Isaac Luginaah named as Distinguished University Professor

March 17, 2022

Isaac Luginaah, professor in the department of Geography & Environment

With notes from Debora Van Brenk; photo by Rob Rombouts

Issac Luginaah has been named as a Western University Distinguished University Professor.

Luginaah is a professor in the department of Geography & Environment, and is co-director of Western’s Centre for Climate Change, Sustainable Livelihoods and Health.

From the Western News:

Health geographer Isaac Luginaah has his heart fully on two continents: North America, where he works to understand and solve how disproportionately marginalized populations experience the impact of environmental issues; and Africa, where he studies the effects of health inequities, HIV/AIDS, nutrition, food insecurity and climate change.

Those who nominated Luginaah for a Distinguished University Professor honour described him effusively as “one of the stars of environmental health geography,” and note his staggeringly high number of high-impact articles and book chapters, and his mentorship of colleagues and students.

His book chapters have been used to influence health-care reform in the U.S. and inform decision-making about the risks and impact of air pollution in North America. Born in Ghana, Luginaah continues to contribute to important scholarship in Africa, where he is proud to have brought students to a deeper understanding of local and international issues and solutions. “When you go there, you are hooked. You can’t get out if you have a good heart,” he said.

His research has generated more than $10 million in grant funding as a principal or co-principal investigator, and he has participated in a further $24 million in funded research from a range of national and international agencies. He has also been a willing resource for faculty members looking to gain additional support for their work, including having formed a faculty scholarship committee to support each other’s grant applications.

He is co-director of Western’s Centre for Climate Change, Sustainable Livelihoods and Health, and helped shape Western’s future as a member of the university’s strategic planning steering committee.

In all of his achievements, though, mentorship is the motivation that motivates him every day. He has promoted the training of women and racialized people from underrepresented groups around the world: 30 of his graduate students have been female, and his trainees represent 12 different countries from four continents. His undergraduate courses are always full and student evaluations have been consistently glowing.

“I had really, really solid mentors,” he said, and that in turn inspired an ever-expanding positive cycle of mentorship: several of his graduate students have gone on to become university professors who are teaching and leading the next generations of students and scholars around the world.

“The publications, yes, I have quite a few. But if you ask me what makes me happiest, it is that I’ve mentored some pretty high-flyers. That is the thing I cherish most,” he said.


Established in 2005, The Distinguished University Professor Award recognizes sustained excellence in scholarship over a substantial career at Western. Scholarship is broadly defined to include research, teaching and service to the community. Thus, this award is not a recognition solely of research excellence, which is the purpose of the Hellmuth Prize, nor is it a recognition solely of teaching excellence, which is the purpose of the Pleva Award. The Distinguished University Professorship will recognize sustained excellence as a complete scholar.