VCU, state lab team up to usher in next generation of scientists for public health

There’s a new push to get more scientists involved in the state public health lab.
Published: May. 17, 2023 at 12:25 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - There’s a new push to get more scientists involved in the state public health lab. That lab is responsible for a number of issues, including tracking infectious diseases and making sure the water we drink is safe.

“We need a solid, competent workforce to be able to be available if we have to respond to public health emergencies,” said Dr. Denise Toney, Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services director.

But with the lab short-staffed, a unique collaboration is emerging between Virginia Commonwealth University and the lab to prepare the next generation of scientists.

Right now, the public health lab is short 50 positions, with more expected. It’s a field that is often overlooked, according to Toney.

“They hear about careers in the medical field or becoming a nurse or a pharmacist, but they don’t really have an understanding of the work that is done in public health,” said Toney.

Toney says it’s also hard to compete with private sector salaries because they are underfunded, but the work is important.

VCU hopes by offering a Medical Laboratory Services Master of Science with a concentration in public health laboratory services that the interest will peak and the vacancies will be filled.

“This is just a great opportunity. It allows students to take courses in areas they don’t get here in our program that will give them the special edge to get into the public health laboratory,” said Dr. Melissa Jamerson, associate professor, VCU College of Health Professions.

Students in the program will choose from four rotations within the public health lab and work upwards of 240 hours, among other requirements.

“They will take some courses that are unique. Some in epidemiology and emergency preparedness that are going to be unique to that concentration in public health laboratory,” said Dr. Jamerson.

The deadline to apply is June 1. The program will start this fall. You can find more information on how to apply here.