Richard Armenta, PhD, MPH
Assistant Professor, Department of Kinesiology
California State University, San Marcos
How did you become interested in your field?
I first became interested in Public Health as an undergraduate student when I studied abroad in Concepcion, Chile and worked for a non-profit providing reproductive and sexual health education to adolescents. This interest grew as I learned more about health disparities both abroad and in the US. As I learned more about the impact that poverty, lack of knowledge about risk factors for disease and disease prevention, lack of access to health care, social injustice, and inequity/inequality have on health I wanted to be able to do more to help others.
What type of research are you doing?
My research trajectory has been broad and has focused on areas such as obesity and diabetes prevention, infectious disease prevention focusing on HIV and STIs, and understanding the impact of mental health and other health behaviors. Currently, I am conducting a research project on HIV among American Indian/Alaskan Native populations. I recently received interdisciplinary funding from the Dean to conduct a project on STIs/HIV among college students along with Drs. Christina Holub and Asherlev Santos in the MPH program. My future research will include work on increasing physical activity among those at high risk for diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
What inspired you to choose that area of research?
My research has been shaped by both my own experiences with various health conditions such as family members suffering preventable diseases like type 2 diabetes and the apparent disparities many underserved groups face. My research is also shaped by the needs of the communities I work with. It is important to me that community leaders and members are engaged stakeholders in the research and play in role in the design and conduct of my research to ensure it is culturally appropriate, relevant, and will address health issues they are facing.
What do you hope students take away from your classes at the end of each semester?
My goal is for students to develop a deeper understanding of the content through practice-based, interactive, and meaningful activities. I strive to engage students in their own learning by providing relevant examples and encouraging interacting throughout the class. My hope is that students leave excited about the topic and want to continue to learn more.
What is the biggest challenge in your job?
The biggest challenge is juggling teaching, research, and service as they are all important and interesting in their own ways.
What is the greatest reward of your job?
The greatest reward is helping others through my research or teaching. When my research helps communities and individuals improve their health I see that as a success. I also love seeing students start to better understand and become more interested in the material being taught in the classroom.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
When I am not working I enjoy spending time with my spouse and our two dogs and cat. I also do woodworking in my spare time and build furniture. You can also find me dancing salsa or performing when I have time. Aside from that, I love to go camping, hiking and spend time outdoors.
What’s the best part about working at CSUSM?
The best part about working at CSUSM is the supportive environment and the great faculty and staff that strive to innovate in their teaching and research every day. The students have also proven to be eager, dedicated, and ready to tackle the pressing issues we will face at a local, national, and global level in the near and distant future.
What attracted you to CSUSM?
What initially attracted me to CSUSM was its very apparent commitment to creating a welcoming and supportive environment for students, faculty, and staff from all walks of life and all backgrounds. It was immediately evident to me that the campus is committed to diversity and helping develop the next generation of changemakers ready to take on any challenge thrown at them.
Anything additional you’d like us to know about you?
I am Hispanic and Native American and am committed to providing mentorship to students from underrepresented backgrounds. One way I do this is through my work with the California Native American Research Centers for Health Student Development Program (CA-NARCH SDP). CA-NARCH SDP is an NIH funded program to provide mentorship and research opportunities to American Indian/Alaskan Native students in the Sciences. I serve as a co-investigator for the grant and as the research director/mentor for the program.