Washington, D.C. is a very long way from the Santa Ana Pueblo in the Four Corners area of Colorado/New Mexico/Utah/Arizona. But not too far for Joaquin Gallegos, a CU Denver student, who grew up in the Southwest as a member of the the Jicarilla Apache Nation.
Earlier this month, Gallegos, a senior majoring in Public Health, and his mother traveled to the nation’s capitol where he was recognized as a Champion for Change by the Aspen Institute’s Center for Native American Youth. He joined four other young Native Americans also being honored.
“I am honored to be recognized by the Aspen Institute for my involvement in the important endeavors of the Centers for American Indians and Alaska Native Health,” Gallegos said. “For me this is not employment but rather a responsibility to serve my Native People.”
While in Washington, Gallegos was invited to present information to the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Native American Affairs-The White House and The National Congress of American Indians regarding Federal Indian Health law and policy.
When he’s not in classes or pursuing his studies, Gallegos works in the Centers for American Indian and Alaska Native Health on the Anschutz Medical Campus.
Gallegos decided to attend CU “because of the support I received from the American Indian Student Services Program. Without this program, I probably would not have attended college. Additionally, the Integrative Department of Biology, Department of Health & Behavioral Sciences, and the Centers for American Indian and Alaska Native Health at the Anschutz Medical Campus have been instrumental in my progress academically and professionally.”
Next year after graduation, Gallegos intends to begin dental school. “Through my internship and eventual employment at the Center for Native Oral Health Research I have come to garner a deep interest in oral health, specifically in the Native population. Being involved in clinical trials, observational studies, and pilot studies as an undergraduate student are experiences I am deeply grateful for.”