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5 Questions with Faculty: Janine Jurkowski

Janine Jurkowski of the School of Public Health volunteers in the kitchen of the South End Children's Café, which offers meals, after school programs and homework help to Albany children and families. (Photo by Mark Schmidt)

ALBANY, N.Y. (Feb. 14, 2017) — Janine M. Jurkowski is the associate dean for public health and an associate professor of Health Policy, Management and Behavior at UAbany’s School of Public Health.

She came to the University nearly 12½ years ago for a position that seemed custom-made for her, especially since she was looking to return to the Northeast to be closer to family. Prior to coming the Albany, she was a post-doc fellow at the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she also earned her Ph.D.

What are your working on now?

I am working on a National Institute of Health funded research project with a colleague at Harvard who used to be here. It is a childhood obesity prevention intervention working with families living in poverty in Boston, Somerville and Cambridge. The communities are extremely diverse and there are times we’re in a room with women from three different countries, as well as African American and Latinos from the U.S.

The women are inspiring. I am the person who oversees the participatory research aim and incorporates Empowerment Theory into the intervention. I enjoy working with parents who are actively involved in the research process.

What made you decide to pursue your field?

I really wanted to work in health but I was originally focused on medicine. However, the more I learned about the practice of medicine, the more I realized it wasn't a fit for me. I wanted to do prevention and work with communities rather than see an individual once in a while for 15 minutes at a time. I spoke with my undergraduate advisor about my concerns with medicine. He told me about the field of public health and I was sold.

If you weren’t teaching at a university, what would you be doing?

I really do not know! Perhaps I would be doing the same kind of research at a medical school or for the federal government. I would also consider working for a large nonprofit or doing advocacy.

What’s your favorite class to teach?

I love teaching Community-Based Public Health because I truly believe in the principles and I have a lot of experience to share with the students. I find students’ minds open up during this course and some even become inspired to be more involved in this area of public health.

What’s one thing students might be surprised to know about you?

I used to race sailboats on Lake Michigan off the shore of Chicago. My favorite position was to fly the spinnaker (downwind). I found racing to be technical yet very relaxing. It helped me survive my dissertation.

What’s your favorite food, to eat or cook, and why?

I love Thai food! I like a lot of vegetables in my food and I love cilantro, lemongrass and curries. Second place is Mexican food.

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