Vanessa HiratsukaPhD, MPH

Vanessa Hiratsuka
Assistant Professor
Center for Human Development
Gambell Professional Building; 2702 Gambell St #103, Anchorage, AK 99503


PhD, Walden University

MPH, University of Alaska Anchorage

BA, Stanford University


I am an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation and am also Winnemem Wintu. I am a public health researcher with over 20 years of mixed methods research experience within the American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) community in the discipline of public health. For 13 years, I conducted research in the Southcentral Foundation (SCF) Research Department overseeing research in behavioral, medical, dental and health services divisions addressing health disparities through clinical and community-based interventions and health services research projects. While at SCF, I explored the interplay between patient and provider characteristics impacting health services utilization and health outcomes in screening, brief intervention, and treatment of chronic diseases and behavioral health conditions of AI/AN adults. I led health services research projects using a community-based participatory approach within the Alaska Tribal Health System for the past decade while also completing a post-doctoral fellowship through the University of Washington/University of Colorado Native Investigator Development Program and the University of Colorado Denver’s Native Children’s Research Exchange. As a mixed-methods researcher leading studies addressing Alaska Native health disparities, I have been the lead qualitative analyst, quantitative lead, and mixed methods studies using various research approaches. Since 2012, I have worked on the ethical, legal, and social implications (ELSI) of genomic and precision medicine research in AI/AN populations. These efforts were conducted using community-based participatory research (CBPR) practices to design a deliberative process that elicited the views of AI/AN leaders about the potential value and ethical conduct of precision medicine research. In 2020, I transitioned from a community-based research department in a tribally managed health care organization to a university-based center of excellence in developmental disabilities at the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA). I conduct applied research and program evaluation of programs and services for individuals with intellectual, developmental and physical disabilities across the lifespan.

Professional & Department Service

Co-Director for the National Resource Center for Alaska Native Elders

Principal Investigator for the Center for the Ethics of Indigenous Genomic Research (CEIGR)

Evaluator for the Alaska LEND Without Walls (Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and related Disabilities) 

Chair of the Association of University Centers on Disabilities' Council on Research and Evaluation 



Research Gate