A passionate interest in public health, an eagerness for diversity, and a standard of excellence brought John Olawepo to UNLV. This weekend, he completes his journey and earns his doctorate from the School of Public Health.
Olawepo's dissertation focused on studying obesity among people living with HIV who are receiving treatment.
“We are beginning to see, with the availability of potent drugs, that people living with HIV can have normal lives like every other person," Olawepo said. "If they stop using these drugs, they revert to what we used to know about people with HIV – they become very sick. This raised a key question. How do we begin to support this population to live healthy lives?”
While Olawepo’s HIV work has been a focus of his since working for an HIV clinic in Nigeria, his research interests extend into other aspects of public health. In 2019, he presented his research on air quality and the benefits of switching from diesel fuels to natural gas at the UNLV Graduate College’s Inspiration, Innovation, Impact event.
Olawepo participated in the Graduate College's research certification, communication certification, mentorship certification, Grad Rebel Advantage program, and Research and Mentorship Program. Olawepo was also a Graduate College Ambassador for two academic years.
“The Graduate College is one of the reasons I’ve enjoyed my time here. I worked with some very amazing people. They have been very welcoming and made my time here very special, very unique,” he said.
Receiving the President’s UNLV Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship award was one of the high points of Olawepo's time at the university.
“Winning that award was a validation that I was on the right track," he said. "The UNLV community appreciated the work I was doing. It gave me protected time to do a lot of other things including research, publications, and finishing my dissertation on time."
While Olawepo will miss the sense of community and diversity on UNLV’s campus, he looks forward to taking up a teaching position in an academic institution and starting the next stage of his career and life.
“Stay focused," Olawepo advised current Rebels. "See the university as a training ground. Yes, you come here and you acquire knowledge, but the world needs people to do stuff. It is about what you do with the knowledge you acquire. We have this pandemic on our hands and it affects us all, but stay focused on your academic goals as much as is possible without endangering your lives. The pandemic will come and go, but you don’t want to lose one or two years of your academic life, if you can avoid that."