Lifeguard travels the world while earning USC Master of Public Health online

Jonathan Robinson has gone from making rescues in Orange County to leading lifeguard training trips in Turkey and Thailand. (Photo/Courtesy of Jonathan Robinson)
The moment San Clemente surfer Jonathan Robinson plunged into the Pacific to pass a lifeguarding test at age 17, his passion became his profession.

Seven years of protecting the Orange County coastline groomed Robinson to be where he is today. The USC Master of Public Health student dreams of an international career in emergency medicine, saving lives wherever he can.

The aspiring physician and MPH student is pursuing his degree online through the Keck School of Medicine of USC in global health leadership while traveling the world for the International Surf Lifesaving Association (ISLA). He serves as an emergency medical technician at a children’s hospital and volunteers as a youth program director and CPR instructor.

Drowning as a public health issue

Robinson is committed to saving swimmers’ lives through ISLA. Drowning is the third leading cause of unintentional injury death worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. While all economies and regions face burden and death from drowning, low- and middle-income countries account for more than 90 percent of unintentional drowning deaths.

Jonathan Robinson portrait

Jonathan Robinson plans to specialize in emergency medicine after finishing his master’s in public health at USC. (Photo/Courtesy of Larissa Puro)

Dedicated to “open-water lifesaving” and preventing drownings, the association helps people secure aquatic safety in their own coastal communities. The organization supports lifeguard-training programs and exchanges, equipment donations, purchasing connections and technology to sustain a global network of lifeguards that share information, techniques, stories and culture.

Robinson’s ISLA trip to Nicaragua was a collaboration with the Red Cross. He and other team members slept in a warehouse alongside Nicaraguan lifeguards and members of the police force, fire department and military.

“Our shared learning was tested each day on the beaches with thousands of people in our waters,” he said. “I was surrounded by a network of global first-responders and lifeguards, united in their mission to combat injury or death from drowning.”

After that trip, he was hooked.