University of ArizonaNorton School of Family and Consumer Sciences

Tommy K. Begay, PhD, MPH

Research Associate
Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine
Family Studies and Human Development
650 N Park Ave
Tucson, Arizona 85721-0078
(520) 621-4009

Tommy K. Begay, PhD, MPH, is a Research Associate in the Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine, and the Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences. His research interests include utilizing cultural-historical psychology to assess the impact of cultural patterns on mind-body health and wellness. The interdisciplinary approach of cultural-historical psychology takes into consideration the fusion of culture, biology and history (development) to gain insight into contemporary health and wellness. Dr. Begay is especially interested in assessing the impact of historical trauma on brain-body pathways and the subsequent patterns of disease-promoting behaviors among Native American people and Indigenous populations throughout the world. He is also interested in assessing the intergenerational transmission of adverse childhood experiences (e.g., childhood abuse and trauma) in relation to adult pathophysiology and psychopathology.

Dr. Begay serves as laboratory coordinator for Dr. Charles Raison's research team. In this capacity, he is part of a multi-University collaboration team that utilizes biochemistry laboratory techniques to isolate specific stress-response biomarkers for analysis and assay. These biomarkers are associated with specific autonomic pathways and biological mechanisms to provide information relative to inflammation, depression, immune function, and disease processes associated with chronic stress. This information may also be used to identify determinants of positive health and wellness.

Dr. Begay is currently pursuing the design and implementation of methodologies for assessing emotional, social and biological effects of Native American spiritual practices. He is also exploring the healing properties of natural and environmental influences - sacred spaces and built environments - on mental, physical, and emotional health. As part of this effort, he spends time working at a residential substance abuse rehabilitation center, facilitating group sessions that address issues of substance abuse and mental health. These sessions include the use of traditional Native American wellness concepts and practices.

Dr. Begay has a Master of Public Health degree, with a focus on International Health, from the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, University of Arizona. He obtained his doctorate in Cultural Psychology from the Department of Language, Reading and Culture, College of Education, University of Arizona. He is an Affiliated Faculty Member of the University of Arizona Cancer Center. Dr. Begay also has extensive experience as a Program Director, Lecturer and Academic Advisor.

Research Focus: 

Culture and Mind-Body Wellness

Impact of Historical Trauma and Toxic Stress in Native American Communities

Emotional, Biological and Cultural Effects of Native American Spiritual Practices

Adverse Childhood Experiences

Current Projects: 

Inflammation, Stress & Social Behavior: Using Ecological Assessments & Model Systems to Enhance Relevance to Health Outcomes. PI: Charles Raison

Whole Body Hyperthermia & Major Depression. PI: Charles Raison

An Examination of the Differential Effects of Running Minimally Shod vs. in Shoes on Physiology and Emotional States Relevant to Major Depression. PIs: Charles Raison, David Raichlen, John Allen

Subjects Taught: 

MAS 160A: American Indian Medicine and Wellness

SERP 404/504: Cultural and Linguistic Diversity in Exceptional Learners

CPH 330: Human Sexuality

CPH 306: Drugs and Society

CPH 400: Contemporary Community Health Problems

CPH 381: Health Education Intervention Methods

Tel: Main Office 520.621.1075 Norton School Student Services 520.621.1295
Mailing Address: 650 N. Park Ave Tucson, Arizona 85721-0078 (Map to McClelland Park)
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