It’s not very often that you come across a person who has a juris doctorate, a bachelor’s in psychology, a bachelor’s in sociology with a minor in statistics, and who is now completing a master’s of public health and a doctoral degree in interdisciplinary health with an emphasis in health equity.
Yet Carolyn “Carly” Camplain not only holds all of these degrees, and is working toward her doctorate, but she has also maintained dean’s list honors and academic scholarships along the way.
To honor all of her outstanding work, the Northern Arizona University Graduate College named her the NAU Graduate Student of the Month for November.
During the last five years while working full time as a senior program coordinator and carrying a full course load, Camplain has collaborated on more than a dozen grants and projects at the Center for Health Equity Research (CHER). She also has authored or co-authored almost 20 papers that are now either published or under review.
Camplain said her colleagues at CHER and her twin sister, Ricky, who also works as an assistant professor at CHER and NAU’s Department of Health Sciences, encouraged her to apply for the doctoral program.
“All of her personal and professional experiences have positioned her extremely well to be an incredible public health professional,” Ricky Camplain said. “The passion she has for social justice and health equity for all people make her perfect for a program like this.”
Carly Camplain said that while attending the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law Arizona State University, she saw that law, especially for those who faced systemic challenges, needed the balance of science to interpret it.
“I had been a research scientist prior to attending law school. I have a strong belief that the law should incorporate scientific strategies and methods,” Camplain said. “I thought that a PhD would ‘force’ people to take me seriously when I discussed the idea of integration of law and science. With encouragement from my sister and everyone at CHER, I applied and haven’t looked back.”
Camplain’s doctoral work now revolves around COVID-19 in US prisons.
Choosing law backed by science
“Specifically, I am looking at how healthcare and prevention policies affect COVID-19 outcomes,” she said. “Using legal epidemiology methods, I will be comparing policy implementation and change data to national prison testing data.”
Camplain said that after she finishes her doctorate, her goal is to integrate science into public health law. She said her dream job would be a dual appointment focusing on law as a social and structural determinant of health.
“The health equity issues that I’m drawn to have evolved over the years. I’ve found my passion focusing on Indigenous and incarcerated health equity issues,” Camplain said. “Both populations are often invisible, even in health equity movements.”
“Working at CHER has exposed me to a diversity of health equity issues and individuals passionate about these issues with creative ways to address them,” she continued. “The team at CHER has really been instrumental in honing my research interests and the health equity issues I want to focus on.”
Finding strength and wisdom in family
In addition to her CHER and SHERC family, she said her parents and sister were the most influential people in her life.
“My mom has shaped me to care about others, my dad has shaped me to be a fighter, my sister has shaped me to be a scientist, and I have been fortunate enough to be shaped by so many people, especially at CHER, to be a health equity activist,” she said.
Camplain said that in times of stress or adversity, she can hear the voice of her father, whose roots are in the Comanche tribe and who was a football coach for 28 years.
“My dad is the best pep-talk giver around. He has told me before — and it has always stuck with me — ‘You’re a warrior, you have warrior blood, keep fighting,’” she said. “My dad has always said to keep fighting. Never quit. Never give up. I think the work ethic and drive my parents instilled in me has been my driving force since I was young.”
Not only is Camplain academically successful, but she also sits on a half dozen boards and working groups, and also volunteers at the Coconino County Detention Center. She has volunteered at the Phoenix Rescue Mission, the Homeless Legal Assistance Program, the Boys and Girls Club and other organizations where she has been a mentor and a teacher. Ricky Camplain said that with her sister’s accomplishments, Carly will achieve “incredible” things.
“I have never met anyone more committed to helping others, whether in her professional or personal life,” Ricky Camplain said. “If someone needs help with anything, she is the first to volunteer.”