Influencing Indigenous Health Equity in Social Media Research and Medicine | news center

student of the SDSU-UCSD Joint Doctoral Program tackles health disparities in American Indian and Alaska Native communities as a medical student and Ph.D. Candidate.

alec calac The Puma Band of Luiseño Indians is not identified as an indigenous dominant figure. But her research on the impact of social media on health disparities among Aboriginal youth and indigenous populations and minority communities has attracted national attention from influential leaders in education, politics and medicine.

“I always think about how my work can help my community and vice versa,” says the third-year medical student and Ph.D. Calac said. candidate at San Diego State University joint doctoral program (JDP) in Global Health with the University of California San Diego. “My research focuses on medical education and workforce development, tribal public health, vaccine hesitancy, the spread of misinformation, and the use of social media.”

calac’s latest research publication And the academic presentation examined genomic blockchain applications and social media surveillance of “traditional tobacco” in Indigenous communities. Traditional tobacco refers to a mixture of tobacco and other plants grown, harvested, and used for ceremonial or medicinal purposes by American Indians and Alaska Natives.

“Technological advances have enabled the rapid generation of health and genomic data, though rarely do these technologies account for the values ​​and priorities of marginalized communities,” Calak said.

In most marginalized communities, public health priorities often coincide with historical oppression and poverty. Native Americans suffer from the highest poverty rates of any major racial group in the country, according to Poverty USA data, with one in four tribal members in the U.S. living below the federal poverty threshold, meaning a household of four Have an income of less than $27,500 annually.

The implications are staggering considering that over seventy million people, or about 2% of the entire country’s population, American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN), according to the US Census Bureau. California is home to 750,000 tribal members, and San Diego County has 18 Native American reservations, including the Puma Band of Luiseño Indians in North County’s Puma Valley. But, most of the area’s 25,000 tribal members do not live on reservations.

Calac grew up with his family in El Cajon and Escondido. His father Dr. Daniel Calac, He graduated from SDSU in 1995 and became the first physician to the local Pauma Band of Luiseño Indians, whom Calc inspired from an early age.

“My family has always demonstrated to me the importance of serving the community and other people. I can’t see a better way to live,” said Calac. But he saw a lack of representation in the textbooks.

“When there is no meaningful inclusion of Native American determinants of health in the curriculum, you are often forced to be the textbook,” he continued. “Your peers look to you for answers, which can be a burden when you’re one of the only students in your class with that identity.”

Now, as president of the National Association of Native American Medical Students, Calac continually advocates for and supports the enrollment of Indigenous students in medical schools.

“Representation matters. Health outcomes are better when Native American doctors serve Native American patients. In addition, we are more likely to fill physician vacancies in our communities.

although he is still busy graduate and medical student, Calac’s research and work in advancing Indigenous inclusivity has earned him national recognition. Among the many awards she received in 2022, Calac was named a “40 Under 40” Leader in Minority Health by the National Minority Quality Forum and was selected as a member of the White House Leaders in Health Equality Roundtable Series.

“The Health Equity Roundtable is a unique opportunity that brings health, technology and innovation professionals together to address the social determinants of healthcare,” said Calac. “It’s an immersive experience to learn about health disparity issues and what the White House is doing about new health policies.”

Calac received his Ph.D. And a medical degree in the next few years. Afterwards, he stated that he wanted to continue to influence and change health priorities, practices, and policies for AIANs and minority communities.

“I hope to have a career in health policy and share my time as a community-focused clinician-scientist between the clinic and the academic community.”

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