Mastering Public Health on a Global Scale


(Jan. 17, 2013) J.R. Johnstone, a Master of Public Health student at Armstrong, has been accepted to the elite Global Policy and Governance Program, organized by the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University. Johnstone will spend the summer in Geneva, Switzerland, learning about global public health policy over the course of 11 weeks.

“This is a major honor for an Armstrong student because it will provide a unique opportunity to study how global health policy is formulated and implemented,” said Sara S. Plaspohl, assistant professor of health sciences and public health at Armstrong. “Acceptance into the program is very competitive among graduate and professional student applicants.”

Duke’s Program on Global Policy and Governance in Geneva prepares tomorrow’s policy leaders on the policy and institutional issues at the heart of global governance. The program attracts graduate and professional students from around the world.

“I’m excited about my acceptance because I believe it is an amazing opportunity to meet other like-minded individuals in an international setting,” said Johnstone. “My acceptance is also a reflection of the Department of Health Sciences’ faculty. The faculty provided me with the concepts and theories to strengthen my knowledge and become a successful student of public health. I would never have considered applying to this program without their continuing support and encouragement.”

Through summer internships and intensive, one-week courses, participants can deepen their understanding of the present international public health system and its potential. Graduates of the program have advanced to academic, professional, and community service opportunities with national and international organizations, including USAID, the United Nations, the Centers for Disease Control, and the World Health Organization.

“I’m hoping to find a good mentor in the field of global health policy,” Johnstone said. “Now that I’m transitioning from academia to working, it’s important to find someone who has traveled a similar path and is willing to invest time and energy to help you develop more as an individual.”

Before enrolling in the public health graduate program at Armstrong, Johnstone, who was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska, worked for the Global Service Corps in Phnom Phen, Cambodia, as an HIV/AIDS prevention educator. He currently serves as a graduate assistant at Armstrong and as a program development intern at Women’s Work Foundation in Savannah.

“J.R. is a model graduate student,” said Plaspohl. “He is mature, professional, interacts well with his academic peers and faculty, and always displays an impressive level of intellectual curiosity. Upon completion of the fellowship, he will return from Geneva with a broader understanding of how global policy and governance influence our world.”

After graduating from Armstrong in May and completing the program in Geneva this summer, Johnstone hopes to find a job serving as an advocate for women’s global health policy issues.

“I believe there are not enough male voices advocating for equality in women’s health within and outside of the United States,” he explained. “However, I know I have to start somewhere, so any job, internship, or fellowship relating to health policy or global health would be an exciting opportunity.”