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Friday, August 24, 2012

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The new West Virginia University School of Public Health welcomed 179 students for their first week of classes in the first new school to be created at WVU in more than 50 years.

“West Virginia has historically been ranked at the bottom of the lists on many health and mental health measures and indicators,” Christopher C. Colenda, M.D., M.P.H., WVU Chancellor for Health Sciences, said. “This new School will be an asset to the people across the state who are working to solve our health problems.”

The students are enrolled in three graduate degree programs: Master of Public Health (122), M.S. in School Health Education (35), and Ph.D. in Public Health Sciences (22).  The School includes five disciplines of study: biostatistics; epidemiology; health policy, management and leadership; occupational and environmental health sciences; and social and behavioral sciences.

Along with the new students, the School welcomed 13 new faculty members.

“Our new faculty now add to the teaching and research repertoire of our new School,” Alan Ducatman, M.D., interim founding dean of the School of Public Health, said. “We will soon be graduating job-ready students who will become leaders in public health and producing research that makes a difference in people’s lives.”

At an event Friday celebrating the launch of the new School, Dr. Ducatman also announced that six faculty scientists have recently received significant grants from the National Institutes of Health and the American Heart Association. They are studying issues that include chronic kidney disease in our region, exercise and obesity in adolescents and youth driver safety.

The new School of Public Health also includes three federally funded centers: the West Virginia Rural Health Research Center (one of only six such centers nationwide), the Injury Control Research Center (shared with the WVU School of Medicine), and the Prevention Research Center.

Some public health programs previously existed in the WVU School of Medicine. The M.P.H. degree had been offered since 1997 and since 2008 had doubled enrollment.

“The time was right to take this step; we already had in place about 80 percent of the faculty and other requirements needed for a nationally accredited school here,” Chancellor Colenda said. “The new School will have a positive impact on the future for generations of West Virginians.”

The WVU School of Public Health is now in the process of earning accreditation from the Council on Education for Public Health through a rigorous, two-year self-study process.