Gibbons Student Wendy Dong ’18: Revealing the History of Diabetes and Native Americans

Following World War II, biomedical journals began publishing many new studies on the epidemic of diabetes in the United States’ Native American population, according to Wendy Dong ’18. This summer, she received a GIbbons grant to work with Associate Professor of Environmental Studies and History Matt Klingle to start searching and analyzing this corpus of historical medical information.

Using techniques such as topic modeling and spatial analysis, she is seeking patterns and trends to determine for instance which tribes were studied and what subjects were investigated. “We’re looking at where the idea of the ‘diabetic Indian’ came from, and why research in this area surged after World War II,” Dong explained.

Dong, an economics major and math minor, said the project combines science, history, and sociology, and uses skills she learned last spring Associate Professor of Digital Humanities Crystal Hall’s class, Data-driven Societies.

“Data technology interests me, and now, no matter where you work, big data is important,” she said.

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