Public health and social work expert named dean of College of Health Professions

Susan Parish, Ph.D., has been named dean of the Virginia Commonwealth University College of Health Professions. Parish, an expert in public health and social work, will start at the university July 1.

Susan Parish, Ph.D., has been named dean of the Virginia Commonwealth University College of Health Professions. Parish, an expert in public health and social work, will start at the university July 1.

Head and shoulders portrait of person with blonde hair.
Susan Parish, Ph.D.

Parish comes to VCU from Northeastern University where she served as dean and professor of health sciences at the BouvèCollege of Health Sciences. At Bouvè, she oversaw more than 30 undergraduate, masters, and doctoral programs and 4,700 students and led more than 200 faculty. Parish directed programs on four campuses across the nation.

“Dr. Parish is a strategic global thinker who leads with compassion and vision,” said Marsha D. Rappley, M.D., senior vice president for health sciences at VCU and CEO of VCU Health System.  “Her depth of experience and talent as a teacher, researcher and administrator is the perfect match to build upon the solid foundation which has been laid for the college.”

Prior to her career at Northeastern University, Parish spent three years as the associate dean of research for the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University and before that served for two years as director of the Heller School’s doctoral program in social policy. She also served for four years as director of the Developmental Disabilities Training Institute in the School of Social Work at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.

“My own values and priorities are perfectly aligned with VCU’s focus on being a preeminent urban research university, including meaningful engagement with the community and the larger state,” Parish said. “I am incredibly impressed with the departments and centers in the college, and the potential to collaborate with VCU Health and across the VCU campus. VCU has a laudable and serious commitment to promoting an inclusive culture, which is extremely important to me.”

Parish’s scholarship has focused on intellectual and developmental disabilities and related public policies. She holds a B.A. in English literature and an M.S.W. from Rutgers University and a Ph.D. from the School of Public Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago. 

Parish replaces Cecil Drain who served as dean of the College of Health Professions for 21 years. Drain retired earlier this year after leading many of the college’s degree programs to national prominence.

About VCU and VCU Health

Virginia Commonwealth University is a major, urban public research university with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Located in downtown Richmond, VCU enrolls more than 30,000 students in 233 degree and certificate programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Twenty-two of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 11 schools and three colleges. The VCU Health brand represents the VCU health sciences academic programs, the VCU Massey Cancer Center and the VCU Health System, which comprises VCU Medical Center (the only academic medical center in the region), Community Memorial Hospital, Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, MCV Physicians and Virginia Premier Health Plan. For more, please visit and