The community of public health professionals in Virginia is made up of skilled epidemiologists, biostatisticians, environmental health specialists, program directors and others from state health departments, nonprofit organizations, and private healthcare systems. The Virginia Department of Health oversees branch agencies at the local level throughout the state, each of which carries out initiatives designed to combat some of Virginia’s most pressing health issues.
In fiscal year (FY) 2013-2014, Virginia allotted $290,405,109 in funding expressly for public health initiatives. Additionally, the state received $133,936,717 in funding from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and $156,386,451 in funding from the Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA) that year. The state uses these funds to focus on a large number of public health programs throughout the state, particularly those dedicated to chronic disease prevention and health promotion.
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In addition to the efforts put forth by the state, the private health system HCA Virginia plays an integral role in the state’s public health programs and initiatives. With six hospitals and more than 70 outpatient facilities, HCA Virginia employs more than 7,000 public health professionals.
Whether working for state or municipal government agencies, non-governmental organizations or private hospital systems, public health workers in Virginia are dedicated to improving the lives of the state’s citizens. Among these professionals are community outreach specialists, epidemiologists, psychiatrists, social workers, nurses, public health educators, and many more.
The Many Professionals working Within the Public Health Sphere in Virginia
Given the combined efforts of government agencies, NGOs and HCA Virginia, there are a wide variety of jobs within Virginia’s public health sphere. A glimpse at job descriptions can be found in recent employment postings for public health workers in Virginia (examples taken in May of 2015):
- Safety and Health Coordinator – Job duties include improving the safety of the company’s production floor through regular audits, tracking incidents and accidents, and acting as a secondary point of contact for Safety and OSHA matters
- Adolescent Immunization Program Coordinator – Job Duties include overseeing the agency’s Adolescent Immunization Program through developing priorities and timelines, managing the budget, and providing consistent updates on program activities; as well as performing research and collaborating with outside agencies and programs
- Wellness Public Speaker – The speaker’s job entails speaking publicly on a number of health-related topics, including clinical health, stress management, general nutrition, weight management basics, and high cholesterol
The Right Education for a Career in Public Health
Virtually all public health professionals in Virginia hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree related to their core function. Public health workers that hold the Master of Public Health (MPH) are in particular demand, as it prepares professionals in a variety of fields for the interdisciplinary nature of working on today’s most important public health initiatives. Professionals that complete a master’s program in public health are well versed in a variety of public health issues. In fact, The Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) requires that all MPH programs prepare students in the five core public health disciplines:
- Environmental Health
- Health Policy and Health Administration
- Social and Behavioral Sciences
Schools of public health and universities that offer MPH programs recognize bachelor’s degrees in virtually any major as meeting undergraduate requirements for MPH program enrollment. This makes a master’s in public health the ideal choice for those who may be changing careers to pursue a job in public health.
With a background in these core disciplines, MPH graduates often have a variety of career options available to them in the public health sector. The education requirements listed on the following recent job postings demonstrate the importance of an MPH and other degrees for aspiring public health professionals in Virginia (2015):
- Global Health Specialist – Qualifications include a master’s in public health or other related degree
- Senior Program Officer – A bachelor’s degree is required; a master’s in health policy, public administration, or public health is preferred
- Immunization Data Manager – Requires an advanced degree in public health or a health related field
- Health Analytics Director – Education requirements include a master’s degree in a related field – e.g. public health, health services, nursing, or medical informatics
- Monitoring & Evaluation Manager, Global Health – A master’s degree in public health, demography, statistics, or social sciences is required
- Senior Health Educator – A master’s degree in public health is preferred
- Epidemiologist – Requires a BA or BS degree in epidemiology, health science, or a related field
- Health Science Administrator – Education requirements include a bachelor’s degree or higher in a health sciences-related academic field
Virginia’s Public Health Resources
Virginia’s public health employers are diverse, ranging from state and municipal government organizations to nonprofits to private companies. Professionals in the state, particularly those with a Master of Public Health, have many options when deciding where to apply for work. The following is a list of just some of Virginia’s public health employers:
- The University of Virginia
- Piedmont Geriatric Hospital
- Virginia Department of Health
- Virginia Beach Department of Public Health
- Virginia Tech
- Chesapeake General Hospital
- Southwestern Virginia Mental Health Institute
- Western State Hospital
- Health Department – Fairfax County, Virginia
- City of Norfolk, Virginia – Public Health
- Virginia Public Health Association
- Hospitals & Medical Centers in Virginia | Carilion Clinic
- Inova Health System
- Page Memorial Hospital
- Augusta Health
- Mary’s Hospital
- Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters
- HCA Virginia
- John Randolph Medical Center
- Danville Regional Medical Center
- Chippenham Hospital
- Clinch Valley Medical Center
- Henrico Doctors’ Hospital
- LewisGale Medical Center | LewisGale Regional Health
- Pioneer Community Hospital of Patrick
- Southern Virginia Regional Medical Center