Greek American Public Health Dean Creates Coalitions Between Universities

The Greek American Dean of the Rutgers School of Public Heath, Perry N. Halkitis, is working to forge global collaborations between Rutgers University and the National University of Athens, National School of Public Health, and Harokopio University in Greece. The partnerships will create research, education, and service opportunities for students and faculty.

The goal of these collaborations is to work with Greek Universities and students to conduct research aimed at enhancing the health of the Greek people. The research, education, and service collaborations between the Rutgers School of Public Health and the Greek Universities will focus on migrant population health, tobacco, nutrition, LGBTQ health, HIV, and HPV.

“When I assumed the role as Dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health, I knew Greece would be one of our global sites because it was important for me intellectually but also emotionally to give back to my ancestral home.” Halkitis told The Greek Reporter.

Since forging the collaborations, Dr. Halkitis and Dr. Maria Kantzanou from the National University of Athens, have begun building a research program on the health of gay men in Greece with a focus on both HIV and HPV. They are currently working on an article on HPV infection and vaccination and have submitted a grant for funding.

Additionally, Halkitis is already planning courses for 2019 on migrant health and HIV to take place in Athens and Chios in tandem with Greek students. Students involved in these global collaborations will be able to participate in service activities directly delivering public health services to migrant, LGBTQ, and other Greek populations.

To further the impact of the collaborations, Halkitis, the first openly gay Dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health, has also connected with the leading gay activist in Greece, Gregory Valliantos, who will also be a collaborator and help to ensure the work being done is embedded with and for the LGBTQ community in Greece and beyond. Halkitis adds “I have been working with my colleagues Stamatis Poulis and Tatiana Giobazolia of the Greek CDC (KEELPNO) on HIV related work in Greece since 2016.  In fact Tatiana came to the US and worked with us at my research center at New York University in 2016.”

Halkitis’ hope is that the Greek American community will support these efforts “financially and emotionally as we help to work in our homeland.”

Halkitis’ parents were both born and raised in Kos before each of their families came to New York in the late 1950s.

Proud of his heritage, Halkitis was educated at a Greek American school [Saint Demitrios in Astoria, New York City] for 9 years (K-8) which crafted the strong foundations of his academic life.  “I am well versed in our history, religion, and culture. Greek was my first language. In short, I was inspired by the accomplishments of our people and wanted to also to contribute to research and the advancing of knowledge in significant ways. My heritage also instilled in me a social justice perspective. My work is science, but also activism and advocacy fighting for the rights and health of marginalized populations.”

Recently, Halkitis reconnected with the Greek Orthodox Church and was invited by His Eminence, the Metropolitan Nikitas of the Dardanelles, to a conference this May to participate on a panel on human slavery and trafficking.

Being back in Hellas during the Lenten season stirred wonderful memories for Halkitis. One of the most powerful was to Easter (Pascha) and midnight mass “when we would all—as a community—gather, candles were lit and sing Christos Anesti. My other strongest memory was when I graduated from St. Demetrios in 8th grade as salutatorian and gave my speech entirely in Greek. I still can see my parents’ faces and their pride.”

Follow Halkitis (@drnphalkitis) and Rutgers School of Public Health (@rutgerssph) on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.