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Michelle Carnes

American University

Public Anthropology



Carlos Enrique Cisneros Point Scholar

Dr. Michelle Carnes (they/them) is a public health anthropologist and serves as the Program Coordinator for the National and Regional Telehealth Resource Center program at the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) in the Office for the Advancement of Telehealth (OAT). Prior to coming to HRSA, Michelle focused on suicide prevention at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), specializing in cultural taboos and their impact on health disparities among American Indian and LGBTI2SNbQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, two-spirit, non-binary, questioning) youth. Their approach focuses on confronting historical trauma in a culturally-grounded way to reduce and prevent suicide, building on the resilience of communities and families, community readiness and youth leadership. They served as a project officer for the SAMHSA Garrett Lee Smith State/Tribal Suicide Prevention grant, Native Aspirations contract, and designed the Native Connections grant program, serving Indigenous youth via a “culture as prevention” model. Michelle is committed to broadband/internet access as a public utility, telehealth expansion in rural/frontier communities and increased Indigenous access to cultural/traditional healthcare. On stage as “Dr. Torcher,” Michelle is an award-winning comedic storyteller, show host, drag and fire performer. From 2015 to 2019, they produced the DC Weirdo Show, an anti-racist, ASL-interpreted, often sold-out monthly show dedicated to showcasing the best, queerest, and weirdest acts of Washington DC. Their show was voted Best of Gay DC 2019: “Best Queer-Friendly Night Out” by readers of the Washington Blade. Point Foundation supported Michelle’s doctoral fieldwork in the Public Anthropology Ph.D. program (Race, Gender and Social Justice track) at American University in Washington D.C. from 2007 to 2009. Michelle wrote their doctoral dissertation on Black, working class queer erotic parties in Washington D.C., events that are centered on acceptance, affirmation, encouragement to be positively sexual and to receive culturally-competent health information in a nurturing, judgment-free environment. For the rest of their life, Michelle will support, promote and create grassroots health promotion efforts to increase linguistically and culturally comprehensive health access, health literacy and health empowerment for all people.

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