Carissa Sherman ’21 took first place in the undergraduate category of the Arkansas Medical Dental & Pharmaceutical Association’s recent student essay contest.
A molecular biology major from Tucson, Arizona, Sherman won with her essay, “Bordering on Hopeless: Social Justice in Healthcare.”
Sherman, who is Diné and serves as co-chair of CC’s Native American Student Union, explores various social determinants that affect the physical and mental health disparities among Indigenous peoples. She also addresses social justice practices that can be implemented to improve healthcare for marginalized communities.
In the essay, she argues there are severe health disparities that are influencing the concerning levels of COVID-19 cases and deaths among Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, who have been disproportionately affected by the virus. In several populations, including Indigenous populations, historical trauma (events with genocidal intent that occurred to a group of people and their environment) and poverty affect mental and physical health.
“Social justice in healthcare is decreasing the health and healthcare disparities experienced by marginalized peoples,” writes Sherman.
“It is understanding the oppressions and powers of one’s intersectional identities — and the history (and historical trauma) that created and maintains these health inequities. It is being sensitive and valuing the culture and its practitioners. Social justice in healthcare is having the ability to seek medical attention without hindrance from any type of discrimination, be it race, income, gender, sexual orientation, and ability.”
Sherman plans to continue her studies in molecular biology and anthropology after graduation. She hopes to better understand the effects of health inequities and how to treat/heal/lessen these inequities.