VCU set to open School of Population Health

VCU is set to open its 15th school, the School of Population Health, this fall.
Published: Apr. 14, 2023 at 4:07 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - When the COVID-19 pandemic revealed healthcare disparities and medical staff shortage, the Virginia Commonwealth University realized it could help.

It’s now creating a new school dedicated to tackling those problems.

Beginning this fall, the School of Population Health will welcome its first students. It combines existing departments in the school of medicine.

Its goal is to improve health equity and train much-needed medical staff.

“We’ve been around in sort of plain sight but not a unified force,” said Dr. Vanessa b. Sheppard, the new school’s interim dean

Sheppard is a national expert in population health, which is an approach aimed at improving the health of an entire population.

She also served as the associate director for community outreach and engagement and health disparities research at VCU’s Massey Cancer Center.

“I think the school will have a critical role. All the founding departments have programs coursed to this and training opportunities that relate to advancing health equity,” said Sheppard.

Students can pursue master’s and doctoral degrees in Biostatistics, Epidemiology, Social and Behavioral Science and Healthcare Policy and Research.

This school, the 15th for VCU, will be the home to the first master’s of public health program with a concentration on cancer health equity.

It will also partner with local health departments to help address the current shortage of healthcare workers.

“I think the school will have a pivotal role in terms of our research, our service and our training opportunities. For example, we want to diversify the public health workforce to meet this demanding need,” said Sheppard.

Michael Rao, president of VCU and VCU Health, released a statement saying the new school will help reduce and one day eliminate health disparities: “We are poised to educate a modern, talented and well-prepared public health workforce that is ready to serve the commonwealth. We will also advance research that helps us to strengthen approaches to public health in Virginia, nationally and globally.”

“I want our community members and stakeholders to see us as a resource. We’d like to get to the point where they call our number and they ask for programs or ask for information. you know how we prevent disease, how do we reduce mortality from some of the chronic conditions that we know are in our community,” said Sheppard.

The school has about 100 students currently enrolled in public health programs that will convert over to population health classes.