When Alexis Gitungano (SPH’19) received his master’s degree in public health from BU this past May, he knew the achievement was a shared one.

Alex and Leo
Last May, nine-year-old Leo Ikoribitangaza walked across the stage with his legal guardian, Alexis Gitungano, as he received his degree from the School of Public Health.

By his side, dressed in identical cap and gown, was an energetic third-grader named Leo, whom Gitungano had brought to the United States from war-torn Burundi for lifesaving medical treatment in 2014. And in his heart were thanks for Joel Lamstein, whose scholarship covered Gitungano’s tuition and kindled his passion for public health. Diploma in hand, Gitungano has accepted a job in the field while continuing to learn how to transition from volunteer medical guardian to de facto parent.

Lamstein, an SPH adjunct associate professor of global health, who serves on the school’s advisory board and founded the public health consultancy John Snow, Inc. (JSI), said his gift was inspired by John F. Kennedy’s call to service in 1960. “It was a life-changing moment for me.”

One that has clearly been paid forward.

“It’s as if I were walking, and Joel Lamstein stopped and put me in his car,” says Gitungano, whose studies at BU focused on program management and global health. “He is giving me a ride to get to my destination.”

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