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State health leader to discuss past, present and future of Georgia’s public health at Georgia Southern University

Chris Rustin, DrPH

As deputy commissioner for the Georgia Department of Public Health, Chris Rustin, DrPH, has helped Georgia respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and the current monkeypox outbreak. These issues are a part of the past, present and future of public health in Georgia, which he will discuss on Oct. 17 at 7 p.m., in the Performing Arts Center on Georgia Southern University’s Statesboro Campus.

Rustin is the featured speaker in the 2022 Norman Fries Distinguished Lectureship Series, hosted this year by the Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health (JPHCOPH). The event is free and open to the public.              

Rustin’s public health career spans more than two decades, ranging from working in rural and urban health departments, the state health department, to a stint in academia. He splits his time between Atlanta and Savannah serving in a dual role as deputy commissioner for the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) and the public health administrator for the Chatham County Health Department.

As the deputy commissioner, he assists the commissioner of public health with oversight of statewide public health programs, 159 county health departments and more than 6,000 employees statewide. For the past two years, he has served as the incident manager coordinating DPH’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and is currently assisting with coordination of the monkeypox response. As the Chatham County public health administrator, he directs one of the largest health departments in the state, ensuring local public health services are provided to the Savannah-Chatham community and region.

Rustin began his career as an intern with the Chatham County Mosquito Control Commission, leading to his first public health position as an environmental health specialist with the Evans County Health Department. From there, he managed and directed environmental health programs for Effingham and Chatham County health departments. In 2009, he transferred to DPH headquarters in Atlanta to assume leadership positions in environmental health and was promoted to the director of health protection overseeing DPH’s largest division. He holds adjunct faculty appointments at several universities and taught environmental health science at the JPHCOPH.

An alumnus of the JPHCOPH, he received his Doctor of Public Health with an emphasis on community health. Additionally, he is a registered environmental health specialist with the Georgia Board of Registered Environmental Health Professionals, a fellow of the CDC Environmental Public Health Leadership Institute and the immediate past president of the Georgia Public Health Association.

The annual Norman Fries Distinguished Lectureship Series is sponsored by an endowment established to honor the late Norman Fries, the founder of Claxton Poultry and former senior statesman of the poultry industry in Georgia. His company continues its tradition as a privately held family business with the Fries children and grandchildren.

Georgia Southern University, a public Carnegie Doctoral/R2 institution founded in 1906, offers approximately 140 different degree programs serving nearly 26,000 students through 10 colleges on three campuses in Statesboro, Savannah, Hinesville and online instruction. A leader in higher education in southeast Georgia, the University provides a diverse student population with expert faculty, world-class scholarship and hands-on learning opportunities. Georgia Southern creates lifelong learners who serve as responsible scholars, leaders and stewards in their communities. Visit


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