Julia M. Gohlke, PhD
Assistant Professor

We have been collaborating with two community organizations, Friends of West End in Birmingham, AL and West Central Alabama Community Health Improvement League in Camden, AL, to organize community forums to determine environmental health priorities.  Initial focus groups developed a common definition of environmental health, determined priorities within groups, and established connections between those issues.  We have formed Community Advisory Boards and are currently conducting workshops that will focus on environmental health needs established through this collaboration.  

In 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducted an analysis in Birmingham, Alabama as part of the National School Air Toxics Initiative. As a result of the analysis, the EPA found heightened levels of arsenic and benzo(a)pyrene in the soil and air of communities in North Birmingham. In January 2012, the EPA designated communities surrounding several major industries in North Birmingham as a Superfund emergency response area. In collaboration with community partners, an environmental health afterschool education program for children attending Hudson K-8 School emerged to address education needs in the community. The goal of the program is to increase knowledge of how contamination is measured, how risks to health are determined, and demonstrate ways to identify and assess environmental health issues.  We collaborated with community members and teachers at Hudson K-8 School to develop and implement an inquiry-based curriculum and evaluation constructs that included eight weekly two hour sessions each semester, and pre and post knowledge and perception surveys. Each session includes a neighborhood walk led by a participant, and the culmination of the program each semester is a final interactive demonstration led by the children and presented at a community-wide event.  Continued evaluation of the program will lead to a better understanding of how early education may affect risk perception and community involvement in environmental health issues. We gratefully acknowledge the support from UAB’s Center for the Study of Community Health (CDC coop. agreement U48/DP001915) and the City of Birmingham.  

The Gulf of Guinea is the next Gulf of Mexico in terms of deepwater oil drilling.  The National Intelligence Council predicts that the Gulf of Guinea will supply 25% of total U.S. imports by 2020. As the Jubilee oil field off the coast of Ghana began to produce oil from deep water rigs in 2011, the Ghanaian government was beginning to establish policies to regulate the burgeoning oil industry and Ghanaian scientists and environmental advocates are looking for ways to ensure the economic benefits of oil outweigh the potential environmental risks. Concurrently, residents along the Gulf of Mexico coast are experiencing impacts from the Deepwater Horizon (DH) oil spill. Economic impacts on tourism and fisheries are evident, while the nature and scale of the ecological and human health impacts are not yet known. In 2011, Dr. Dzigbodi Doke (then a Fulbright student) and I led a workshop in Accra, Ghana to serve as a basis to share the lessons learned from the Deepwater Horizon (DH) oil spill and to explore ways in which these lessons may be helpful as Ghana develops environmental monitoring and oil spill response plans. This seminar also served as an avenue to facilitate collaboration between environmental and public health researchers and industry and government stakeholders interested in the subject matter.  This initial outreach has led to additional collaborations with the Ghananian EPA and university researchers.

Julia Gohlke faculty engagement

Kerry Redican, PhD, MSPH, MPH

Dr. Redican is currently serves (elected) on the Division Board for Professional Preparation and Practice and the Board of Commissioners of the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing (NCHEC).   To that end he is involved in all facets of certification for health educators.

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He also serves as President-Elect of the Virginia American Public Health Association. In that capacity, he assists in collaborative efforts between Virginia public health, community health, and social service agencies and state-related priorities and relations between VAPHA and the national American Public Health Association (APHA).

Dr. Redican has been active in Global Health.  More specifically, he was Co-PI on a United States Department of State project that involved providing public health training opportunities to health professionals in Malawi and Zambia.  He assisted coordinated training efforts both in Malawi and Zambia and trainings conducted at Virginia Tech. 

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Sophie Wenzel, MPH
Associate Director, Center for Public Health Practice and Research

Ms. Wenzel, through the Center for Public Health Practice and Research engages with community partners regionally, statewide, nationally and internationally on a regular basis. Most of Ms. Wenzel's  projects require close collaboration with community and faculty partners. A list of Center partners can be found here. Collaboration with community partners is crucial to the success of Center projects and participatory methods are often utilized to gain community feedback.

Sophie Wenzel facilitating a Partnership for Success needs assessment team meeting, in partnership with the Roanoke Area Youth Substance Abuse Coalition
Sophie Wenzel facilitating a Partnership for Success needs assessment team meeting, in partnership with the Roanoke Area Youth Substance Abuse Coalition

Ms. Wenzel was instrumental in the creation of the New River Academic Health Department, officially created in May 2015. The Academic Health Department is a joint endeavor between Virginia Tech Population Health Sciences and the New River Health District. More information on the Academic Health Department can be found here.

In addition, MPH students regularly contribute to Center projects for their required practicum or to gain public health experience.