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White House invites UCSD student to talk about health equity

Posted at 8:32 PM, Mar 24, 2022

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — A University of California San Diego student's advocacy for health equity among Native Americans has caught the attention of the White House.

Last month, Alec Calac received an email from the White House's Office of Public Engagement inviting him to join their Health Equity Leaders Roundtable series.

"I think I had to kind of step back and say why me? What have I done? And my friends and family remind me of everything that I've done," Calac said.

The Roundtable was formed last year to explore how the federal government could reduce health disparities in the U.S.

Calac is an MD/Ph.D. student at UCSD’s School of Medicine and School of Public Health. He's one of several trainees invited to join a group of experts and leaders in the fields of medicine and public health.

"Really kind of bringing together multiple different sectors to say what are you seeing in the work that you're doing and what is the White House doing to address some of those issues," Calac said.

As a member of the Pauma Band of Luiseño Indians, Calac advocates for policies aimed at supporting American Indians and Alaska Natives.

"Bringing attention to the kind of underfunding of the Indian Health Service, the key agency that provides healthcare to Native American tribes," Calac said.

He said it's important to understand how social determinants of health such as where people live, work, and their access to education impact their well-being.

"When we consider the lower educational attainment of Native Americans, a lack of access to healthcare, the amount of time it takes to get to a doctor... all of these can affect an individual's health," Calac said.

Calac said he gets his passion for public health from his father, who serves as the Medical Director for the Indian Health Council, Inc. in Valley Center.

He hopes to follow in his footsteps after graduation and continue to promote health equity for Indigenous Peoples.

Calac was also named a 40 Under 40 Leader in Minority Health by the National Minority Quality Forum.