A trip to the barber changed ’17 grad’s path toward public health


Jonathan Robinson '17

Going to the barber can change your life.

For Jonathan Robinson, BSPH ’17, a visit to the barber was just one of several to-do’s on his list before starting his freshman year at Ohio State. But none shaped his career passion like the day he walked into “A Cut Above the Rest."

“When I went to get my haircut that day, I was confused by the large amount of people in the shop,” Robinson said. “My barber explained what was going on and that many of his customers did not have access to proper health resources, and had died of preventable diseases.”

Robinson soon saw that this was no ordinary barbershop. Al Edmondson, the owner and his barber, took action to address the health issues he saw his customers battling every day by founding an organization called Making a Difference, Inc.   The non-profit on Mount Vernon Avenue works to improve the overall health of Columbus’ underserved inner-city communities, including the health education and screenings that Robinson saw taking place that day in the barbershop.  The group also provides other services and support, such as mentoring programs for fathers and school supplies for students.

Robinson said that he “really saw then the need to get people connected to resources and understand their health.”

"It is really important that there is that cross-collaboration between the researchers and the community so they know what is going on.  They should have an active role on what research is being done in their community."

Robinson will attend John’s Hopkins University to pursue his master of health administration (MHA) degree in the fall, a degree he said he plans to use to “make sure that hospitals are directing resources to problems that are most burdening their patients.”

“If something is disproportionately affecting a community, more resources should be allocated toward that problem,” Robinson said.

“Career Conversation with an Alum” jumpstarts move to health care administration

Robinson originally wanted to go into the medical field to become a doctor, but that changed after attending a College of Public Health Alumni Society event called "Career Conversations with an Alum," and speaking with an executive from Riverside Hospital about his journey to working in health care administration.

Robinson was later connected with graduate students within the college who discussed why they decided to go into health care administration.

“I realized that being a doctor would limit me to only treating one patient at a time, but if I became a leader in the health care field, I could change how entire communities and groups of people are accessing and receiving health care.”

While attending high school just outside of Columbus, Robinson was involved in a program that created cross-cultural relationships that support diversity and helped under-privileged high school students gain access to college counseling. The program helped bring together seniors and other students in his high school to help them apply to colleges and understand what the process is. College professionals and students were brought in to speak with the students.

Through this program and his academic achievement, Robinson was able to gain a full-ride scholarship to Ohio State. The scholarship allowed him to serve as a leader and participate in activities that promote diversity on campus.

As an undergrad at Ohio State, Robinson was involved with the Diversity and Inclusion Committee at the College of Public Health, Kappa Sigma fraternity, attended a Buck-I-SERV trip to Nicaragua to promote health care education, and had an internship in external affairs at OhioHealth where he was able to be “exposed to OhioHealth’s innovative outreach initiatives they have in the community.”

Watch a brief video from our Pre-Commencement Celebration to learn how Jonathan's experience as a student at the College of Public Health prepared him for his future: 

Experience in Hood Lab shows deep environmental health problems need collective solution

Robinson also served as a student research assistant in the "Hood Lab" at the College of Public Health. He first learned of the laboratory’s work when he talked to Darryl Hood, PhD, associate professor of environmental health sciences, about taking his Principles of Toxicology course in the fall of 2015. He was too young at the time to take such an advanced class with environmental health sciences graduate students, but was invited to attend the class’ weekly meetings in Hood’s lab.

Jonathan Robinson '17 in Hood Lab

Jonathan Robinson assists graduate students in "Hood Lab" under the instruction of Darryl Hood, PhD, associate professor of environmental health sciences at the College of Public Health.


Hood says that Jonathan “jumped in head first to assist the lead graduate student on the project they were working on and took this opportunity to learn everything he could from the senior graduate students about community engagement research.”

One of Robinson’s favorite experiences during his two-year research period was going to visit the Stambaugh-Elwood community outside of Columbus. The researchers focused on this community because it is surrounded by high-traffic roadways and many manufacturing companies. They wanted to see how the environmental factors have an impact on the community and their health.

Students attended a health fair in Stambaugh-Elwood to present their research and show community members the digital health portal that they created. This allows people living in the community to see what environmental exposures they face every day.

“It is really important that there is that cross-collaboration between the researchers and the community so they know what is going on.  They should have an active role on what research is being done in their community,” Robinson said.

This experience helped Robinson realize that while working in the health care administration field, he wants to create “cross-industry relationships with hospitals, local organizations and public health agencies. It will have a greater impact because instead of investing a lot of time, money, and resources individually, they can combine their efforts and make a bigger impact.”

When asked about Robinson's research work under his tutelage, Hood said that “based on the everyday interactions that I have had with him during the past two years, I am positive that he has the scientific curiosity, aptitude, perseverance, and commitment to succeed. He is very mature and determined.”

“Jonathan’s ethical constitution and commitment will ensure that he excels.”


About The Ohio State University College of Public Health

The Ohio State University College of Public Health is a leader in educating students, creating new knowledge through research, and improving the livelihoods and well-being of people in Ohio and beyond.  The College’s divisions include biostatistics, environmental health sciences, epidemiology, health behavior and health promotion, and health services management and policy.   It is ranked 19th among all colleges of public health in the U.S. by U.S. News & World Report, and also includes the top 10-ranked MHA degree program.  The College provides leadership and expertise for Ohio and the world through its Center for Health Outcomes, Policy and Evaluation Studies (HOPES), Center for Public Health Practice, and the NCI-funded Center of Excellence in Regulatory Tobacco Science (CERTS).