University of Vermont

University Communications

State's New Health Lab Complements Adjoining UVM Research Facility

ribbon cutting
From right: Harry Chen, Michael Sirotkin, Dick Mazza, Peter Shumlin, Linda Meyers, David Rosowsky, Frederick Morin and Tracy Dolan.

Gov. Peter Shumlin presided over a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Oct. 22 marking the completed construction of the Vermont Department of Health's new state-of-the-art public health laboratory at the Colchester Business and Technology Park. The facility physically adjoins UVM's Colchester Research Facility and was designed in collaboration with UVM.

The new lab will open for business in November. 

The 47,844 square-foot facility replaces the Health Department’s current 32,695 square-foot laboratory in Burlington. Built in 1952, it was the oldest public health lab in the nation and had to be replaced due to a lack of space and an outdated structure.

“We’re proud to be able to provide a new facility for Vermonters at a time when the ability to quickly and effectively respond to both existing and emerging health threats has never been more important,” said Gov. Shumlin. “It’s been 14 years of waiting, thinking and planning, and today we can say, ‘Mission Accomplished.'"

“Moving from the oldest public health lab in the country to the newest -- a state-of-the-art facility -- is integral and a cornerstone of health for Vermonters,” said Harry Chen, acting secretary of the Vermont Department of Human Services. “Physically and intellectually connecting the lab to UVM helps keep us on the leading edge of science and public health." 

“Vermont’s Public Health Lab and UVM’s Colchester Research Facility are now next-door neighbors; they are physically connected and share a front door,” said David Rosowsky, UVM provost. “I’m proud of the role UVM has played to make this new facility a reality, and will play -- in partnership with the state of Vermont-- in advancing our knowledge, the science, and the practice of public health, an area of critical importance to our nation and the world.”

The Health Department laboratory routinely performs a wide range of analyses to detect biological, toxicological, chemical and radiological threats to the health of the population -- from testing for blood lead levels, rabies, flu, pertussis and salmonella, to drinking water contaminants and toxins.

Health and UVM officials cited a number of mutual benefits of the co-location.

From the Health Department’s point of view, being connected to a major medical research facility keeps public health on the leading edge of the health sciences, expands the training ground for future laboratorians and provides surge capacity with specialized labs, instruments and personnel in the event of a public health emergency that requires 24/7 response.

For UVM, benefits include sharing specialized space for biomedical research with health department scientists, expanded opportunities for cooperative projects and the potential for increased external funding. In addition, the state-of-the-art facilities provide training and internships in research and public health for the university’s undergraduate, graduate and medical students.

In addition to Gov. Shumlin, Acting Secretary Chen and Provost Rosowsky, speakers at the ribbon cutting included Tracy Dolan, acting commissioner of the Vermont Department of Health, state senator Dick Mazza, state representative Linda Meyers and Frederick Morin, dean of UVM’s College of Medicine.