Newswise — The Rutgers School of Public Health is pleased to welcome Dr. Leslie M. Kantor, PhD, MPH, as the inaugural Chair of the Department of Urban-Global Public Health. Previously, Dr. Kantor was the Vice President of Education for Planned Parenthood Federation of America and a member of the faculty at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. Dr. Kantor is a leader in sexual and reproductive health whose work in sexuality education has influenced programs and policy on a national level. Her work lives at the crossroads of public health and social work, enhancing the interdisciplinary ethos espoused by the Rutgers School of Public Health.

Throughout her career, Dr. Kantor’s work has focused on improving the health of underserved, underrepresented, and often marginalized communities and populations. Her studies have addressed the health of adolescents, African Americans and Latino populations, and LGBTQA individuals as well as those who hold several of these intersectional identities. She has also undertaken groundbreaking work that uses technology to deliver interventions; her studies then examined the effectiveness of these programs. In Dr. Kantor’s role at Planned Parenthood, she developed guidelines for LGBTQA-inclusive sex education and mobilized organizations around the country to advocate for inclusive approaches. Her work with youth of underserved populations led to the development of digital tools tailored to those populations first – a novel concept in a world dominated by interventions designed for general audiences. Today, these tools have been used by more than 600,000 middle- and high school-aged adolescents throughout the United States and a chat/text program which Dr. Kantor both enhanced to integrate behavioral science and rigorously evaluated, has reached nearly 1 million adolescents and young adults. 

Dr. Kantor has taught courses on program planning, management of healthcare organizations and pedagogy of sexuality education and participated in numerous research and service programs, including programs designed to reduce maternal mortality in developing countries and to integrate sexual and reproductive health for refugees as an integral part of emergency response.  Dr. Kantor has developed and successfully secured and managed complex federal grants, foundation grants, corporate gifts, and contributions from individual donors including grants from the Ford Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Greene Family Foundation, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. She holds a PhD is from the Columbia School of Social Work, an MPH from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, and a BA from Barnard College.   

Dr. Kantor notes that we have made strides in sexual and reproductive health over the last twenty years. But those improvements have not been realized equally: for example, while rates of teen pregnancy have fallen dramatically, significant disparities remain among African American and Latino populations. Furthermore, urban youth often face multiple challenges – a situation that can amplify the inequities and the resulting health disparities they experience.

“Dr. Kantor is the ideal person to lead our new department, which is rooted in social justice. She uniquely understands the interplay between research, advocacy, community engagement, education, and leadership. In addition, Dr. Kantor helps us continue to grow in our understanding of women’s health, particularly reproductive health, while also contributing significantly to our growing footprint in LGBTQ and sexual heath,” says Dr. Perry N. Halkitis, Dean of Rutgers School of Public Health. He continues: “We believe Dr. Kantor’s far-reaching influence, combined with her life experience in the greater Newark area, will help shape our new Department of Urban-Global Public Health into an educational environment that provides our students unique opportunities for exciting and rigorous scholarship that aligns with our motto, keeping the public in public health.”

As Dr. Kantor continues to study programs and policies that help underserved people, she believes in partnering closely with the community to hear about their health priorities, develop interventions that meet the needs of those who face multifaceted, synergistic challenges, and make sure that our research, service and teaching uses an equity lens at all times. “Joining the Rutgers School of Public Health at this time aligns completely with my lifelong commitment to making a difference in the lives of populations that are underserved.  As a resident of New Jersey for more than 20 years, I’ve been concerned about the large disparities between our suburban and urban areas and know we can do better.  The energy Dr. Halkitis is bringing and the tremendous talent we have in our faculty, staff and students are poised to make real and meaningful change.”  As we begin to address new and evolving health needs, we look forward to seeing Dr. Kantor’s unrelenting drive for social justice instilled into the next generation of public health scholars.


The Rutgers School of Public Health is New Jersey’s only accredited school of public health. The Rutgers School of Public Health seeks to improve health and prevent disease in diverse populations in New Jersey and around the world through educating students to become well-qualified and effective public health leaders, researchers and practitioners; conducting research to advance public health science and policies; and providing service programs that promote population and individual health.


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