Buchanan retires after nearly 30 years at UMass Amherst

David Buchanan

October 5, 2018

Professor of Community Health Education David Buchanan retired at the end of August 2018 after serving as a faculty member at the University of Massachusetts Amherst for the past 29 years, including the most recent 3 years in which he served as Chair of the Department of Health Promotion and Policy.

“When the Department of Public Health was converted back to its three former departments in 2015, David took a leadership role as he has often done in the School of Public Health and Health Sciences and agreed to serve as chair of the Department of Health Promotion and Policy,” says Marjorie Aelion, Dean of the School of Public Health and Health Sciences. “He did a remarkable job in those three years, and was instrumental in hiring new faculty, growing the department, and establishing the William A. Darity Sr. Graduate Scholarship. This was in addition to continuing his own scholarship, and serving as Director of the Institute for Global Health. David has worked tirelessly to support the department and the School; his dedication and loyalty are unparalleled.”

Beginning in 1989 as an assistant professor in what was then the School of Public Health, Buchanan dedicated his career to the university, his students, and the pursuit of knowledge. He earned a national reputation as a top academic in the field of public health ethics, humanistic program design, substance abuse, and international health. His work led him to numerous collaborations across the globe, including Russia, Afghanistan, Iran, China, Vietnam, South Africa, and Haiti. His many international efforts led the University of Massachusetts Amherst to appoint him as the founding director of its newly created Institute for Global Health in 2006. The university again recognized him in 2012 when he received exceptional merit from the Provost.

The recipient of multi-million dollar grant funding through the US Agency for International Development, the US Department of Education, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other federal agencies, Buchanan has most recently focused his research efforts in the commonwealth of Massachusetts. Working with Assistant Professor Louis Graham, he currently serves as co-principal investigator on a five-year, community-based participatory research (CBPR) project with Springfield’s Men of Color Health Awareness (MOCHA) group. The ongoing collaboration is a CBPR investigation of chronic disease prevention in older, low-income African-American men, researching ways to enhance MOCHA’s already successful support of African-American men’s health and skills for coping with stress, as well as collecting data on MOCHA’s approach that will demonstrate the value of the program in becoming a national model.

Buchanan also recently served as co-director of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health-funded Marijuana Baseline Health Study, working with Assistant Professor of Health Policy and Management Jennifer Whitehill to establish baseline standards on statewide marijuana use and possible health consequences. The study caps over 35 years in the field of public health studying issues surrounding substance abuse, beginning in the San Francisco Bay area after completing his master’s degree through to prevention programs in Holyoke and Amherst, to a National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) funded research project on HIV-risk among injection drug users in Springfield. He has also published peer-reviewed articles and books on the ethics of health promotion and on conducting research with high-risk populations, focusing in particular on illicit drug users from poor and minority backgrounds.

He has taught numerous courses, including Social Justice and Public Health, International Health, Program Planning, Program Evaluation, Principles of Community Health Education, and Public Health Ethics, among others. He has delivered countless lectures on a variety of pressing public health issues in the United States and abroad. A prolific writer, Buchanan has also published over 125 peer-reviewed articles, reports, books, and book chapters to his credit. He has served as a reviewer for numerous peer-reviewed journals, including the International Quarterly of Community Health Education, for which he currently serves as editor-in-chief.

In addition to his numerous administrative and leadership roles on campus, Buchanan has devoted countless hours serving his community through participation on a variety of local health councils and boards of health, and as a member of professional organizations including the American Public Health Association, the Massachusetts Public Health Association, and the Society for Public Health Education.

Just as important as his impact on the community health field is the immeasurable impact Buchanan has had on the many graduate and undergraduate students he has worked with, instructed, and mentored over the years.

“Just recently I was attending a public health conference when a colleague told me they became a public health academic because David suggested she think about a career in academia,” says Associate Dean Daniel Gerber, a longtime colleague in the Community Health Education program. “David influenced many of us, including myself, to become public health academics and we are all grateful for his mentorship.”