5 Questions with Faculty: John Justino

John G. Justino, director of the Center for Global Health and clinical associate professor in the School of Public Health, poses with students visiting from Sun-Yet Sen University (one of the School of Public Health's key international partners). The students pictured came on a Comparative Health System Exchange program trip organized by the Center for Global Health.

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 19, 2018) – Originally from a small town in the Finger Lakes Region of New York, John G. Justino took a slight detour before joining the University at Albany in 2009: For more than 15 years he lived and worked in sub-Saharan Africa (with a couple short stints in Asia and Latin America) where he and his wife raised their two young boys while he led large-scale public health programs. Now he serves as the director of the Center for Global Health and is a clinical associate professor of Health Policy, Management and Behavior in the School of Public Health.

What are you working on now?

Our Center for Global Health is working on a number of exciting initiatives, including creating new study abroad and international experiential learning programs for the growing number of students interested in global health studies and in gaining experience living and working abroad. In fact, I just arrived back from the Dominican Republic, where students and I were working with Haitian migrant families living in extreme poverty in the sugar plantation communities known as “bateyes.”

Closer to home, I’m excited to be working with colleagues at SUNY Downstate Medical Center and the New York State Department of Health’s AIDS Institute on a number of HIV Research Training Program grants funded by the Fogarty International Center at the National Institutes of Health, as well as with my team and other SPH faculty on collaborative research and training initiatives with partner schools in Costa Rica, China and Romania.

What made you decide to pursue your field?

It all started when I first traveled to Cameroon in West Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Living and working in a rural village there for over two years opened my eyes to the immense need for improved health systems and high quality, evidence-based health education initiatives in developing countries. This sparked a passion in me to live and work abroad longer-term and eventually led to my work leading large-scale Social Behavior Change Communications/Social Marketing programs in developing countries.

What’s your favorite class to teach?

I love leading our study abroad programs to Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic. These programs are often life-changing for the students, and guiding them on such important and significant learning experiences is a privilege. It doesn’t hurt that Costa Rica and the DR are great places to work and visit!

I also enjoy teaching our Introduction to Global Health (HPM 645) course, which is a required course under our Graduate Certificate in Global Health Studies. It was originally developed by my colleague and the founding director of our Center, Carol Whittaker. I enjoy teaching this course for some of the same reasons: It’s often an “eye-opener” for most students. After completing the class, many of our students say that “all our students need to take this course.” Receiving feedback like this from students is very gratifying.

What’s the best thing about working at UAlbany?

Working with the dedicated faculty and staff here at the School of Public Health, as well as with our amazing students and alumni. The field of public health tends to attract people who are passionate about service and committed to improving the lives of others. Working closely with such people is a pleasure!

What was the last book you read for pleasure?

When Nietzsche Wept by Irvin D. Yalom. A great read for anyone interested in psychology!

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