ONE School of Public Health names inaugural dean
Joint school between ODU, NSU, EVMS names Li-Wu Chen
The proposed ONE School of Public Health has named its inaugural dean: Li-Wu Chen, a health sciences professor from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a background in rural health.
Chen was selected following a national search and will start his new job March 10, 2023, Old Dominion University said in a news release Monday. Chen will guide the school — a joint venture between ODU, Norfolk State University and Eastern Virginia Medical School — through the accreditation process with the Council on Education for Public Health. That accreditation process is a precursor to receiving approval from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia; an initial application for accreditation has been filed with the council and, once accepted, the school will have two years to achieve it.
“The founding dean needed to be a respected leader in public health policy and research, but also a coalition builder with a clear vision for leveraging our combined strengths to assist in addressing health disparities across our community and the commonwealth,” ODU President Brian O. Hemphill said in a statement. “In Dr. Chen, we have found a proven leader who will be fully dedicated to building a solid foundation for this important initiative.”
“It is my great honor to be selected as the founding dean of the joint school of public health, a tremendous opportunity to apply my academic leadership and scholarship to significantly improve public health outcomes,” said Chen, who earned a Ph.D. in health policy and administration from Pennsylvania State University and a master of health services administration degree from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. “I look forward to collaborating with the talented faculty at ODU, EVMS and NSU to create a center for training, research and community engagement that will fulfill the public health workforce needs of the community and secure a healthier future for the region.”
ODU, NSU and EVMS signed a memorandum of understanding to establish the school in August, aiming for it to address regional public health needs and inequalities. The General Assembly and former Gov. Ralph Northam allocated $5 million to the project, splitting the amount evenly between ODU and NSU. Sentara Healthcare provided $4 million in grants to ODU and NSU to support the accreditation process.
“The proposed joint school of public health initiative positions NSU, ODU and EVMS to go beyond a focus on health care to eliminate health disparities and promote conditions that enable our communities to thrive,” NSU President Javaune Adams-Gaston said in a statement. “With Dr. Chen’s leadership of this ongoing partnership, we anticipate unprecedented strides in disease prevention, health promotion, public health scholarship and community engagement for the benefit of this region.”
Chen will oversee the new school, which will offer collaborative degree programs, develop research to address public health challenges, and create and enhance partnerships. The school will offer a master of public health degree and a Ph.D. in health services research.
Chen has more than 20 years of academic leadership in the public health field and since 2020 has served as a professor in the Department of Health Sciences in the School of Health Professions at the University of Missouri-Columbia. He is a member of the board of directors for the Missouri Institute for Community Health, an editorial board member of the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice and a former member of AcademyHealth’s Education Council. Chen also works with members from global health organizations, including the United Nations and the World Health Organization, as a member of the steering committee for the Health Inclusivity Index project, which aims to develop a comprehensive heath inclusivity and equity index for 40 countries.
Chen joined the University of Missouri-Columbia from the University of Nebraska Medical Center, where he chaired the Health Services Research and Administration department within the College of Public Health. He oversaw the UNMC Center for Health Policy Analysis and Rural Health Research, served as deputy director of the Rural Policy Research Institute Center for Rural Health Policy Analysis and was a founding co-director of the Nebraska Public Health Practice Based Research Network. Chen was also the founding director for UNMC’s Ph.D. program in health services and policy research and led development of a master of health administration program.
EVMS President Dr. Alfred Abuhamad called Chen’s selection “an important next step in an exciting and necessary effort to expand the local healthcare workforce pipeline and create a healthier future for the communities we proudly serve.”
Earlier this month, George Mason University renamed its College of Health and Human Services as the College of Public Health, establishing what it said is the first and only such college in the state.