Skip to main content
Tufts Public Health

Fernando Ona

Clinical Associate Professor of Public Health and Community Medicine
Department: Public Health & Community Medicine
Programs: Public Health

Fernando Ona

Fernando Ona

Clinical Associate Professor of Public Health and Community Medicine
Department: Public Health & Community Medicine
Programs: Public Health

Phone 617-636-0362
Campus: Boston


Fernando is an environmental epidemiologist and medical anthropologist with interests in systems theory and soft systems modeling, phenomenology, Bayesian methods, complex humanitarian emergencies and spiritual-therapeutic interventions. His research interests are primarily with refugees, internally displaced populations, and asylum seekers who are survivors of torture. Fernando also works with ultra-poor populations living in informal settlements. Geographically, Fernando works in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, southern Africa and among refugee populations in Europe and North America. At Tufts, Fernando supports the dual-degree PA/MPH and BA/MPH programs, and teaches in the Tufts University Prison Initiative at Tisch College.

Fernando holds faculty affiliations with the Department of Anthropology, Community Health, Center for Interdisciplinary Studies, and Race, Colonialism and Diaspora Studies. He currently is a part-time psychotherapist with the Boston Center for Refugee Health and Human Rights at Boston Medical Center. Fernando is also a Dean's Fellow in the M.Div. Chaplaincy program at Boston University, School of Theology where he is pursuing a certificate in Religion and Conflict Transformation and in the process of seeking ordination. Fernando spends his time between Boston and his biodynamic farm in Vermont.

Research Areas

  • Trauma-responsive interventions: Survivors of Torture, Refugees and Asylum Seekers, Vicarious Traumatization, Compassion Fatigue, Narrative Medicine, Military Sciences/Medicine
  • Environmental Health: Slum/Informal Settlements Health, Solid Waste Management, Food Safety and Sanitation, Global Disaster Management/Humanitarian Aid, Pesticide Exposure, Political Ecology, Environmental Health Social Movements
  • Epidemiology: Environmental, Spatial (CI/PPGIS), Mental Health, Social Networks
  • Sociomedical Sciences and Anthropology: Embodiment, Social Exclusion/Inclusion, Institutions, Adultification, Mental Health, Resilience and Risk, Human Ecology, Systems Theory
  • Divinity: Process and Relational Theology, Play Theology, Liberation Theology, Theopoetics, Conflict Transformation and Mediation, Mysticism, Contemplative Arts and Centering Prayer


  • PhD, University of California, Berkeley and San Francisco
  • MPH, Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine
  • MSW, Boston University School of Social Work
  • LCSW, State of Massachusetts
  • MDiv (cand.), Boston University, School of Theology
  • BA/BS, US Naval Academy


Shams-White, M. M., Cuccia, A., Ona, F., Bullock, S., Chui, K., McKeown, N., & Must, A. (2019). Lessons Learned From the Creating Active Communities and Healthy Environments Toolkit Pilot: A Qualitative Study. Environmental Health Insights.

Cislaghi, B., Bukuluki, P, Chowdhury, M.; Espinosa Miranda, A., Kenny, L., Kohli, A., Kusumaningrm, S., Harouna Brah, B., Love, C., Mathpati, M., Nkwi, P., Ona, F. Porter, J., Ruiz-Casares, M., Saldanha, N., Sulaiman, M., Wessels, M. (2019) Global health is political; can it also be compassionate. Journal of Global Health 9(2): 1-4. doi: 10.7189/jogh.09.020306

Piwowarczyk, L., Flinton, K., Ona, F. (2019) Refugee Resilience and Spirituality: Harnessing Social and Cultural Coping Strategies, in Refugees and Asylum Seekers: Interdisciplinary and Comparative Perspectives, eds. Berthold, S. M. and Libal, K. R. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger Press.

Piwowarzyck, L and Ona, F. (2018) 'BeWell': Quality Assurance Health Promotion Pilot. International Journal of Health Care Quality Assurance. doi: 10.1108/IJHCQA-08-2017-0152

Sheats, J.L., de Leon, B., Ona, F. F. (2014) Where are the fresh fruits and vegetables?: A systematic exploration of access to food stores offering fresh fruits and vegetables as told by Mid-western African American women. Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition.

Sheats, J. L., Middlestadt, S. E., Ona, F. F., Juarez, P. D., & Kolbe, L. J. (2013). Understanding African American Women's Decisions to Buy and Eat Dark Green Leafy Vegetables: An Application of the Reasoned Action Approach. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.