A public health expert whose research has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Yahoo News and several other major media outlets is the newest faculty member in the College of Health and Social Services at New Mexico State University.
Jagdish Khubchandani joined NMSU’s Department of Public Health Sciences as a professor in August – in time for the start of the fall 2020 semester.
Khubchandani, who most recently served as a faculty member in the Department of Nutrition and Health Science at Ball State University in Indiana, brings almost 20 years of experience in medicine and higher education to NMSU, where he currently teaches public health evaluation.
His areas of expertise include clinical and social epidemiology, global health, and violence and injury prevention. He has published more than 125 research articles, received research funding from a variety of agencies, and his work has been cited more than 30,000 times. He previously won a service-earning award from Indiana’s governor and served as a director for the World Association of Medical Editors.
Khubchandani started his career in India. As a resident physician working in New Delhi for a government hospital, he routinely treated patients for chronic diseases such as depression and anxiety, he said, and saw direct links between their health – or lack thereof – and their social circumstances. That sparked an interest that led him down a different career path.
“Someone told me if you are so interested in looking at the health of people as a group and not as a person, then you should pursue some training in public health and the social side of health,” he recalled. “Then, I moved to the United States for my public health degree, because I always felt that there’s more to medicine than dealing with people one on one.”
Khubchandani earned a master’s degree in public health in 2007 from Western Kentucky University and a Ph.D. in health education and epidemiology in 2010 from the University of Toledo. He comes to NMSU amid a global pandemic that has heightened interest in the public health sciences, and he plans to tailor his research endeavors accordingly.
In the coming months, he will release studies on face mask behavior, stress and food insecurity, and gun-buying habits during the pandemic, he said.
“I think researchers, practitioners and educators should look at the future of our society from the lens of the pandemic because I don’t see an imminent end,” he said. “That’s why my focus on everything I do now – from mental health issues to violence – looks at society in a new shape. My emphasis will be on local community issues and how the pandemic is changing lives.”
Khubchandani’s work and commentaries on topics related to COVID-19 – including social distancing, staying healthy during lockdowns, data-driven approaches to reopening economies and the dangers of counterfeit face masks – have appeared in Huffington Post, Healthline, Wall Street Journal and other outlets since March.
Before arriving at NMSU, Khubchandani explored the role of job insecurity and workplace harassment in the U.S. and discovered that Americans who identified as job insecure or were bullied at workplaces were unhealthy compared to their counterparts and also experienced sleeplessness and mental health issues and were the least productive.
He continued research into sleeping habits and found that within the past decade, sleeplessness has increased in adult Americans, particularly those with careers in health care and law enforcement. WebMD, US News and World Report, USA Today and NPR featured the sleep problems study bringing greater awareness to the problem of insomnia in American.
For his doctoral dissertation, Khubchandani started the first series of studies to look at the role of school personnel in preventing and responding to teen dating violence. He surveyed hundreds of high school principals, school nurses and school counselors in the U.S. to explore school practices on teen dating violence prevention.
He found more than half of the principals, nurses and counselors had encountered a victim of dating violence, but the vast majority said they had received no training on dealing with such matters. A majority of the principals, 78 percent, also reported that their schools did not have protocols for responding to dating violence. The New York Times cited this study in a story published earlier this year.