Dr. Mariano Kanamori earned his Ph.D. in epidemiology in 2013 and is currently a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in the Center for Research on U.S. Latinos HIV/AIDS and Drug Abuse (CRUSADA) at Florida International University. Since 2014, he has been the Scientific Director of the “HIV Risk Reduction in High Risk Latina Migrant Workers” project. In 2016, Dr. Kanamori received a prestigious K99 training award from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which funds his current training and new research project examining how Latino cultural values and acculturation stress influence substance use disorders and HIV through social networks. This project uses social network modeling that incorporates dyadic, egocentric, two-mode network analyses, spatial regression, and multilevel mediation analyses.
In one sentence, what is public health to you?
Public health is my passion.
What inspired you to study public health?
My interest in public health started in 1992 when I joined PRISMA, an NGO based in Lima, Peru. PRISMA’s mission is to improve the living conditions and economic and social development of Peru’s rural populations. My experiences here inspired me to begin a career aimed at improving the health and quality of life of under-served communities.
What do you think is the biggest challenge that the public health field should be focusing on?
Reducing health disparities.
Why did you choose public health at UMD?
I wanted to be in a strong epidemiology program from an accredited school of public health. I also wanted to be in a program where I could learn and be mentored by leaders in the field of health disparities.
In what way did your time at UMD prepare you for and impact your current work?
The UMD School of Public Health offered project work in tobacco health disparities, which provided me with a core skill set that I am currently using as a Post-Doctoral Fellow. UMD also provided training and assistance on grant writing, which enabled me to secure grants totaling $115,000 while at UMD to implement my study on orphaned and vulnerable children due to HIV/AIDS in Ethiopia. In addition, I had great mentors who guided me through all phases of my Ph.D. and continued to provide support as I applied for post-doctoral programs and NIH grants. I learned from them that one needs to be a good listener to be a good mentor and that mentoring not only includes academic guidance, but also prolonged nurturing of the student’s personal, scholarly, and professional development.
What advice would you provide to current public health students?
Don't be afraid to ask for mentorship. Some doors may not open but the right ones will. There are many public health professionals who are committed to mentoring the next generation of public health professionals. I have mentors, with whom I am collaborating on grants and projects, from all over the world! I also mentor graduate students and junior faculty.
Were you affected by Hurricane Matthew [which hit Florida in Oct. 2016] in any way and what were your observations from a public health perspective regarding the response to this natural disaster?
I was fortunate to not be affected by Hurricane Matthew. Most notable from a public health perspective is the important role that technology now plays in emergency preparedness. For example, we could track the path of the hurricane by opening an app on our smart phones. The City of Miami Beach sent daily email updates to all residents as well as text messages with critical information. After the hurricane, anyone could report standing water or damage from a smart phone, and city employees came to fix the problem the next day. This was extremely important because we also had the Zika outbreak at that time.