Jason Paltzer, PhD, MPH, joined GCU in January as an assistant professor of public health. He received his PhD in population health science in 2014 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his master’s degree in public health from the University of Minnesota in 2003. He spent six years (2003 – 2009) in Zambia working as the director for the Lutheran Health & Development Program and served as the global health director for the nonprofit organization, Kingdom Workers, from 2013 – 2016. In these roles, Dr. Paltzer worked alongside local churches in Central Africa, Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the U.S. to implement community health initiatives around adult literacy, clean water and sanitation, nutrition and home-based care. His research interests focus on reducing the harm associated with substance abuse in low-income populations and the utilization of mobile technology to equip rural community health workers to provide screening and brief intervention services. Recently, Dr. Paltzer was awarded an R03 grant from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to continue his research on substance use screening and brief intervention among Medicaid beneficiaries. He has published several peer-reviewed articles as well as a book chapter on partnering with local churches to improve community health.
Faculty Spotlight Questions:
I moved to Phoenix in 2015 and soon learned about Grand Canyon University and its mission from colleagues at the Global CHE Network. During my initial meeting with Dr. Vernon Thacker in January 2016, I met Veronica Perez, the program lead for the public health program. I was drawn to her vision for GCU’s public health program and soon got involved as an adjunct faculty member. When the opportunity came for a full-time faculty position, I knew it was a position that would be a unique fit to my experience and interests. In my role as assistant professor, I am interested in exposing students to the global aspects of public health and opportunities to engage the local church in public health efforts in the community.
The College of Nursing and Health Care Professions provides a unique opportunity to collaborate with healthcare professionals interested in creating collaborative healthcare teams with a Christian worldview. I look forward to helping develop a public health program with a Christian worldview, integrating spiritual health throughout the curriculum. There is a great need for the next generation of public health leaders to confidently integrate faith as a determinant of health and start to blur the lines between public health practice and ministry. I recently had the opportunity to present along with four other College of Nursing and Health Care Professions faculty members at the International Wholistic Missions Conference, and I was humbled at being a part of this team of faculty and staff that have the same heart for Christ-led health professionals. I greatly appreciate the opportunity to use Scripture as a foundational text and source of absolute truth in my classes and in my mentoring of students. This is instrumental in structuring a healthy online classroom that includes students from diverse backgrounds and cultures. I am most looking forward to developing an MPH program that bridges public health with holistic ministry in a global context. As part of my role at GCU, I facilitate the Public Health as Missions initiative, a collaboration of Christian public health leaders and organizations interested in integrating a transformational development approach into graduate level public health.
Embrace the journey of learning to best serve those in your sphere of influence. Challenge yourself to explore opportunities outside of your comfort zone to expand your vision of what is possible. Be willing to listen and understand from the perspective of your fellow students. Give yourself time to explore more than the required papers and articles. Engage your professors early and often to maximize your time as a student because it will go by fast. As public health students, it is important to think about your capstone project early in your program so you finish with a piece of scholarly work that you can use to advance your career in public health. Lastly, remember your motivation for pursuing an advanced degree in public health and healthcare: to serve God with your unique design and gifts that improve the health and conditions for better health of those around you.