Alumni Spotlight: Ramon Lorenzo Luis “Renzo” R. Guinto, DrPH ’19

Renzo Guinto
Ramon Lorenzo Luis “Renzo” R. Guinto, DrPH ’19

With 91 graduates since its inception in 2014, the DrPH Program has developed an illustrious, talented group of public health professionals who have taken their DrPH degree and have become public health leaders.

We recently reached out to Ramon Lorenzo Luis “Renzo” R. Guinto, DrPH ’19, to find out where his public health career has taken him and the current work he is doing!

  • Where are you currently located?

Renzo: Manila, Philippines and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

  • Where are you currently working, and a brief description of your job?

Renzo: I currently wear (at least) two main hats. First, since I left Harvard in 2019, I have been serving as the Associate Professor of the Practice of Global Public Health and the Inaugural Director of the new Planetary and Global Health Program of St. Luke’s Medical Center College of Medicine in the Philippines. Second, since late 2021, I also have been the Chief Planetary Health Scientist and Co-Founder of the newly-established Sunway Centre for Planetary Health based at Sunway University in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. In both roles, I am in charge of leading the design and delivery of education and research initiatives that contribute to the advancement of the emerging field of planetary health in these two countries and the whole of Southeast Asia.

  • The DrPH Doctoral Project is the culminating experience of the Harvard DrPH degree and the primary locus of the knowledge translation elements of the degree”. What was the title of your Doctoral Project, where did you work (host organization), and what were your takeaways from completing the project?

Renzo: The title of my DrPH Doctoral Project is: Local Health System Responses to Climate Change: Lessons from Coastal Municipalities in the Philippines. I spent my final year in my home country, the Philippines, investigating the challenges faced by local health systems in coastal communities that are already experiencing the human health impacts of climate change. I designed this project independently, with the help of a generous grant from Harvard Medical School’s Center for Global Health Delivery. The goal of this project was to generate insights that can be used in local health system strengthening, reform, and redesign efforts to build ‘climate-smart’ health systems – health systems that are resilient to climate change and that do no harm to the planet – not only in the Philippines but also in other developing countries.

A unique element in my project is that it is half written and half in the film – which can be viewed here. I believe in the power of storytelling and multimedia in inspiring target audiences and influencing policy, behavior, and mindset change. Today, the insights that my project generated continue to inform my numerous projects in the Philippines and internationally that aim to protect and save lives in the era of a warming planet.

  • The 4 pillars of the DrPH Program are leadership, management, communication, and innovative thinking. Which pillars (if any) do you use most in your new position, and how did the program prepare you for it?

Renzo: All four pillars have contributed significantly to the first three years of my post-DrPH career. The leadership and management skills and tools I acquired from Harvard have been undoubtedly useful as I build not just one but two “think-and-do tanks” focused on planetary health in Southeast Asia – not to mention in the middle of a pandemic! Effective communication is also vital in this era of ‘infodemics’ – a huge part of my job is communicating the message of planetary healing not just to students but also to policymakers, investors, funders, implementers, politicians, and the general public. The innovation principles and methods I learned also came in handy, as most of my projects focus on novel planetary health challenges that require out-of-the-box solutions and new implementation models.

  • If you are in a management position, what would you look for if you were hiring new graduates from the DrPH Program? 

Renzo: Good character, utmost humility, endless curiosity, creative out-of-the-box mind, confidence without cockiness, and passion for improving the health of people and the planet. Technical competence, for me, is less important – that can be honed!

  • If you could do things all over again, would you choose the same path for yourself? Why? What would you change?

Renzo: Quick answer is YES! I always describe my experience at Harvard as “magical,” as it gave me experiences and opened opportunities that would have otherwise been beyond my reach as a young physician from the Philippines. Harvard gave me an enabling place to grow my talents, explore unfamiliar disciplines, connect with amazing people, learn diverse disciplines, and incubate new ideas. When I was there, I always adopted a “YOHO” attitude – “You’re Only at Harvard Once,” so make the most out of the limited time you were given. The DrPH Program helped shape and refine my work as a “pracademic activist” – a practitioner, academic, and activist at the same time. The complex health challenges confronting our people and our planet today require a new kind of leadership that is action-oriented, science-informed, and values-based. I will certainly do things all over again, and I will not change a thing. 

  • Is there any work/document/article you are currently working on that you’d like to promote? Our current students would love to find out what our alumni are working on. 

Renzo: I would like to share a new project that we are launching: Next Generation One Health Philippines Fellowship. I am also leading several projects now focusing on a wide range of topics: climate-smart health systems, climate change and mental health, patient engagement in health systems, snakebite, and migrant health, among others. For the past few years, I have been deeply involved in the global movement toward ‘decolonizing global health.’

I’d also like to share my keynote speech at Karolinska Institute in 2020 and a paper I co-wrote with emerging Global South academics. For the past decade, I have been a member of four Lancet Commissions – on Global Governance for Health, One Health,  Improving Population Health Post COVID-19, and Racism and Structural Discrimination and Health (website coming soon).

Let’s connect via LinkedIn and Twitter to get the latest updates about my work. You can watch my lectures and films here and also here.