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SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University

School of Public Health

Alumni Spotlight

Donell HarvinDonell Harvin

Hometown: New York, New York

Degree(s), Concentration, and Class Year at SUNY Downstate: DrPH, Environmental Science, Class of 2018

Undergraduate Major: BA in Fire and Emergency Services

Current Profession: Chief of Homeland Security, District of Columbia Government; Adjunct Faculty at Georgetown University

Click here for Dr. Harvin's interview with Washingtonian about his work for the COVID morgue


1. Why did you choose to study at SUNY Downstate School of Public Health (SPH)? Did SPH meet your expectations?  

Value, location and reputation were my key factors to study at SPH. SPH exceeded my expectations!


2. What was the most memorable experience or advice you received during your time at SPH that struck you as particularly meaningful?

My professors and advisor made the difference in my education. They were both knowledgeable and understanding--a combination that is rare to find. They all exhibited an uncompromising dedication to public health.


3. Which SPH community member (e.g. faculty, staff, mentor, fellow classmates) influenced you the most and why?

Dr. Paul Landsbergis was the most influential faculty member. He served as my faculty advisor as well as my dissertation advisor and was the difference between me completing my degree. He constantly challenged and encouraged me. To this day, I continue to seek his advice, and I employ many of his teachings and his compassionate temperament in my own practice.


4. Where has life taken you since you graduated from SPH? How has your experience at Downstate SPH prepared you for your career?

It has prepared me for the rigors of executive-level government work. I have been able to leverage the research, analytical and decision-making skills that I learned in my course of study.


5. Could you describe your current profession? What is the most rewarding and most challenging aspect of your profession?

I am able to provide timely information and intelligence to regional stakeholders who are key players in the homeland security enterprise. I have a leadership role in assuring the safety of the nation’s capital.


6. What advice do you have for prospective students?

The SPH is an amazing value with a phenomenal staff, a state-of-the-art facility and a world class location in the heart of the greatest city in the world. The education that I received from the SPH has opened up opportunities for me that I never imagined.


7. Where do you see yourself in five years?

Serving the public and educating public health leaders of the future.



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