Selin Ocal is a junior at Duke University from Cliffside Park, New Jersey studying Biology and History. With the hopes of pursuing medical school following graduation, Selin has always had an interest in health and human rights, but discovered her passion for helping the incarcerated and formerly incarcerated after working with prisoners on death row in North Carolina during the summer of 2018. Amalgamating these interests, she is deeply committed not only to serving this population in the future as a physician, but also to understanding and revealing the pitfalls of the American prison health system as a student and researcher. Outside of this work, she also enjoys playing the guitar, basketball, and traveling.

In her project for this summer, Selin is aiming to better understand and explain the implications of Hepatitis C in the North Carolina prison population. In the past decade, the incidence of Hep C has more than doubled, and consequent mortality rates have risen drastically. As a result of the burgeoning use of injection drugs and poor conditions in correctional settings, disease prevalence is especially high in jails and prisons, where inmates make up about a third of the infected population.  Prisoners are rarely tested, and even less get treatment after diagnosis. Ignoring the disease has only made public health matters worse, as prisoners cyclically enter the system, contract the disease, and then unknowingly contribute to the spread of disease upon release. Due to the advent of new treatment alternatives that are low in cost and high in efficacy, it is the optimal time to confront Hep C in prisons, which will ultimately help to end the epidemic in the general public. Selin will address how testing/treatment in this environment is imperative to disease elimination in the US by utilizing updated HCV patient health data from prisons in North Carolina. Additionally, she will be using these figures to inform and elucidate ideal models of care and testing strategies as recommendations for correctional facilities, and hopes to therefore productively contribute to this largely unexplored area of public health. By doing so, she hopes to advocate for better health conditions for the incarcerated population, who often receive poor medical service while imprisoned, and often have very little resources upon release. Such research has the potential to show that the prison population not only deserves better medical attention, but that they will also need to receive better medical attention if the government wants to prioritize the health of all American people and combat this epidemic.