ONE School of Public Health Established by ODU, Norfolk State and EVMS


Photo by Victoria Tillinghast

By Victoria Tillinghast, News Editor

Originally published August 29, 2021.


On August 26, the presidents of Old Dominion University, Norfolk State University and Eastern Virginia Medical School gathered at the Broderick Dining Commons on the ODU Campus to sign the memorandum of understanding for the joint school of public health, The ONE School of Public Health.


The ONE School of Public Health serves as the first joint school of public health in the Commonwealth of Virginia, as well as the third collaborative effort of its kind in the nation. Funding for the initiative was supported by Governor Ralph Northam and the General Assembly, amounting to $5 million which was divided equally between ODU and NSU. In addition, Sentara Healthcare has been actively involved in the process, investing $4 million to be divided between ODU and NSU in order to support the accreditation process.


“We cannot ignore the health disparity that exists in our neighborhoods anymore.” EVMS President Alfred Abuhamad spoke before the signing on the cause for the collaboration. “The health of our communities should be deeply measured by the health amongst us who are the most vulnerable.”


The Center for Disease Control defines health disparities as “preventable differences in the burden of disease, injury, violence or opportunities to achieve optimal health that are experienced by socially disadvantaged populations.” Health disparities result from factors such as poverty, inadequate access to health care and educational inequalities.


With ODU already producing the largest number of health sciences graduates in the region and the second-largest percentage of STEM-H graduates amongst Virginia doctoral institutions, those involved in this joint effort aim to alleviate local disparities by not only providing more access to education, but through collaborative research efforts. This will allow for professionals to be trained in order to serve the community.


“I know we will break down medical and health distrust within Black and marginalized groups by starting at the root through education in public health and the medical profession with trained professionals from the ONE School.” NSU President Javaune Adams-Gaston said as she reflected on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Hampton Roads area. “Through this collaboration, I strongly believe we will be better prepared for the next public health crisis.”


“The time is right. We are ready, we are excited and we are committed.” ODU President Brian O. Hemphill commented as he thanked those in attendance who had helped support this effort.

Photo by Victoria Tillinghast

While the signing of the memorandum of understanding was the first official step, it is still a long road ahead.


“This is one of the many steps we have to go through.” Said ODU provost and vice president for academic affairs Austin Agho. “We still have to look for a dean, that will take several months. We also have to go through a very long process to have the school accredited nationally. And, that by itself will take up to two years. So, [accreditation] won’t happen until 2024.”


In the meantime, Agho commented on how all three institutions will continue to have an impact on disparities in the community, “ODU already has a masters degree [program] in public health. And EVMS has the same program. Norfolk State has a social work program. We already have those programs in place and we have faculty members who are doing research in the area of public health. What the ONE School will do for us is get all of the institutions to work together as one entity as opposed to doing different things.”


According to the CDC, Black Americans are more likely to face health disparities and, subsequently, are more likely to suffer from diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke. More so, Black Americans are more likely to die at early ages from all causes. In line with CDC recommendations, the ONE School of Public health aims to provide more outreach and subsequently break down socioeconomic barriers.