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Spotlight Iowa City: Working in the public interest

BY PATRICK RAFFERTY | MARCH 24, 2010 7:30 AM

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Relaxing in his hotel room at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago after a daylong conference, Ryan Landi, 22, can’t stop thinking about ways to increase social responsibility.

“He was always that way,” said mother Lynne Landi, 57. “He’s always wanted to help people and make them feel better.”

Attending the American Health Care Executives Congress this week, the largest conference for health-care executives, Ryan Landi will meet with people from more than 20 countries to help improve the delivery of health care.

Growing up in Rockford, Ill., he always took notice of people’s health. His grandfather was a smoker, and his grandmother wasn’t in great health either.

After high school, Landi left for Augustana College to pursue a career in medicine. At the end of his sophomore year, an Iowa alumnus spoke at Augustana College about public health, and that sparked his interest.

His focus on medicine quickly changed, but his affinity for helping people remained sharp.

Desiring to improve his social responsibility and that of others, Landi decided to get into health promotion. He swiftly earned an internship in public health for Rock Island in emergency preparedness and health promotion. Shortly after, Landi graduated from Augustana and made the one-hour drive west to Iowa City for graduate school.

After arriving at Iowa, he decided on a dual degree for his master’s in health policy and health administration. He quickly also took notice of some problems on campus.

Landi and a few of his peers eventually created ECO Hawk, a group dedicated to reducing wastes and recycling products.

“We all talked about how inspired we were by this movie, so we looked at the College of Public Health and said we could do a better job of recycling,” Landi said. “It’s easy to recycle, it’s cost-effective, and if you create a culture around it, it can become part of daily life. We’re not just telling people to recycle. We’re showing people why they should.”

As president of ECO Hawk, he has seen the program steadily grow. It now partners with the Office of Sustainability, as well as the UI’s Facilities Management, to help improve recycling around campus.

Desire Christensen, 26, the vice president of ECO Hawk, said the group’s focus is on easy changes and how individuals can affect the environment.

Now, because of its work, ECO Hawk will sponsor the university’s first-ever waste sort on April 16, titled “Green Dream Expo.” The event is in anticipation of the move into a new building for the College of Public Health.

“We felt that he was doing a lot of finding who to connect with,” Christensen said. “That’s a big part of what he does, is connecting with a lot of different people on campus and to connect our organization with other similar movements on campus.”

Continuing to connect himself to the world, Landi has found himself in a familiar situation in emergency preparedness. Last week, he received a graduate assistantship with a director of a hygienic lab at Oakdale Research Campus. There, he is in charge of revising the university’s pandemic influenza plan.

“This is more of what I want to do,” he said. “ECO Hawk is something I am passionate about. I would almost call it a hobby. This graduate assistantship is more relevant with what I want to do with a future career.”


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