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Justin Gelzhiser, PhD
Justin Gelzhiser, PhD

“Building on the Stepping Strong Center’s focus on interdisciplinary, collaborative research, it is an honor to establish an Injury Prevention Fellowship that provides a wonderful opportunity for young investigators to explore social science and public health principles while supporting the Injury Prevention Program’s mission of reducing the number and severity of traumatic injuries in Boston and beyond.” —Molly Jarman, PhD, MPH, Stepping Strong Injury Prevention Program Director

The Stepping Strong Center is delighted to welcome Justin Gelzhiser, PhD, as the inaugural Stepping Strong Injury Prevention Fellow. For the last two years, Gelzhiser served as a visiting scientist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health within Harvard’s Injury Control Research Center. He completed his PhD studies at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education in Social Science & Comparative Education, and a master’s degree in intercultural communication from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education.

Gelzhiser’s deep appreciation for K-12 and higher education teaching and research has led him to work extensively both in the United States and abroad, including travels to nearly 60 countries with a significant amount of time spent in South Africa, Costa Rica, Japan, and China. As a proud Philadelphian, he is excited about his move up north but hopes New Englanders will be accepting of his love for the Eagles.

An Interview with Justin Gelzhiser, PhD

Q: What events or life experiences have led to your interest in pursuing a career in injury prevention?

A: On June 1, 2016, I was on UCLA’s campus during a deadly shooting that forever changed the direction of my life. That event led me to write my eventual PhD dissertation, which explores gun violence on American college campus and highlights the fact that gun violence is not only a domestic public health epidemic, but also has a visceral global ripple effect.

Q: It sounds like you turned a devastating event into something very meaningful. Can you say more about how you’ll be applying what you learned at UCLA and the T.H. Chan School to your role as the Stepping Strong Injury Prevention fellow?

A: The injury prevention field is strongest when it encompasses an interdisciplinary approach. So I hope my background in public health, education, sociology, and community outreach can provide new perspectives on the field. Specifically, my research this year will include a survey of thousands of students from 200 American colleges and universities in which I examine a variety of injury prevention topics. My overriding goal in this work is to reduce traumatic injuries and death among young people.

Q: I read that you are avid long-distance runner. This interest aligns perfectly with the origins of the Stepping Strong Center.

A: Yes, it does! I’ve run two marathons—one in Philadelphia and one in Tokyo. I was moved when I read about Gillian Reny’s personal strength in overcoming the Boston Marathon tragedy, and the remarkable response of caregivers at the Brigham who gave her a second chance at life. It a truly great honor to be able to work closely with and learn from the entire team at The Gillian Reny Stepping Strong Center for Trauma Innovation.

Q: Congratulations on the new position, and welcome to the Stepping Strong family.

A: Thank you. I am really looking forward to diving in, and hope my research will have an impact on injury prevention practice and policy, both domestically and internationally.

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