Since Kristan Elwell began her work, she has dedicated her life to health equity. She joined NAU’s Center for Health Equity Research four years ago after earning her doctorate in sociocultural anthropology from Michigan State University.
Elwell also has a master’s degree in applied cultural anthropology from Northern Arizona University and a master’s degree in public health from the University of Arizona.
As a PhD student, she conducted ethnographic research through the University of Malawi, College of Medicine on the impact of gender inequities on access to HIV/AIDS treatment in Malawi, SSA. She now mentors two NAU students from Malawi who are working on their master’s degree in Sustainable Communities.
These students are examining gender empowerment initiatives and the gendered impact of climate change on women’s experience of domestic violence in rural Malawi. Elwell has also taught field-based courses in Global Health in San Jose, Belize.
She said that in Belize, she witnessed health inequities among certain ethnic groups unable to access needed medical treatment.
“From these experiences, I had a desire to address the gender inequities that severely limited pregnant women’s access to HIV/AIDS treatment at a time when ARVs (antiretroviral drugs) were free of charge,” Elwell said.
During her time at CHER and her time at NAU earning her master’s degree, she worked to address health equity issues in the area of maternal and child health to prevent cancer, HIV/AIDS, substance use, and early childhood caries.
For the past three years, she has worked as a co-investigator on a clinical trial to address early childhood caries among Native American children. She also taught courses for the Department of Health Sciences along with mentoring students.
Starting this semester, Elwell is now working full time as an assistant clinical professor in the Department of Health Sciences.
“We loved having Kristan work with us in CHER – initially as a postdoctoral fellow and then as an assistant research professor,” said Regents’ Professor Julie Baldwin, director of CHER. “She is so dedicated to combatting health disparities and working with underserved communities. We are going to miss her greatly, but know that she will be a wonderful assistant professor in the Department of Health Sciences, and we hope that she will continue to do some research with us in CHER when time permits.”