MISSOULA – Jacob Horton, like many of his fellow University of Montana military veterans, came to campus with a resume of unique lifetime experiences to apply to his academic studies.
A seven-year U.S. Army veteran, he served on deployments to Afghanistan, the Philippines, Thailand and Korea, not to mention several stateside posts. He developed a humility and lasting call to help those around him during his service as a Black Hawk crew chief, describing it as akin to a “flight attendant.”
This spirit to serve others came to the fore during the pandemic when Horton, a senior majoring in cognitive neuroscience, volunteered through UM’s Health & Medicine program to conduct campus COVID-19 checks. The UMHM program, which acts as a hub for campus science and health care activities, represents over 60 degrees in health care and biomedical science.
Rebekah Skoog, program manager for UMHM, said Horton is one of the most dedicated and reliable students she has worked with in the program.
“Once Jacob decides he wants to do something, he goes for it,” Skoog said.
That included an opportunity for Horton to work as an intern earlier this year at Missoula’s All Nations Health Center, she said. One of 41 Urban Indian Health Programs in the United States, All Nations offers health care services to Missoula’s American Indian and Alaska Native communities.
“I checked on people after their COVID vaccination and signed them up for the CDC’s VSAFE symptom monitoring,” Horton said of his initial work at the center. “Sometimes I was just an ear for people who clearly missed being around others.”
As a member of the Choctaw nation, Horton said he enjoyed the camaraderie talking to members of the Native community.
“Getting to know them has been great,” he said. “Conversation is different in Native communities. Everyone knows everyone.”
Today, Horton is helping with vaccine data entry at the center and eventually will work with a nurse practitioner, giving him opportunities to learn more about medicine, which he hopes to pursue after he graduates from UM.
“I am a senior and could have graduated in the fall, but I added a psychology minor to my studies specifically for medical school,” he said.
Horton credits UM’s Vets Office, led by Daryl Lee, for making the stressful transition from military to college life “effortless.”
“Many times, I’ve sat in Daryl’s office to figure out how best to use my benefits,” said Horton, who is attending UM on the GI Bill. “The school sets veterans up for success, and I would absolutely recommend UM to vets.”
Ultimately, Horton would like to practice medicine for the V.A. or continue his work in Native communities. He and his wife hope to stay in Missoula with their family, which now includes a 2-year-old son.
Thomas McClure, health promotion specialist at All Nations, has no doubt that Horton will succeed wherever his career ambition takes him.
“Jacob will be an asset wherever he lands,” McClure said. “He’s expressed his commitment to work with All Nations Health Center both short and long term, and this speaks to his passion to help improve the health of at-risk populations. We are incredibly thankful to have him at our organization.”
Contact: Dave Kuntz, UM director of strategic communications, 406-243-5659, firstname.lastname@example.org.