Diana Hernández, PhD is a tenured Associate Professor of Sociomedical Sciences at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. Dr. Hernández conducts research at the intersection of energy, equity, housing and health. A sociologist by training, her work focuses on the social and environmental determinants of health and examines the impacts of policy and place-based interventions on the health and well-being of socioeconomically disadvantaged populations.
An innovator in the field, Dr. Hernández has operationalized and conducted foundational research on the concept of 'energy insecurity' which reflects the inability to adequately meet household energy needs. Her pathbreaking work on energy insecurity has explored the multiple dimensions of this phenomenon identifying sociodemographic disparities, adverse consequences and promising interventions toward energy justice.
A noted visionary, Professor Hernández' work is broadly dedicated to exploring the links between housing and health and reimagining how housing can support public health as a site of intervention and health promotion. Much of her community-oriented research has been done in collaboration with community groups and government agencies around the country. Moreover, several of her projects have been conducted in her native South Bronx neighborhood, where she also lives and invests in social impact real estate.
A highly accomplished scholar, Dr. Hernández has published over 75 peer-reviewed articles and her high-impact work has appeared in leading academic journals including the American Journal of Public Health, Energy Policy, Social Science and Medicine, and Health Affairs. Having secured over $8.5 million dollars of external funding in the past decade, her work has been supported by the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the JPB Foundation, among others. Professor Hernández teaches graduate level courses on qualitative research design and analysis, public health leadership and energy justice.
In addition to her faculty position, Dr. Hernández serves as the Managing Drector of US Programs of the Energy Opportunity Lab at Columbia's Center for Global Energy Policy.Deputy. Sh is also the Depuity Director of the Center for Environmental Health and Justice in Northern Manhattan where she previously served as the Director of Community Engagement Core from 2017 to 2023. In the 2021-2022 academic year, Professor Hernández was a Visiting Scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation during which time she worked on her first book about energy insecurity in the United States due to be published in 2024. In 2023, Dr. Hernández was named a Roosevelt Institute Fellow to explore energy and housing policy issues.
Diana Hernández is a recognized leader and public servant. She has delivered over 200 invited lectures and presentations reaching academic, policy and general audiences. Dr. Hernández' work has been profiled in a number of media platforms including the New York Times, StatNews and WNYC. She has written two NY Daily News op-eds and has contributed to numerous news outlets such as ABC News, Grist, BBC and others.
She was the inaugural recipient of the Dean’s Junior Faculty Excellence in Leadership Award in 2016 for her efforts leading Mailman’s Faculty Innovation Group. She also received the Junior Faculty Teaching Award in the same year. In 2019, she received the Public Health Service Award from the New York League of Puerto Rican Women. She is also a mayoral appointee to New York City's first-ever Environmental Justice Advisory Board. In 2022, Dr. Hernández received two 40 Under 40 awards- as a Distinguished Alumni of Hunter College and a Public Health Catalyst Award from the Boston Congress of Public Health.
Professor Hernández completed her doctoral training in Sociology at Cornell University (2010), her undergraduate degree at Hunter College- City University of New York (2002) and is a product of the New York City public school system. As a child, Diana grew up in Section-8 housing in the South Bronx; this lived experience has inspired her research and service commitments. Her roots in this vibrant neighborhood date back to 1940 when her grandmother- Clara Luz Rivera- first arrived from Mayaguez, Puerto Rico at age 16. Diana’s father- Frank, a working-class jibaro who hailed from Cayey, Puerto Rico taught her the value of hard work and reaping “la cosecha” (the harvest). While her Nuyorican mother- Milagros DeJesus, a retired public school teacher, instilled an appreciation for lifelong learning.
Diana is married to Ausama Abdelhadi, Esq, a police executive. They share a daughter, Adina (b. 2021). Together, they enjoy global travel, outdoor fitness, tasty food and quality time with friends and family.