Students at The University of Virginia’s College at Wise will have an opportunity in the fall to pursue a minor in public health, a curriculum designed to help them develop intellectual and practical skills, personal and social responsibility, and to participate in interdisciplinary and applied learning. The minor is aligned with the mission of the College’s Healthy Appalachia Institute, and gives UVa-Wise and HAI an opportunity to grow and become leaders in public health education, research and practice.

The interdisciplinary field of public health combines natural and social science to prevent diseases, prolong life and promote health through organized community effort. The minor will bridge biology, criminal justice, psychology, sociology, education and humanities to address the biological, sociocultural, political and economic issues that influence population health across the lifespan.

Margie Tomann, director of Healthy Appalachia Institute, will coordinate the minor in public health and will teach two of the required courses.

“Public health education is essential to introduce undergraduates to possible careers, and for the benefit of society as a whole,” Tomann said. “Health literacy and an understanding of how health of is shaped by the social, economic, and physical environment, are beneficial for students in any academic field.”

Tomann’s students, some who chose careers in health and medicine, reported that their perspectives changed after taking Introduction to Public Health: Appalachian Perspectives at UVa-Wise. They learned that health is more than just an individual’s lifestyle decisions or behaviors. Recent graduates often send Tomann notes saying the public health classes were beneficial during their medical school application and interview process. The student response and interest in additional courses caused Tomann to see a need to establish the minor in public health.

“It will serve as a foundation for further study in various fields such as public health, social sciences, health professions, law, technology and health care management,” Tomann said. “Students will be prepared to enter the public health workforce or continue their education in a master or doctoral level program in any field, and they will leave with the knowledge and skills to promote and protect the health of their communities, regardless of their career choice.”

The minor is designed to engage students in public health education and to increase the capacity of Healthy Appalachia Institute and UVa-Wise to address public health challenges through academic outreach, research, community engagement and collaboration. The minor will consist of 18 credit hours, six required hours and 12 hours selected from interdisciplinary courses. Introduction to Public Health: Appalachian Perspectives, one of the required courses for the Minor, has been offered since 2015 and is currently scheduled in Spring 2018. Introduction to Global Health, the second required course, will be first offered in Fall 2018.

For additional information about the minor in public health, contact Margie Tomann at or 276-376-4882

ABOUT Healthy Appalachia Institute (HAI)

Healthy Appalachia Institute is a public health institute created in partnership between UVa-Wise and the University of Virginia. In collaboration with community leaders and organizations throughout the region, HAI focuses on high leverage, priority issues identified in the Blueprint for Health Improvement and Health Enabled Prosperity, a community health assessment adopted by the Southwest Virginia Health Authority. Located within the Office of Economic Development & Engagement at The University of Virginia’s College at Wise, Healthy Appalachia Institute is focused on increasing capacity at the regional, county, community levels, and at UVa-Wise, to address public health challenges that exist and impact people and communities of Southwest Virginia.