CHARLESTON – More than $6 million from a court settlement account has been transferred to West Virginia University and Marshall University to aid in research and rural health.
The funds were equally split between WVU’s Blanchette Rockefeller Neurosciences Institute and Marshall’s Robert C. Byrd Center for Rural Health, according to a court order issued by Marshall Circuit Judge David W. Hummel.
The order ended a decade-long class action lawsuit styled “William K. Stern, et. al. vs. Chemtall Inc. et. al.” The lawsuit sought and obtained medical monitoring for coal preparation and waste water treatment workers who had been exposed to a chemical neurotoxin.
Hummel, Wheeling attorney R. Deal Hartley, claims administrator Edward “Ted” Gompers and E. William Harvit traveled to moth Morgantown and Huntington on Dec. 22 to present the checks for each school. Each check was in the amount of $3,087,500.
Hartley said the lawsuit was filed in 2003, was finalized in 2012 and was finally closed out in 2015.
“The parties agreed to give what was left of the settlement after the class members who had neuro monitoring was finished to Marshall and WVU,” Hartley said. “It certainly was a great opportunity to help out in the lives of the coal prep workers involved and to make sure they were healthy.”
The funding will be used to continue work in rural health at Marshall, specifically tackling barriers like isolation that many rural providers and rural people encounter.
“With modern technology and these resources, we can go a long way to ensure better access to health care for our citizens in southern West Virginia and beyond,” said Jennifer T. Plymale, the director of the Byrd Center for Rural Health, in a press release. “Additionally, we can build on innovative educational efforts that have been successful in graduating quality primary care physicians practicing in areas of need throughout West Virginia and the surrounding Appalachian region, as well as continuing our work with community partners on the center’s outreach endeavors that are designed to encourage the development of new and innovative health care delivery systems in rural communities that lack essential health care services.”
Dr. Joseph I. Shapiro, the dean of the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, said the donation is a wonderful opportunity for the rural health program.
“I have absolute faith that Dr. Steve Petrany, the chairman of this department, along with Ms. Plymale and their colleagues, will put these funds to excellent use towards research and education related to rural medicine,” Shapiro said.
The funds will go to support research programs in Alzheimer’s disease and other neuroscience fields at WVU.
“These dollars will directly support our research program, and make WVU even more competitive on a national level,” said George Spirou, the co-director of BRNI. “We are taking aim at diseases of the brain that have an impact on thousands of families in West Virginia every year, and this will push that work forward.”