Increasing Accessibility for Vulnerable Populations

Meet Christopher Khanoyan, MPH
George Washington University
Johns Hopkins Epidemiology Department and United States Cochrane Center
Contact Christopher

Christopher Khanoyan began his journey to public health as a volunteer with the Livestrong Foundation and the Special Olympics. He quickly realized that despite his desires to help individuals with cancer or athletes with learning disabilities, he simply didn’t have enough training.

He decided to pursue the Master’s in public health because of its focus on preventing infectious disease and improving health among vulnerable populations. He made his way to the George Washington University Millkin Institute School of Public Health (GWU) and began his preparations to make a difference in the world.

Internship at PAHO/WHO

Christopher feels satisfied that he was able to make an impact during his short tenure as a student at GWU, especially during an internship with PAHO/WHO. In particular, Christopher was able to increase awareness for deaf, hard of hearing and visually impaired individuals as well as contribute to ongoing projects within these organizations.

Christopher is deaf himself and understands the challenges that surface from a lack of awareness from others. He shares an experience during his internship when he was asked to give an important presentation to a room of spectators. He informed PAHO/WHO beforehand that he would require a certified sign language interpreter but on the day of the event, he discovered that he’d been sent an individual who knew some sign but was not certified. The interpreter was not able to keep up with Christopher’s pace or convey his sense of humor to the audience.

Christopher reached out to the PAHO/WHO management team, informed them of his experience, and expressed the need for the organization to contract a certified sign language interpreter with a background in the field of public health and medicine.

His proactive approach to the situation helped management at PAHO/WHO realize the importance of meeting the needs of not only employees and interns who are hard of hearing, visually impaired, or deaf, but those individuals of the general population as well. His efforts are already making an impact, as evidenced by this sign language video presentation on the Zika virus that he helped create.

Other Contributions

Christopher used his background in public health to contribute in other ways during his internship as well. He conducted literature reviews aimed at increasing accessibility to health services for deaf, hard of hearing, and visually impaired individuals; assisted with pilot programs to improve PAHO/WHO outreach to target populations; and supported many ongoing initiatives by assessing, monitoring and evaluating impact. He also worked with his mentor to publish this article on the importance of registering observational studies.

Work After GWU

As a new MPH grad, Christopher is on his way to the Johns Hopkins Epidemiology Department and United States Cochrane Center. There he will assess research studies for eligibility, appraise primary studies for bias, develop data collection forms, extract and enter data, and prepare tables for manuscripts. He will also help ensure that reviews conducted by other U.S.-based researchers meet appropriate high standards.

Christopher’s Advice for MPH Grads

Christopher understands how difficult it is to find public health work. He suggests that MPH grads network with other public health professionals and not allow fear to get in the way of reaching out. He urges grads to use LinkedIn in order to connect with their school, work, and volunteer organizations in order to expand their networks and increase chances for employment.

Contact Christopher

Questions for Christopher? Click here.