Faculty Snapshot: Dustin Duncan

Photos of Dustin Duncan, one professional head shot, one selfie at the beach, and a photo of Dustin and his sister standing in front of a tree.

Tell us about your work.
My research broadly seeks to understand how social and contextual factors especially neighborhood characteristics influence population health, with a particular focus on infectious disease and sleep epidemiology. Regarding COVID-19, my interests include characterizing the COVID-19 epidemic in the United States and globally. My work has an emphasis on minority health, intersectionality and health disparities, especially among sexual and gender minority populations in particular among Black gay, bisexual and other sexual minority men (SMM) and transgender women of color (TWOC). I am PI of two prospective cohort studies (one on Black SMM and another on TWOC), which use novel geospatial methods.

What are you looking forward to right now? What are you excited about?
I am looking forward to working more on (and finishing) my new book with Oxford University Press on the health and wellbeing of Black gay, bisexual and other sexual minority men. I am actively working on the book, which includes a qualitative study of >30 Black sexual minority men. I’ve been reading a ton on intersectionality, trauma and healing in preparation for my book. One book that I recently read is Punished: Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys by Victor Rios with New York University Press. While over a decade old, the issues are unfortunately still salient. I have many other books on my work desk that I will soon be reading and learning from, including Ibram Kendi's How to Be an Anti-Racist. My book will be complete by September 2021.

What's in your Netflix queue?
I’ve watched so much Netflix at the beginning of the pandemic (so much!). Nonetheless, I honestly can’t remember the last time that I sat down and watched Netflix. Instead, I listen to music, often in my living room and have a spontaneous dance party.

My Spotify includes a wide range of genres and artists. What I listen to the most is “Church” music, followed by “Jamaican” music and “Trap” music. Example selections include: "Let Go" (feat PJ Morton & DeWayne Woods) by Bishop Paul S. Morton, "Never Would Have Made It" by Marvin Sapp, "No Weapon" by Fred Hammond and Radical for Christ, "Action" by Doktor, "Living the Dream" by Usain Bolt and Nj, and "Up" by Cardi B.

What advice would you have for a potential mentee about succeeding in academia?
My main advice is to research a topic or topics that you are passionate about—not what you mentor or your parents suggest. It will only be you who will be up late at night conducting literature reviews, and resubmitting a manuscript that has been rejected from multiple journals. I think this is one (important) key to success that will build the resilience and persistence that I believe is needed for to succeed in academia.

To learn more about Dr. Duncan's research, visit his profile or the Columbia Spatial Epidemiology Lab's website.