Tommy K. Begay

Research Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine
Tribal Affiliation
Diné (Navajo Nation)

Dr. Tommy K. Begay is a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, University of Arizona College of Medicine.  He is a Cultural Psychologist by academic training, utilizing attributes of sociocultural theory, and cultural-historical psychology. From this approach, human cognition and development – specifically, neurodevelopment and neuroplasticity – depend upon environmental stimulation provided through social interaction, context, and culture. Basically, all activities and behaviors lend to physical and functional changes to the brain – and changes to the brain influence behavior. The results collectively contribute to the higher psychological processes of consciousness, identity, and personality. Dr. Begay also possesses a Master of Public Health degree, with a special focus on International Health.

Originally from Dinétah, the Navajo Nation, Dr. Begay currently resides in Tucson, Arizona. There he is associated with psychosocial health education programs, positive psychology, and self-empowering mechanisms associated with substance abuse recovery and behavior modification. 


PhD: University of Arizona, 2012

MPH: University of Arizona, 1997

BS: University of Arizona, 1983

Honors and Awards: 

American Heart Association Student Stipend Award, The Navajo Coronary Study,1996

Centennial Achievement Master’s Student Award, University of Arizona, 1995

Martin Luther King, Jr., Distinguished Leadership Award, University of Arizona, 1994

Research Interests: 

Dr. Begay’s research interests include Native American health, especially in relation to the impact of American Indian historical trauma, and the subsequent evolution of intergenerational, maladaptive coping behaviors that contribute to the disproportionately high rates of stress-related chronic diseases, cancer, interpersonal violence, accidents, substance abuse, and addiction. Contributing factors to the contemporary health and wellness of American Indians and Alaska Natives. Dr. Begay is also interested in the impact of chronic stress, childhood trauma, and early childhood adversity on later-life health, wellness and resilience. Of particular interest is the use of psychoneuroimmunology to assess the impact of chronic stress, and psychological trauma on associated body systems.

Selected Publications: 

Janssen C.W., Lowry C.A., Mehl M.R., Allen J.J., Kelly K.L., Gartner D.E., Medrano A., Begay T.K., Rentscher K., White J.J., Fridman A., Roberts L.J., Robbins M.L., Hanusch K.U., Cole S.P., Raison C.L. (2016). Whole-Body Hyperthermia for the Treatment of Major Depressive Disorder: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Psychiatry. Published online May 12, 2016. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2016.1031.

Raison, C. L., Rook, G. W., Miller, A. H., & Begay, T. K. (2014). Role of Inflammation in Psychiatric Disease. In Neurobiology of Brain Disorders: Biological Basis of Neurological and Psychiatric Disorders (pp. 396-421). Elsevier Inc.. DOI: 10.1016/B978-0-12-398270-4.00026-4

Begay, T.K. (1996). The Health Careers Pathway Program: A Window of Opportunity. The Center for Native American Health. Arizona Prevention Center, University of Arizona. 
Begay, T.K. (1994). Solving Problems: Health and Wellness. Native American Student Survival Guide, University of Arizona. Sahuaro Press, Tucson, Arizona.


  • PhD, MPH