DPH Directors Inducted into Delta Omega National Honorary Society in Public Health

May 4, 2015

The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) is proud to congratulate two of its distinguished leaders on their recent induction into the Delta Omega National Honorary Society in Public Health.

J. Patrick O’Neal, M.D., director of Health Protection, and R. Chris Rustin, DrPH, MS, REHS, director of DPH’s Environmental Health Section, were recently inducted into the Beta Chi (University of Georgia) and Gamma Theta (Georgia Southern University) chapters respectively.

Drs. O’Neal and Rustin were both recognized for their public health leadership, excellence in practice and commendable efforts to improve population health in Georgia.

With oversight responsibility for multiple public health programs and sections – some of which include Emergency Medical Services (EMS), Epidemiology, Infectious Disease, Immunizations and Environmental Health – Dr. O’Neal’s efforts to protect the health of Georgians is appreciated by the public and health providers statewide.

Most recently, he provided leadership for Georgia’s planning and response to Ebola, including the establishment of the 3-tier hospital system to treat Ebola patients should the need arise. He also worked with EMS/Trauma to ensure safe transportation for potential patients between facilities.

His induction into Delta Omega Honorary Society in Public Health confirms his longstanding commitment to public health and the value of his expertise to Georgia’s communities.

“Being inducted into the University of Georgia's Chapter of Delta Omega means a non-academic public health practitioner will become a colleague to numerous academic public health practitioners, many of whom I have the utmost respect and appreciation for,” he said. “This is truly a humbling experience and unexpected honor.”

Dr. O’Neal’s induction into this honorary society was his second recent acknowledgment as he was presented with the 2015 Janet Stancliff Epidemiology Award by the Georgia Public Health Association (GPHA) in April. This award recognizes an individual who has contributed to the support of community epidemiologists in Georgia.

Both a clinician and scholar, Dr. O’Neal is highly respected domestically and internationally. He was humbled to receive both awards and found great humor in reflecting on the purpose of the GPHA recognition.

“As a non-epidemiologist, I was quite surprised to receive the Stancliff for Epidemiology Award,” said Dr. O’Neal. “I told the audience that the only possible reason I could have received this was because I do what Dr. Cherie Drenzek, state epidemiologist, tells me to do!”

Dr. Rustin was nominated by a fellow alum and current Delta Omega member based on his dedication to the field of public health, but also for his contributions to the Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health (JPHCOPH) at Georgia Southern University (GSU), according to Angie Peden, MPH, coordinator for the Office of Public Health Practice at GSU.

“Chris has increased awareness about the Doctor of Public Health program at JPHCOPH by being a steward for the school and a great example of the high caliber public health professionals that JPHCOPH produces,” said Peden. “Chris is dedicated to improving environmental health across the state and his dissertation regarding childhood lead poisoning has led to improvements within the Georgia Healthy Homes Program. The Gamma Theta Chapter of Delta Omega is honored to have Dr. Chris Rustin as a member.”

Rustin leads DPH’s extensive programs and services that protect the public from adverse environmental conditions. Under his guidance, the Environmental Health Section provides essential services to monitor the state’s chemical hazards; lead poisoning prevention efforts; hotels, motels and campground inspection services; and quality assurance practices for food service vendors in the state.

Most recently, his team took part in launching SPLASH, an innovative pool safety initiative coordinated by First Lady Sandra Deal designed to protect Georgia’s children from drowning or water-related injuries while at pools or open bodies of water.

“I am honored to be nominated by my colleagues and recognized by my alma mater as a member of the Gamma Theta Chapter of Delta Omega at Georgia Southern University,” said Dr. Rustin. “Now more than ever, we are seeing environmental factors make significant impacts on the health and well-being of citizens nationwide. I’m proud to continue the legacy of protecting Georgians’ health through public health practices with the fulfilling work I do alongside the Department’s exceptional Environmental Health Section staff.”

The Delta Omega Honorary Society in Public Health was founded over nine decades ago at Johns Hopkins University within the School of Hygiene and Public Health (now known as the Bloomberg School of Public Health) by two graduate students, Dr. Edgar Erskine Hume and Dr. Claude W. Mitchell. Drs. Erskine and Mitchell created Delta Omega as an organization to improve the awareness, entrance and recognition into public health as a noble profession.

Visit the Delta Omega National Honorary Society in Public Health online to learn more about society and its nationwide chapters. To learn more about Dr. O’Neal’s health protection work at DPH visit, dph.georgia.gov/health-protection. Information about Dr. Rustin’s Environmental Health Section initiatives can also be found on DPH’s website at dph.georgia.gov/environmental-health.

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