MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The Monongalia County Health Dept. and the West Virginia University School of Public Health are teaming up to create a new program that will be the first of its kind in the state.
The Academic Health Department, as it will be known, will give students real-world access to the field they want to work in while giving the MCHD access to the University’s research and more. That is according to Dr. Keith Zullig, the chair of the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, in the School of Public Health.
“The best way to think about this is this is the public health equivalent of what we would refer to as a teaching hospital,” Zullig said. “When hospitals and medical schools form together, this is the public health equivalent of that and so the idea here is that we enhance public health education, training, research and service and other types of things for both organizations involved in the community as a whole.”
Zullig said the concept has been around for many years and that finally, this spring, they began working on making the collaboration official after they determined the best method of operating. He said he worked in collaboration with Dr. Lee B. Smith, executive director, and county health officer to make it possible.
“Dr. Smith and I sat down and were kind enough to get some examples of MOUs, Memorandums of Understanding because that’s the most popular method for formalizing agreements with academic health departments and set to work to draft it over several months,” Zullig said.
He said he hopes the Academic Health Department will entice future students because they’re extending the school’s practice by a large extent.
One of the biggest advantages of this partnership, Zullig said is the fact MCHD is right down the hill, from the school of public health. He said having professionals involved in the education of their students is something they can promote and that will be attractive to prospective students.
Zullig said, in fact recently, one of the things current students have been most interested in has been learning how health departments work so this opportunity gives them a pipeline into that world. He said it wasn’t just one-sided because that pipeline would also flow into the school and benefit the MCHD.
“I just think it’s a great way for the two organizations to a current and future public health workforce for the state of West Virginia,” Zullig said. “It really strengthens both organizations and benefits the students. It was nice to be able to help push this forward and to do this for our two organizations and ultimately our state. This is the only one in the state of West Virginia and we’re happy forging new ground there.”