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Ruth  McDermott-Levy, PhD - Villanova University. Villanova, PA, US

Ruth McDermott-Levy, PhD

Professor; Co-Director, Mid-Atlantic Center for Children's Health and the Environment | M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing | Villanova University


Dr. McDermott-Levy, PhD, MPH, RN, FAAN is an expert in environmental health, global health, and public health nursing






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Freedom School Ruth McDermott Levy



Areas of Expertise (11)

Climate Change

Fracking and Health

Immigrant Health

Public Health

Community & Public Health Nursing


Global Health

Lead Exposure

Environmental Health/Health impacts of UOGD

Health Disparities

Children's Environmental Health


An expert in environmental health, global health, and public health nursing, Dr. McDermott-Levy has taught and conducted research in Philadelphia’s Arab-American and immigrant communities, with community health workers in Nicaragua, and in the Marcellus Shale region of Northeastern Pennsylvania. She has advocated for health protective regulations for those who live in oil and gas development communities. With nurse colleagues around the U.S., Dr. McDermott-Levy has developed recommendations and teaching strategies to incorporate environmental health and climate change into the nursing curricula.

Dr. McDermott-Levy is a co-editor of an open-access environmental health textbook for nurses, Environmental Health in Nursing. In 2018, she received the Fulbright-Saastamoinen Foundation Health and Environmental Sciences Award for teaching and research. She spent August to December 2018 at the University of Eastern Finland (UEF), where she used this grant to research the health impact of climate change in Finland, which is at risk due to significant increases in air temperature.

Education (4)

Villanova University: PhD

University of Massachusetts, Amherst: MPH

Villanova University: MSN

Wilkes University: BSN

Select Accomplishments (2)

Fulbright-Saastamoinen Foundation Health and Environmental Sciences Award (professional)


The Pennsylvania State Nurses Association (PSNA) "Nurse as Global Citizen" Award (professional)


Affiliations (4)

  • Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project, Board of Directors, Secretary
  • American Public Health Association (Public Health Nursing, Environmental, and International Sections)
  • Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (ANHE): Education Working Group and Steering Committee
  • Pennsylvania State Nurses’ Association (PSNA) Environmental Health Committee Member

Select Media Appearances (18)

3 Philly Records Could Fall as the Heat Wave is Forecast to Pick Up Steam

The Philadelphia Inquirer  online


Data show that Philadelphia has become more sultry, and the increased moisture in the air — what we commonly call “humidity” — has been inhibiting nighttime cooling by preventing daytime heat from radiating into space. This can have serious health consequences, said McDermott-Levy, “especially in low income communities, ... where they don’t have the tree canopy or air-conditioning.” She added, “The heat stays in the home, and so our bodies don’t have the time to do their natural cooling that occurs at nighttime. It exhausts the body. That nighttime cooling is when the body heals itself. That’s a huge problem.”

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Biden's Plan to Remove Lead Water Lines May Benefit These States the Most

ABC News  online


According to the CDC, children under the age of six are at greatest risk for health problems due to lead exposure, which can affect growth and development. "For children, we see developmental delays and behavior problems related to lead exposure, because it is a very potent neurotoxin," Dr. Ruth McDermott-Levy, professor & co-director of the Mid-Atlantic Center for Children's Health and the Environment, at Villanova University, told ABC News. "And so, if we don't catch it quickly enough ... we're talking about lifelong problems for the child and, that can affect the ability to perform well in school, to get a decent paying job."

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The Coming Hot Spell May Be Philly’s Longest September Heat Wave Since 1931

The Philadelphia Inquirer  online


Showing its trust in science, the Philadelphia School District already has announced that more than 70 schools that don’t have air-conditioning will be closing early this week. The district is acting “wisely,” in the opinion of Ruth McDermott-Levy, codirector of the Mid-Atlantic Center for Children’s Health and the Environment at Villanova University. Heat, she said, “reduces learning. It also makes children and their teachers irritable, so this could lead to classroom disruptions and exasperated teachers. Not a great start to a school year.”

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CDC Guidelines for Fully Vaccinated People: What It Means for Masks, Travel, Gatherings

Newsweek  online


Those who have been vaccinated against the new coronavirus can ease up on some COVID-19 precautions, especially when interacting with other vaccinated people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC issued new recommendations on Monday for fully vaccinated people, meaning it's been two weeks since they received both doses of a two-shot vaccine or the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. About 9 percent of Americans have been fully vaccinated and as long as they've passed that two-week mark, it's considered safe for them to gather inside in a small group of with others who are fully vaccinated but now is not the time to take off their masks. "I use the example of a daughter coming in from out of town who is doubly vaccinated, and a husband and wife doubly vaccinated, and maybe a next-door neighbor who you know are doubly vaccinated," Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) said. "Small gatherings in the home of people, I think you can clearly feel that the risk—the relative risk is so low that you would not have to wear a mask, that you could have a good social gathering within the home."

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SARS-CoV-2 Antibodies May Protect From Infection, but for How Long?

