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Villanova Nursing to Host EPA’s Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit

The first of its kind in a College of Nursing, the PEHSU will collaborate with federal and regional organizations to educate health professionals on environmental health impacts on children and childbearing women 

VILLANOVA, Pa. – Beginning September 1, the Villanova University M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing will host the Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit (PEHSU) for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Region 3, announced Donna S. Havens, PhD, RN, FAAN, Connelly Endowed Dean and Professor, on August 28. This is a four-year EPA/Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)-funded grant, managed by the American Academy of Pediatrics. This PEHSU is one of 10 in the nation and will be the only unit housed in a College of Nursing.

“I am delighted that Villanova Nursing is the nexus for the Region 3 PEHSU research and advocacy for children and families. Our long history of science and leadership with great impact in these areas, along with public health and environmental health vision and achievements, correspond with the EPA and CDC goals,” notes Dean Havens.  “I am also thrilled that Dr. Ruth McDermott-Levy will be the grant’s principal investigator as well as co-director of the unit. Her expertise in this area is unparalleled.”

This work of the Region 3 PEHSU – the region encompasses Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, the District of Columbia, Virginia and West Virginia - will include collaboration with federal agencies and regional organizations to address pediatric and reproductive environmental health community and health professional education and consultations. 

“We look forward to advancing public health science while protecting the health of children and educating nurses and others in this important work,” explains Ruth McDermott-Levy, PhD, MPH, RN, FAAN, associate professor and also director of the College’s Center for Global and Public Health. She has been lauded for her work in environmental health nursing and the effects of climate change on health. She will be co-directing the unit with Laura Anderko, PhD, RN, Robert and Kathleen Scanlon Endowed Chair in Values Based Health Care & Professor, School of Nursing and Health Sciences at Georgetown. While Dr. McDermott-Levy organizes the work of the PEHSU at the College, Professor Nancy Sharts-Hopko, PhD, RN, CNE, ANEF, FAAN will serve as interim director of the center.

The PEHSUs are “an interconnected system of specialists located throughout North America who respond to questions from public health professionals, clinicians, policy makers, and the public about the impacts of environmental factors on the health of children and reproductive-age adults” according to the website As the site notes, “many of the environmental risks that lead to poor health outcomes can be mitigated with proper health care provider education and preparation.” The PEHSUs are committed to increasing health care professionals’ knowledge about reproductive and children’s environmental health since they can educate colleagues and others to protect children from environmental threats. 

About Villanova University: Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University's six colleges—the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing, the College of Professional Studies and the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law. Ranked among the nation’s top universities, Villanova supports its students’ intellectual growth and prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them. For more, visit