Vicki A. Stanavitch, PhD
Associate Professor of Public Health and Chair of Biological and Physical Sciences and Mathematics
Biological and Physical Sciences and Mathematics | Turock School of Arts and Sciences
Department Chair for Biological and Physical Sciences and Mathematics
My pathway to a public health degree was not straightforward. I began my college career wanting to study physical therapy because I truly wanted to help people. At the end of my second year in college, I took a Microbiology course that changed my path forever. Bacteria and viruses are fascinating to me, so I began studying them as I pursued my bachelor’s degree in Biology, focusing on the microscopic world that is all around us. I continued my education by pursuing a master’s degree in clinical chemistry with the hopes to be able to work in and run a research laboratory and study microbes full time.
While pursuing my master’s degree, I met two scientists that changed my life. One was Dr. James Watson (of Watson and Crick and the structure of DNA fame). He did much of his early, pre-DNA work in viruses. He epitomized the contribution I wanted to make in science…until I heard him speak at a lecture. All the work he did on DNA and viruses was negated for me by his low opinion of women in science. I could not reconcile the person I had looked up to for so long, with the man I met and I was extremely disappointed. I began to rethink my career field. It was at this time that I met the second scientist who changed my life forever.
A few months after meeting Dr. Watson, I met Dr. David Satcher (former Surgeon General of the United States). I heard Dr. Satcher speak about the importance of public health overall, and the science of epidemiology specifically. Epidemiology was the perfect marriage between the microbiology and virology that I loved and my early need to help people! Dr. Satcher brought to the forefront important public health issues like obesity, suicide, and sex education programs in schools. He single-handedly helped so many people with one simple report. It was after this revelation that I began to pursue my doctoral degree in infectious disease epidemiology, which I continue to study today.
Education – Degrees & Certifications
- PhD – Public Health, Epidemiology Specialization, Walden University
- MS – Clinical Chemistry, University of Scranton
- BS – Biology, Marywood University
- AA – Physical Therapy concentration, Keystone College (’92)
“The opportunity to teach at the same place where I was a student has given me a unique perspective. I relate to my students because I was in their exact place when I went to school here. I was a first-generation college student, as are many of my students. One thing that hasn’t changed is the faculty cares about students. We get a great deal of joy when we hear they are off to graduate school or have been hired by a great company. I think that special bond is what makes Keystone such a special place.”
While visiting the city of Chicago as part of their Introduction to Public Health class, Keystone students met with Rev. Jesse Jackson, founder, and president of the Rainbow/PUSH coalition, one of the nation’s best-known civil rights organizations.
Real world experience is vital to a public health education.
These experiences help a student to understand exactly who they would be helping with a degree in public health and why helping these individuals is important to make the world a better place. With this in mind, I take a group of students to Chicago, IL for two courses – PBHL 1110: Introduction to Public Health and PBHL 3014: Urban Health. The students in the intro class explore the many different cultures and public health services that are available in a large urban setting. The Urban Health course participates in two-week internships in locations like Featherfist (an organization that helps the homeless) and VIDA/SIDA (an organization that works on HIV/AIDS prevention and education.
- Introduction to Public Health
- Infectious Disease Epidemiology
- Environmental Health
- Urban Health
- HIV/AIDS in America
- History of Public Health
- Chronic Disease Epidemiology
- Seminar & Research
- Senior Capstone Research
With the increase in cases of Lyme disease in Pennsylvania, specifically, and the United States, in general, AND the difficulty in diagnosing Lyme disease at any stage of infection, I continue to look for an easier, first line diagnostic tool for Lyme disease.
Lastly, I am interested in discovering a method to identify DNA damage, specifically thymine dimers, after UV-light exposure in bacteria.
- Symptom Presentation Frequency and Severity Associated with Adult Lyme Disease by ROSS Scale Review, Proquest Dissertation Publication
- Golden Key International Honor Society, 4.0 GPA
- Chamberlin Chair for Distinguished Faculty Service, 2015
- Program Coordinator for the Biological & Physical Sciences
- Faculty Coordinator for Undergraduate Research until 2018