While she was studying mathematical modeling at Harvey Mudd College, Nadia Abuelezam, Sc.D., got a chance to work as an intern with the AIDS Support Organization in Uganda. The experience changed her life. 

The pervasiveness of HIV/AIDS in every aspect of Ugandan life so moved her that she decided to immerse herself in understanding the intersection between health and society, she explained. “I was inspired to make it my life’s mission to reduce the burden of these diseases.”

Abuelezam, an epidemiologist and an assistant professor at the Connell School, co-teaches two courses in Global Public Health, an interdisciplinary undergraduate program offered collaboratively by the Boston College schools of nursing, education, and social work. She comes to the Connell School from Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, where she earned a doctor of science degree and co-taught a course on HIV/AIDS. As a doctoral student, she used her expertise in mathematical modeling to examine how HIV/AIDS affects populations in Botswana, India, and South Africa.

Some of Abuelezam’s current research focuses on risky sexual behavior—and whether information gathered from observing online behavior on social networking and dating websites “translates” into accurate sexual behavior statistics. The hope is that scrutinizing social media will yield data meaningful to epidemiologists who are looking for better ways to treat HIV/AIDS and prevent its spread, she said.

Abuelezam is also concerned with racism and discrimination, which she considers among the most pressing and least understood issues in public health. As she told Summer Hawkins, a School of Social Work assistant professor: “I think we know very little about how racial inequality, discrimination, and stigma impact health and well-being and, more importantly, we don't know how to help people who have experienced this stress in their lives.”

—Chris Reidy, photograph by Lee Pellegrini