WVU, Mon County Health Department set up Academic Health Department

WVU School of Public Health students Jessica Messenger and Marloes Zieren learn about radiation detection and personal protective equipment from Joe Klass, MCHD threat preparedness specialist. (Photo courtesy of the Monongalia County Health Department)
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WDTV)-- West Virginia University and the Monongalia County Health Department have teamed up to establish an Academic Health Department to enhance public health training, research and service for students in WVU's School of Public Health.

Academic health department will reinforce the School's commitment to give students learning experiences based in real-world public health practice, according to a press release from WVU,

School of Public Health Dean Jeffrey Coben says the concept of academic department has been around for several years, emerging as practitioners began to think about the future of public health.

“There are local, regional and state health departments that are all actively practicing public health, then you have schools and universities training people in public health for future careers, but those entities aren’t always linked formally,” Coben said. “The idea of forming an Academic Health Department is to join forces between the practice and academic components of public health.”

Students will be provided experiential learning opportunities, the press release says. Faculty will also be given the opportunity to work with MCHD staff.

While the establishment of the Academic Health Department is new – made official with the signing of a formal agreement by WVU Health Sciences Center and MCHD leaders on Oct. 31 – the collaborative efforts between the two organizations are not, as noted by Executive Director and County Health Officer Dr. Lee B. Smith

“We are thrilled to have achieved this designation,” Smith said. “This is the fruition of four years’ work that began with building relationships with various WVU colleges and schools, including the Schools of Public Health, Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy and the College of Law.”

For example, the School of Public Health places two interns and two graduate students at the MCHD each semester and throughout the summer, according to WVU.

"The reality is the vast majority of the scope of activities outlined in the signed agreement are already underway and have been for a while,” Coben added. “We are just codifying it more than anything else, moving it from being a common understanding to a formalized agreement, reflecting our promise to continue working together to meet the needs of our community.”