Virginia Tech has expanded its ability to graduate students prepared to solve society's most complicated public health challenges by establishing Virginia's first accredited Bachelor of Science degree in public health (BSPH).

The program was approved by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia in September and added as an accredited degree by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) in October.

“Public health is all about protecting, promoting, and improving the health of populations,” said Kerry Redican, professor of public health administration in the Department of Population Health Sciences and director of the BSPH program. “Most of the health advancements over the past 50 or so years that have resulted in increased life expectancy for Americans, eradication or reduction of many infectious diseases, and improved health status have been largely due to public health efforts. There are still many challenges ahead: obesity, opioid dependency, reemerging infections, health disparities, and many others. The solutions to these challenges are, in part, dependent on the work of a well-trained public health workforce.”   

The degree will be offered through the public health program in the Department of Population Health Sciences in the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. The program currently hosts both master's (M.P.H.) and graduate certificate programs in public health through a partnership with the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine.

The BSPH is the veterinary college’s first undergraduate degree program.

The degree is designed to provide students with a core of public health courses in line with the public health education domains approved by CEPH. In addition to the 42 credit public health core, students will have the opportunity to choose 33 hours of electives that will be strategic to their career goals. Students can use these elective hours to double-major or minor.  

In addition to classroom-based training, students will engage in hands-on learning opportunities to serve community needs and improve public health through the program’s partnerships with local health departments, medical and veterinary organizations, community‐based organizations, and other public health and private institutions.

Graduates will be public health workforce ready and prepared to pursue careers in public health.

“Public health, especially in our interconnected world, requires innovative ideas from many disciplines. Improved sanitation, really led by engineers and health educators rather than those in medicine, has tremendously decreased infectious disease. People who create policy, communicate in other languages, devise molecular tools, design new equipment or structures, or study world history can major or minor in public health to bring fresh solutions to world health challenges,” said Laura Hungerford, head of the Department of Population Health Sciences. “This new degree option complements other undergraduate majors currently offered at Virginia Tech and gives students the flexibility to complete coursework that brings a health focus to their career interests.”

The public health program is grounded in a One Health approach, which recognizes the dynamic interdependence of human, animal, and environmental health and encompasses the interdisciplinary efforts of professionals from a wide range of specialties to protect, promote, and improve health.

“This is exciting new territory for the college as we add an undergraduate degree to our professional and graduate degree offerings,” said Gregory B. Daniel, interim dean of the veterinary college. “With a culture that embodies the One Health approach to wellness and service, our college provides an ideal learning environment for aspiring public health professionals who aim to improve the health and well-being of individuals and communities across the commonwealth, the nation, and the world.”

Applicants will have the opportunity to be admitted directly into the BSPH program as a part of their undergraduate application. In addition, Virginia Tech undergraduate students can transfer into the program.

The program will admit its first cohort of students in fall 2019 and has a projected enrollment of approximately 100 students per class for the first four years.