Kirk Dombrowski, Ph.D.

Dombrowski.jpgKirk Dombrowski is the John Bruhn Professor of Sociology and Courtesy Professor of Anthropology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He received his PhD in Cultural Anthropology from the CUNY Graduate Center in 1998 and from 1998-2013 served as Assistant/Associate Professor of Anthropology at John Jay College, CUNY and the CUNY Graduate Center program in Anthropology. His work focuses on addiction and physical/mental health of American Indians/Alaska Natives (AIAN) and HIV epidemiology among injecting drug users in New York and Puerto Rico. He has published two books and more than 100 peer-reviewed papers in journals ranging from Current Anthropologyand Identitiesto Rural Healthand AIDS and Behavior. He has received more than $7million dollars in NIH and NSF support since 2009 as Principal Investigator of UNL’s Research, Evaluation and Analysis for Community Health (REACH) Lab (reach.unl.edu) and the UNL Minority Health Disparities Initiative (mhdi.unl.edu). 

Since 2008, Kirk has worked extensively with stakeholder, government, NGO and community groups to solve real world problems related to community health. This includes early work on HIV outreach with the Brooklyn AIDS Task Force to more recent work on HIV surveillance in Vietnam with the Vietnam Ministry of Health and United Nations AIDS program. In addition, ongoing work with AIAN groups on substance abuse and suicide prevention has resulted in long-term partnerships with the Yup’ik and Inupiat health corporations in Alaska and the Omaha Tribe and Lincoln Indian Center in Nebraska. These manifold partnerships inform an applied perspective to research on surveying, sampling, hidden population estimation, and community-based research (including more recent work on developing systems-dynamics simulation planning tools for HIV prevention in Puerto Rico). As part of SAMHSA’s recent Rural Opioid State Targeted Response program (CSAT/CSAP), Kirk has part of SAMHSA’s outreach and training for state-level grantees, and technical assistance contributor to the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists. This work, and a history of community and collaborative partnerships nationally and internationally over the last decade provide a broad perspective on the work of applied social and behavioral scientists including anthropologists in the area of health, prevention and response. 

Personal statement: I’m one of those social scientists who don’t see a big division between “pure” and “applied” research, nor much of a boundary between the many disciplines involved in solving the more pressing social and behavioral problems of our time. As a member of the Board, I can contribute a perspective that includes work with governments and NGOs, both nationally and internationally, as well as community-based problem solving with communities from Nebraska, Puerto Rico, and Alaska. I have participated in “team science” efforts attached to real world problems, at times contributing fieldwork and everyday life perspectives, while at other times focusing on computation and statistical approaches for groups that normally fall outside of census and survey efforts. I have been a member of numerous NIH funding panels that link social scientists with traditional medical and bench sciences. This has provided me with insight into how anthropologists and other social-behavioral scientists are perceived by these other fields, what strengths and opportunities we can draw from that perception, and where that perception falls short (and needs to be changed). For a new generation of applied anthropologists, my feeling is that there are more opportunities now than ever before. Beyond the perspectives associated with my research experience, I would look forward to lending what expertise I can (as an organizer and/or presenter) on sessions and workshops aimed at introducing younger applied anthropologists to the world of NIH, UN, World Bank, and NGO funding—how it works and what role we can play. With the amount of demand there is out there for applied work, knowledge and understanding of the basic terrain is essential.