public health nurse in Bethel (1963-1976), she founded the Bethel Prematernal Home to dramatically reduce the death rate of mothers and children in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. In 1963, there were two maternal deaths each month. After the Prematernal Home was established, there were no deaths from childbirth in 10 years. In the Prematernal Home expectant mothers could stay prior to their children’s births – whether or not they had money – and receive medical care and learn to care for their babies.
Joerene brought creative educational programs to Alaska to assist employers in understanding needs, qualifications and modifying techniques to help men and women with disabilities do their jobs well. She chaired the Governor’s Committee on Employment of Persons with Disabilities under both Gov. Hammond and Gov. Sheffield. Between 1982 and 1984, she was secretary and chairman of the National Conference of Governors Committees on Employment of the Handicapped as well as serving on the President’s Committee in planning and the executive board.
Induction ceremony acceptance speech https://youtu.be/ShDKfnC4wHc