The Virginia Tech Board of Visitors gave final approval at their meeting this week to establishing a new department within the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine that will house the university’s Master of Public Health degree program.

At their June 6 meeting, the board approved a plan that details the role of the Department of Population Health Sciences within the veterinary college. The department organizes and administers the public health program and engages in research and outreach initiatives related to human and animal health.

The fourth academic department within the veterinary college, the new department facilitates the process toward accreditation by the Council on Education for Public Health, provides accountability and budget oversight for the public health program, and partners with the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine in offering the Master of Public Health degree.

“We are very pleased with the board of visitor’s decision as it confirms our approach to working across disciplines to provide new solutions to problems facing animal and public health,” said Dr. Gerhardt Schurig, dean of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine and a member of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine board of directors. “The new department will continue to fuse efforts of veterinarians, physicians, and other health professionals in addressing state, national, and global public health challenges consistent with the ‘one health’ approach endorsed by the [American Medical Association] and the [American Veterinary Medical Association].”

Virginia Tech launched the new Master of Public Health program last fall in response to a critical shortage of trained public health professionals in the United States and, in particular, Southwest and Southside Virginia and the greater Appalachian region. The 42-credit professional degree program offers concentrations in public health education and infectious disease and was developed in conjunction with the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine.

The program is designed to accommodate full-time students, working mid-career professionals, and simultaneous degree students with a combination of daytime, evening, and online course offerings.

Last fall’s inaugural class was comprised of 36 students who brought a wealth of experience from public health in the New River Valley, Southside and Southwest Virginia, and from disciplines in biology, food science, medicine, nursing, nutrition, psychology, recreational sports, sociology, and veterinary medicine.

The curriculum includes biostatistics, epidemiology, environmental health, public health administration, and health behavior, as well as specific courses in the areas of public health education and infectious disease.

Dr. François Elvinger, a professor previously in the veterinary college’s Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, is acting as interim chair of the new department. Kerry Redican, a professor who joined the veterinary college from the School of Education, co-directs the Public Health Program, and Susan West Marmagas serves as assistant director. Kathy Hosig, a public health nutritionist, has joined the public health education group, and the department is currently recruiting additional faculty in infectious disease.

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