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Arnold School of Public Health


HPEB doctoral student Akeen Hamilton joins Grace Jordan McFadden Professor Program

July 12, 2018 | Erin Bluvas, bluvase@sc.edu

Akeen Hamilton became interested in public health while he was studying rehabilitation services as an undergraduate at East Carolina University in North Carolina. The Burlington, North Carolina, native, who was born in Kingston, Jamaica, learned about the field while interning at Greenville Community Shelter as a case manager. In parallel, an undergraduate research project introduced him to HIV prevention, which would eventually become his passion.

After Hamilton’s 2010 graduation, he immediately began working toward a master’s in health education at the same institution. He then spent the next two years as a public health specialist with a health department in Wisconsin, before deciding to broaden his understanding of global health.

From 2014-2017, Hamilton volunteered with the Community HIV/AIDS Outreach Project in South Africa through the U.S. Peace Corps. During the last year of his assignment, he also provided oversight support for the DREAMS Project.

Upon his return, Hamilton joined the health promotion, education, and behavior department as a doctoral student. His research focuses on HIV prevention methods for black males, and he plans to pursue a career in academia, where he will design and implement programs to reduce the incidence of HIV for this population while teaching courses and advising students.

“My greatest ambition is to use my academic achievements as a platform for encouraging young black men to pursue terminal degrees and contribute their skills to academia,” the Norman J. Arnold Doctoral Fellow says. “HPEB is providing me with the research training and academic knowledge necessary to be both a researcher and professor, and because of this, I will continue to learn as much as I am able to from each of our wonderful faculty. Through my coursework, research, and collaborations I will continue to learn as much as possible so that I may be an effective professor, researcher, and mentor.”

My greatest ambition is to use my academic achievements as a platform for encouraging young black men to pursue terminal degrees and contribute their skills to academia.

-Akeen Hamilton, HPEB Ph.D. student

Though he’s only completed two semesters of his program so far, Hamilton has completely immersed himself in both research and leadership opportunities. As a graduate research assistant, he has contributed to studies examining couple’s and self HIV testing within the Arnold School and palliative and patient-centered outcomes at the College of Nursing. He is also the president of the Black Graduate Student Association and serves on the Arnold School’s Dean’s Student Advisory Council.

“Dr. Xiaoming Li and Dr. Donaldson Conserve have played instrumental roles in the two semesters that I have been at USC,” Hamilton says of his mentors. “The two of them are very supportive and are always encouraging me to shoot for the stars. Honestly, I don’t know where I would be right now without their guidance and expertise.”

Hamilton has already won an award through the USCreativity’s Great Gamecock Design Challenge and been selected to join the Graduate Civic Scholars Program. He was also selected to join USC’s Grace Jordan McFadden Professor Program.

Formerly known as the African American Professor Program, the Grace Jordan McFadden Professor Program was established in 1997 to address the underrepresentation of minorities in academia. This initiative recruits and prepares minority students to become college and university professor and aims to promote and increase diversity in the professoriate.

“The Grace Jordan McFadden program aligns with my career ambitions and will provide me with an invaluable experience of having access to mentors who have successfully navigated the landscape of academia as minorities and who have already accomplished what I am aiming to achieve in my career,” says Hamilton. “I plan to use what I learn from the program to continue developing into a productive faculty member of a higher institution.” 

In both his broader university activities and his department, Hamilton has found a home at USC. “Joining the HPEB department has been one of the best decisions of my life,” he says. “It has such a family feel to it, and we do really cool things such as putting on talent shows. Also, Dr. Daniela Friedman is the greatest chair that I could have asked for; she is very helpful and one of the kindest persons I have ever met. Lastly, a major selling point of the department is all of the free food that somehow seems to magically appear every other day. HPEB knows how to keep its students happy!”