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Scholarship gift aids School of Public Health students dedicated to working in West Virginia

Joe Golden & Margaret Burkhardt

Joseph I. Golden and Margaret A. Burkhardt pose with dogs Maisie (from left) and Yoda. The couple’s scholarship gift benefits students pursuing a master’s degree in public health at WVU.

West Virginia University School of Public Health graduate students committed to bettering health in the Mountain State will benefit from a scholarship gift made by two retired health professionals.

Joseph I. Golden and Margaret A. Burkhardt, of Beckley, established the Golden-Burkhardt Scholarship for Public Health, which goes to students from West Virginia pursuing a master’s degree in public health. Recipients must demonstrate financial need.

School of Public Health officials will confirm that each recipient intends to serve West Virginia in a public health role for at least two years after graduation as part of the scholarship review process.

“We’re deeply grateful for this support, which comes at a critical juncture as both community health needs and public health workforce needs continue to escalate,” said Dr. Jeff Coben, dean of the School of Public Health and associate vice president of Health Affairs. “To know that Dr. Golden and Dr. Burkhardt benefited from scholarship support and have chosen to pay it forward by investing in our Master of Public Health students is a true testament to their commitment to creating healthier communities, as evidenced by their life’s work to date.”

Golden and Burkhardt are Connecticut natives who met and married after their careers – as a family physician and nurse practitioner, respectively – brought them to West Virginia. The scholarship offered an opportunity to give back to their chosen state in a way that connected their backgrounds, expertise and interests. The gift also reflects a shared ethos regarding health care delivery.

“It’s the health of communities that really supports the health of individuals,” Burkhardt said. “We can’t be healthy unless our environment is healthy, unless the earth is healthy, unless we have clean water, clean air and services that are needed to support families from children through elders.”

Golden and Burkhardt both have professional experience in public health. After earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Yale University, Golden worked as a VISTA volunteer in South Carolina in the early 1970s, helping local agencies sign people up for home water wells to provide access to safe water for drinking and sanitation use.

He received his medical degree from the University of Connecticut and completed his residency at the University of Maryland in Baltimore. He later earned a master’s degree in public health from Johns Hopkins University and observed the importance of public health measures firsthand as a physician who often did home visits in rural areas.

Burkhardt’s first jobs as a nurse were with a public health agency and Indian Health Service in New Mexico, where her work focused on community health. She later worked in rural West Virginia clinics as a family nurse practitioner as part of her faculty role with the WVU School of Nursing in Charleston. She is also a member and former president of the American Holistic Nurses Association and a charter member of the Global Academy of Holistic Nursing.

Burkhardt earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing from Georgetown University and the University of Rochester, respectively. She also has a doctorate in transcultural nursing from the University of Miami and a master’s degree in theology from the University of Dayton.

“We know that having financial assistance made a difference in some of our graduate pursuits, so we want to make education more accessible for those who either may not be able to go into the program or would have serious difficulty, having to take out more loans to do that,” Burkhardt said.

Golden noted that the scholarship is timely, as COVID-19 and other recent public health challenges have demonstrated the need to strengthen the public health workforce.

“Given what the world is going through with climate change and with pandemics and other epidemics of sorts, we need people who are sophisticated and knowledgeable working in public health,” he said. “Even though most people in the country don’t know what public health professionals do, their quality of life is highly dependent on public health measures and people who know how to think through and implement them. This is something we need for the future, for both our state and country.”

Qualified candidates for the Golden-Burkhardt Scholarship for Public Health will be recommended by School of Public Health officials and approved by the WVU Office of Financial Aid.

The couple’s gift was made through the WVU Foundation, the nonprofit organization that receives and administers private donations on behalf of the University.

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