Christina M. Pacheco

In Funded Scholars
Christina M. Pacheco
Christina M. Pacheco




Assistant Professor
University of Kansas Medical Center

Professional Bio

Christina M. Pacheco, JD is a research assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Kansas Medical Center. She is also the Law & Policy Core Director for the Center for American Indian Community Health. She graduated from William Mitchell College of Law in Saint Paul, Minnesota in 2008 with her Juris Doctor (JD). She has worked in the field of policy and law for more than 6 years and in the field of public health for over four years. She has aided in the development of culturally-tailored public health interventions for American Indians, particularly in the realm of tobacco, environmental health and healthy eating and physical activity. As the Law and Policy Core Director for the Center for American Indian Community Health at the University of Kansas Medical Center, she has been instrumental in bringing policy awareness to the communities she works with. In the last two years Pacheco has focused on translating the Center for American Indian Community Health’s research results into support for evidence-based policies aimed at reducing health disparities at the tribal level. She has been invited to speak nationally and locally on legal issues affecting American Indian health. Additionally, she is involved in community outreach with American Indian communities and has done so for more than 10 years. Pacheco has extensive experience providing multicultural training and consultation to educational institutions, community organizations and at national conferences. She is developing skills in community based participatory research through a New Minority Faculty Trainee Fellowship with the Kansas Community Cancer Disparities Network.

Project Description 

Smoke-free policies are one of the most effective ways to eliminate secondhand smoke (SHS) exposure and reduce smoking rates. However, most local and state smoke-free laws do not extend to colleges, nor do they have jurisdiction over tribal colleges and universities (TCU) located on tribal lands. In 2011, the American College Health Association updated its position on tobacco by adopting a no tobacco use on college campuses policy in an effort to encourage colleges and universities to achieve 100% tobacco-free campuses. This and other efforts have resulted in more than 1,180 colleges instituting smoke/tobacco-free policies; only six TCUs have done so. With smoking rates among TCU students reaching more than 2-3 times the rates of US college students, it is important to examine the effect of partial smoking restrictions on TCU campuses. Research has shown that 100% smoke-free policies are most effective; however, none exists on the effect of partial smoking restrictions that respect traditional use of tobacco at TCUs.

Through the RWJF New Connections program, I aim to build evidence for increasing the implementation of effective smoke-free campus policies at TCUs. This study examines the effect of a tribal college’s partial smoking restriction on students’ smoking prevalence, consumption, quit attempts and exposure to SHS by doing a secondary data analysis of data collected pre and post implementation of a smoking policy. Key informant interviews with TCU administrators will be conducted to collect information on current tobacco policies at TCUs, enabling the creation of a comprehensive database of these policies. During interviews, information about the barriers and facilitators to becoming smoke-free will be collected. This information will be used to prepare a smoke-free campus toolkit for TCUs that will aid in the creation, implementation and evaluation of smoke-free campus policies that are respectful of traditional tobacco use and evidence based.

My New Connections Experience

I applied for the New Connections Program because of its mission and prestige. I first learned about Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the New Connections Program through a colleague who is an active member in the New Connections Network. The New Connections Program was the right fit for me because of the mechanisms of support and career development provided. Coming from a non-traditional research background, the tools that New Connections provides me with are instrumental in my career. The aspect of the New Connections Program that is particularly relevant to my career development is my ability to partner with the RWJF’s Public Health Law Research program which provides me vital support and mentorship on how to effectively merge my legal and policy background with health disparities research. The New Connections program is critical to achieving my long-term goals of becoming a fully independent investigator in public health law and policy research and continuing efforts to combat health disparities by making major contributions to public health policies focused on underserved populations. Additionally, New Connections affords me the ability network with leading experts in the field and other junior investigators who are passionate about the work they are doing.

New Connections affords me the opportunity to network and be mentored by the country’s premier experts in public health and public health law research while providing me with the skills necessary to transition into an independent researcher.

Research Interests 

I am fully committed to an academic research career in public health, bioethics research, and public health/health policy and advocacy for underserved populations, specifically American Indians. My research interests involve combining my legal and policy backgrounds with my public health knowledge to understand the bio-behavioral mechanisms underlying health disparities, translate research results into effective evidence-based public health and health policies and to ensure the ethical conduct of biospecimen and other research through community based participatory research. My ultimate goal is to reduce health disparities among underserved populations. 

The Details
  • New Connections Status: Junior Investigator
  • Award Year: 2014
  • RWJF Team/Portfolio: Healthy Places and Practices 
  • Project Name: Impacts of smoking restrictive policies on smoking at tribal colleges

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