October 1, 2021 | Erin Bluvas, firstname.lastname@example.org
Akeen Hamilton doesn't graduate until December, but he is already putting his doctoral education to work. The Ph.D. in Health Promotion Education and Behavior (HPEB) candidate is currently a health program supervisor for the Ending the HIV Epidemic (EHE) initiative – a federal campaign that aligns with the global UNAIDS’ 90-90-90 plan to harness the effective – but underutilized – HIV treatment and prevention strategies that have been developed over the past four decades.
“The overall goal of EHE is to reduce the number of new HIV infections in the United States by 75 percent by 2025 and by at least 90 percent by 2030,” Hamilton says.
Jamaica-born and North Carolina-raised, the 40 Under 40 Leadership Award winner (East Carolina University, 2020) has a decade of research, education and professional experience – and a lifelong passion – for the field of HIV treatment and prevention. An internship at a community shelter and a research project while studying rehabilitation services as an undergraduate first sparked his interest, leading Hamilton to earn a master’s in health education. The next five years saw him working as a public health specialist in Wisconsin and then volunteering with the Community HIV/AIDS Outreach Project and DREAMS Project for the U.S. Peace Corps in South Africa.
I have benefited greatly from the doctoral program, and I feel that I am departing having been properly prepared with the tools necessary to have a productive and successful career.
-Akeen Hamilton, Ph.D. in Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior candidate
By the time Hamilton enrolled at the Arnold School, he had refined his research interests to focus on HIV prevention methods for Black men. His long-term plan? Designing and implementing programs to reduce HIV infections for this population while educating and mentoring the next generation of public health researchers and professionals.
“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 and the field,” Hamilton says.
The Norman J. Doctoral Fellow immediately immersed himself in his program and the numerous opportunities offered at UofSC. As a graduate research assistant, Hamilton worked on projects related to HIV self-testing. He collaborated with Arnold School HIV researchers, including internationally renowned expert Xiaoming Li, and even traveled to Tanzania to gain more experience in a global context.
Outside of the Arnold School, Hamilton studied palliative and patient-centered outcomes with researchers at the College of Nursing and worked as a coordinator for the Center for Teaching Excellence’s Volunteer Management Certificate program. He also led UofSC’s Black Graduate Student Association as president and served on the Arnold School’s Dean’s Student Advisory Council.
Hamilton’s efforts and impacts have been recognized through numerous awards and honors. In 2018, he was selected to join three prestigious programs: Grace Jordan McFadden Professors, Graduate Civic Scholars, and Southern Regional Education Board Doctoral Scholars. In addition to his 40 Under 40 Leadership Award, Hamilton is the recipient of the USCreativity’s Great Gamecock Design Challenge (2018) and the Olga I. Ogoussan Doctoral Research Award (2020).
After defending his dissertation on the knowledge, willingness to use, and actual use of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) among Black heterosexual men, Hamilton will graduate this semester. He already has six peer-reviewed publications to his name, with several additional papers in preparation.
“I am forever grateful for the experiences I gained during my tenure with HPEB; the guidance and support provided to me by Dr. Daniela Friedman, Dr. Xiaoming Li and the entire HPEB department – including faculty/staff, past, and present students – has been unmatched. I will carry the memories we made together everywhere I go,” Hamilton says. “I have benefited greatly from the doctoral program, and I feel that I am departing having been properly prepared with the tools necessary to have a productive and successful career.”