Next step: Research in public health

For years now, Eastern Virginia Medical School and Old Dominion University have run a well-regarded joint program to confer master's degrees in public health. It's the kind of education that sets up graduates for careers in health care management and in the myriad places where medical policy and research intersect.

That's a growth industry in these early days of health care reform and attempts at cost control, so the joint venture's graduates - already in high demand - are likely to become even more so in the years ahead.

That's one of the reasons the two schools connected by Hampton Boulevard are now considering what it would take to create Virginia's first school for public health. Last week, ODU began the process of looking for a consultant to find some of those answers.

As The Pilot's Bill Sizemore reported, the two schools have operated the joint master's program since 1999. Creating a school in the discipline would be a big leap, adding a substantial research component. The school would benefit the region and the medical industry here and beyond.

As Sizemore's story pointed out, such an enterprise could house the kind of medical research that would help answer why Hampton Roads suffers from such high rates of cancers, obesity and other health maladies. More importantly, it could provide impetus to attack them.

"It's clear that population-based approaches are needed because we spend so much as a country on health care, and our outcomes aren't adequate," said Shelley Mishoe, dean of health sciences at ODU. "We're not making enough headway."

Discussions about the school of public health have been occurring in both schools' boardrooms for a few years now, part of the ongoing collaborations on Norfolk's west side.

The extent of those connections was lost a bit in the sturm und drang that accompanied word that EVMS and the College of William & Mary were considering a merger. Those conversations have slowed for a variety of reasons but are still under way.

The talks about the school of public health appear ready to move more quickly, though the study must explore concerns about the match and the money. In the meantime, there's reason to celebrate the fact that the two schools continue to work so closely together and appear to be finding ways to work even more closely in the future.

Posted to: Editorials Opinion

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