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'Incredible' work helping earthquake survivors in Haiti informed this ASU grad's views


College of Health Solutions graduate Rodrick Johnson

Rodrick Johnson earned a Doctor of Behavioral Health from ASU's College of Health Solutions.

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December 12, 2022
Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2022 graduates.

Rodrick Johnson’s time in Haiti serving as a technical advisor for the United Nations helped form his decision to pursue a degree in the Doctor of Behavioral Health program (specializing in management) through Arizona State University's College of Health Solutions.

Johnson was already on the island on Jan. 12, 2010, when a 7.0 magnitude earthquake rocked the country, killing more than 200,000 people. Johnson spent days working search-and-rescue missions before being retasked with managing the logistics of both humanitarian medical aid delivery and the transportation of injured people to hospitals and clinics.

“Working with my colleagues at the UN and the people of Haiti was one of the high points of my life,” Johnson said. “It was a very tough time, and we lost many people. But the work we did together in that tough time was incredible.”

That work helped Johnson determine that he wanted to learn more about the delivery of health care services.

Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: I knew I wanted to learn more about the delivery of health care services when I worked in Haiti just after the earthquake of 2010. I found myself managing the logistics of both humanitarian medical aid delivery and the transportation of injured people to hospitals and clinics.  

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: I learned just how huge and diverse the various academic fields can be. It's mind-blowing to see the depth and breadth of so many disciplines.   

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: ASU is consistently listed as one of the most innovative universities in the United States. It contributes as much original research as Ivy League schools. When it came to choosing a university, ASU was the best choice I could have made.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: I credit Dr. Lesley Manson with so much of my growth and development in this process. Her guidance and patience have made so much difference. She has been an incredible mentor.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

We have all at least thought of quitting; it gets hard. But keep going. It will all be worth it in the end.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: I have studied everywhere — airports, airplanes, trains, taxis and between meetings. I make it work wherever I am. 

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: After graduation, I'll be out there changing the world. Trying to "pay it forward" for every generous and selfless act everyone did to get me to where I am today.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: To solve a planetary problem, I would probably need some Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos money. But with 40 million I could definitely tackle a local or regional problem. I'd really like to train human services providers (non-profits, government agencies, charities) how to work synergistically so that people who need services don't fall through the cracks or run into dead ends when trying to find the right service for their situation.

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