Two years ago California native David Roston was in New Orleans to get an in-person view of graduate studies at the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. He happened to visit just as the school was celebrating being named the top volunteer-producing graduate school by the U.S. Peace Corps for the second year in a row. There, at a reception recognizing this honor, Roston met Dean Pierre Buekens who encouraged him to come to Tulane to earn his master of public health degree (MPH).
Now on the brink of completing his MPH in health education and communication, Roston’s experience came full circle as he interviewed the dean on local human rights and social justice radio station 102.3 FM WHIV-LP.
The pair discussed the meaning of global health, the feasibility of universal healthcare, and changes in the public health landscape over the dean’s past 15 years of leadership, among other topics. Dean Buekens will step down at the close of his third term at the end of this June.
Roston hosts NOLA Matters: The Public Health Radio Hour weekly and has interviewed a number of SPHTM faculty, but he counted this interview with the head of the School of Public Health and one of the first people he’d met at Tulane as a singular experience.
Listen to the interview.
I’m a Tulane SPHTM ’12 graduate from the Global Community Health and Behavioral Sciences Department. Following graduation, I spent a bit of time as an HIV study coordinator for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) trials among young men-who-have-sex-with-men (MSM) at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. As career trajectories often do, circumstances took a turn and I spent the next three years working on fraud, waste, and abuse protections granted by the Affordable Care Act at The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (HHS-CMS). While these ventures were satisfying enough, I felt as though my time at Tulane specifically prepared me for a global health role and so I left the “safety” of federal government for an ASPPH/CDC Allan Rosenfield Global Health Fellowship position in Lusaka, Zambia (now called the PHI/CDC Global Health Fellowship).
After completing a year with the CDC in Zambia, I am now living in Beijing with CDC-China and working hands-on with the ever-changing President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief program (PEPFAR). Given that millions of individuals have already been tested, placed on treatment, and carry undetectable viral loads, this timing presents a unique opportunity to combine my psycho-social background with the MPH’s “hard skills” (such as monitoring & evaluation) to design sustainable programs targeting key populations. I’ve felt very fortunate to be “working toward an AIDS-free generation” by implementing sustainable programs in partnership with the Zambian or Chinese governments specifically as it relates to MSM, sex workers, and injection drug users (as they are the most high-risk for HIV/AIDS yet historically under-served populations). I’m very thankful to Tulane SPHTM’s professors who contributed in shaping my path to where I am today.