In memoriam: Susan West Marmagas, director of Virginia Tech's Master of Public Health program
December 26, 2018
Susan West Marmagas, director of Virginia Tech’s Master of Public Health (MPH) program and associate professor of practice in the Department of Population Health Sciences, died on Sunday, Dec. 23, 2018. She was 51.
Born and raised in Blacksburg, Marmagas joined the Virginia Tech faculty in 2008 and played a significant role in the establishment of the university’s public health program and Center for Public Health Practice and Research (CPHPR). She served as assistant director and interim director of the MPH program before being named director in 2017.
“We are saddened by Susan’s passing but also celebrate her commitment and optimism that were essential in the founding, accreditation, and advancement of our public health program,” said Laura Hungerford, head of the Department of Population Health Sciences in the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, which serves as the academic home of the program. “She was an accomplished educator and leader as well as a passionate advocate for students and for the field of public health.”
In addition to teaching community health education courses in the public health program, Marmagas led an interprofessionalism course on public health and medicine at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. She also conducted interdisciplinary research on human and environmental health in Central Appalachia and beyond.
“Susan’s brilliant vision and unwavering commitment to community outreach, research and student engagement were the guiding force for establishing the Center for Public Health Practice and Research (CPHPR)”, said Kathy Hosig, CPHPR director and associate professor of population health sciences. “She has touched the lives of so many. In addition to devotion to her work with students and colleagues, she has contributed to advancing the health of individuals and communities. We will miss her beyond words.”
Marmagas had more than 15 years of experience in the national public health field, most notably addressing how environmental factors affect the health of women and children. She held leadership positions with the Collaborative on Health and Environment at Commonweal, Physicians for Social Responsibility, the National Environmental Education Foundation, and the Children’s Environmental Health Network. Her career focused on engaging health professionals and scientists in protective public policy, facilitating strategic planning discussions across the health field, and implementing evidence-based policy campaigns.
Marmagas testified before the U.S. Congress and served as media spokesperson on national issues such as health risks from fish consumption, mercury pollution, and children’s health. She served on the American Public Health Association's Joint Policy Committee/Science Board from 2014-2017 as well as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Children’s Health Protection Advisory Committee, co-chairing its Regulatory Work Group. She also served as a site visitor for the Council on Education for Public Health and a Fellow with the National Public Health Leadership Institute.
Marmagas received her bachelor’s degree from Earlham College and her MPH degree with a concentration in community health education from University of California at Berkeley.
Marmagas is survived by her loving husband, William, and daughters, Tasia and Elektra, of Blacksburg; her brother Roger and wife, Deborah, of Silver Spring, Maryland; her sister-in-law Katherine Hood, of Brooklyn, New York; and canine companion Duke.
A public visitation with the Marmagas family was held on Friday, Dec. 28 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the McCoy Funeral Home at 150 Country Club Drive in Blacksburg. A celebration of life service was held on Saturday, Dec. 29, 2018, beginning at 2 p.m. at Edges Church at 706 Harding Avenue in Blacksburg.
In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be given to Blacksburg Battles Cancer, 1064 Clubhouse Road, Blacksburg, Virginia 24060, or the Community Health Center of the New River Valley, 215 Roanoke Street, Christiansburg, Virginia 24073.