Student Profile: Naciely Cabral

Here is the latest installment of ADTSG’s student profiles feature!

These profiles are a way for the ADTSG membership to become acquainted with the next generation of anthropologists of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco.  In this vein, each profile will introduce one graduate or undergraduate student to the group by asking them a series of questions related to his/her background and career aspirations in this field.

In this installment, we are profiling Naciely Cabral, a Ph.D./M.P.H. student at the University of South Florida.

Why did you choose to study anthropology?

In the pursuit of an undergraduate degree in anthropology, I laid the foundation for an academic and research career by broadening my understanding of the intersectionality between diseases, environments, and health outcomes. I intended to take courses addressing the biological and genetic dimensions of disease and human development; my anthropology course load reflected my awareness of the social and economic dimensions of disease. Indeed, the multidisciplinary nature of anthropology prompted my desire to understand and address the impact social and economic contexts have on disease interactions. With that relationship in mind, I decided to expand my academic and applied background and get my feet wet in fieldwork research concerning HIV/HCV syndemics. To do so, I applied to the Medical Anthropology and Cross-cultural Practice (MACCP) master’s program at Boston University School of Medicine.

Why are you interested in alcohol, drugs, and tobacco research?

Under the tutelage of Dr. Bayla Ostrach and Dr. Nancy Romero-Daza, both of whom are deeply familiar with syndemics and have worked with Dr. Merrill Singer, who developed the concept, I am pursuing my research interests in substance use, HIV/AIDS, and Hepatitis C syndemics. Mainly, I am drawn to questions addressing the experiences of people suffering from these conditions. Indeed, people suffering from HIV and Hepatitis C co-infection are vulnerable to socially marginalizing factors.  I am interested in ethnographically investigating experiences of these additive risks and to identify the pathway of interactions categorizing substance use as an important structure of risks. Therefore, I seek to ethnographically explore perceptions of risk for interactions between the social, economic, and structural conditions that shape them. That said, it is no surprise that I use anthropological concepts (i.e., syndemics) to conceptualize the interrelationship between HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C, and substance use practices and the subsequent worsened health outcomes.

What are your research plans for studying alcohol, drugs, and tobacco?

For my future Ph.D. fieldwork, I aim to address the role of substance use in the development of syndemic clustering and multi-syndemic interactions. To do so, the project will also identify HIV/AIDS risks relevant to the population in question, with a special focus on women living with and suffering from the cumulative effects of HIV/AIDS and HCV, addiction, and substance use practices. Additionally, I aim to investigate experiences of the subsequent deleterious health effects among people living under the effects of economic precarity. For instance, some of the effects of economic precarity are: unstable housing, food insecurity, unstable employment, and unpredictable access to health care. These relationships may indicate the syndemics potentially experienced by women living with both HIV/AIDS and another chronic condition (e.g., HCV, diabetes, substance use disorder, or depression) in the context of food insecurity, poverty, and/or violence (structural, symbolic and everyday). That said, fieldwork offers opportunities to closely examine and analyze practical as well as theoretical implications of substance use as a syndemogenic factor.

What do you hope to do after you graduate?

After I finish my Ph.D. in Applied Anthropology, I will continue the concurrent M.P.H degree in Maternal and Child Health, where I continue my research interests. Notably, I will explore the impact substance use practices have on women, with a special focus on mothers who report a history of engaging in the practice of substance use. Although my training at the University of South Florida has just begun, I continue to further my scholarly training and applied syndemics research.

If you are a student and would like to be profiled for the ADTSG website, please contact ADTSG’s Student Liaison, Breanne Casper, at for more information!