Reuters Health  online


Reuters Health) - SARS-CoV-2 antibodies were associated with protection from infection in a laboratory database study, but the duration of protection is unknown, researchers say. "Being antibody-positive is associated with a lower risk of new infection than being antibody-negative," Dr. Douglas Lowy of the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda told Reuters Health by email. "People who have been infected once are less likely to be infected a second time. However, protection is not complete, so there will be some people who experience another infection." "Going forward, it will be important to determine the duration of protection, especially if waning of protection is associated with becoming antibody-negative," he said. "A potentially confounding issue is whether the virus strains in the US will change over time, and if they do, whether the protection against new infection by strains that are closely related to the first infection will also extend to variants that are less closely related."

FEMA Chief Says Coronavirus Funds Put Agency In 'Really Great Place' for Hurricane Season

Newsweek  online


"Because colleges have closed, unoccupied dorm rooms could be a way to provide a safe emergency shelter while social distancing, Ruth McDermott-Levy, director of Villanova University's Center for Global and Public Health, told Newsweek in April."

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Newsweek  online


"Had we invested from local all the way up to state and federal level, we wouldn't be here now," Ruth McDermott-Levy, the director for the Center for Global and Public Health at Villanova University, told Newsweek. "I strongly believe we would not be in this situation now. This is kind of the worst nightmare scenario that we've been talking about for many years."

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Newsweek  online


Ruth McDermott-Levy, the director of the Center for Global and Public Health at Villanova University, told Newsweek that natural disasters complicating social distancing measures is a "real concern." Ahead of disaster striking, there needs to be special consideration to keep people separate in shelters. Since schools and colleges are closed, unoccupied dorm rooms could be a way to provide people with a safe place to go in an emergency while maintaining social distancing, McDermott-Levy said.

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'Only a Matter of Time.' At This Washington State Immigrant Detention Center, Attorneys Believe a Coronavirus Outbreak Is Inevitable

TIME  online


Ruth McDermott-Levy, associate professor and director of the Center for Global and Public Health at Villanova University, says detained individuals are among the groups she and her colleagues at the school’s College of Nursing are most concerned about. “We would describe them as a very vulnerable population,” McDermott-Levy tells TIME. “For one, they’re all living in close proximity to one another… the other thing is we’re talking about an immigrant population. You don’t leave your country when things are good. We’ve got people who more than likely have poor nutrition and may have other health problems, and if our nutrition is poor our immune system is not as strong.”

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Villanova nursing expert warns of climate change effects on older adults

KYW NewsRadio, Philadelphia  radio


Ruth McDermott-Levy, director of the Center for Global Health at Villanova's College of Nursing, is the lead author on an article published in the November issue of the Journal of Gerontological Nursing. McDermott-Levy explained more than half of older adults live in areas that experience severe weather caused by climate change like heat waves, wildfires and hurricanes. These areas include Pennsylvania, California, and Florida, and McDermott-Levy says these weather patterns are placing older Americans at increased risk of heat-related illnesses and death. "We're actually getting ready to do an epidemiological study where we're going to quantify the deaths, climate deaths," said McDermott-Levy. "But one of the problems is nobody is listening."

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CDC word ban: Public health is jeopardized when individuality is ignored

Philadelphia Inquirer  online


When we allow words describing our fellow citizens to be stricken from the lexicon, we strike from the record their American experience; we strike from the record the factors that influence their health; we strike from the record our ability to learn the unique needs of specific groups of Americans; we strike from the record our ability to study groups of people – yes, groups of vulnerable Americans.

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Get to know a climate champion: Ruth McDermott-Levy

Climate For Health  


This month's champion is Ruth McDermott-Levy, an associate professor and director of the Center for Global & Public Health at Villanova University’s College of Nursing near Philadelphia, PA. She holds a Ph. D. in nursing education from Villanova and an M.P.H. from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Ruth teaches and conducts research with a focus on global and environmental health, helping to educate students in linking how they live and work to air emissions and the changing climate. She is also the Education Workgroup co-chairperson of the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments and a founding member of Protect PA.

Philly's smog sickens thousands of city's asthmatic kids, report says

Metro Philadelphia  online


“Many days in Philadelphia ozone smog is so severe it is a visible haze over the city's skyline,” said Villanova University professor Dr. Ruth McDermott-Levy. “This potent air pollutant is responsible for increased asthma hospitalizations, increased school absences of students and teachers and lost production for workers.”

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Wolf budget includes $100K for Marcellus Shale health registry

NPR's State Impact Pennsylvania  online


Public health advocates are encouraged by Wolf’s plan, but say $100,000 is not nearly enough money. Dr. Ruth McDermott-Levy teaches public health at Villanova University. “It’s seed money to get a health registry started,” she says. “But to consider the long term health impacts, then more money is going to need to be committed.”

About 70 hospital staffers cared for Ebola patient

Associated Press  online


“This is not something we can afford to experiment with. We need to get this right,” said Ruth McDermott-Levy, who directs the Center for Global and Public Health in Villanova University’s College of Nursing. Until now, the CDC has been actively monitoring 48 people who might have had contact with Duncan after he fell ill with an infection but before he was put in isolation. The number included 10 people known to have contact and 38 who may have had contact, including people he was staying with and health care professionals who attended to him during an emergency room visit from which he was sent home. None is sick.

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Groups call for investigation into health department’s handling of drilling

NPR's State Impact Pennsylvania  


Despite calls from environmental groups, it is not clear that there will be an investigation into how the Pennsylvania Department of Health handled complaints about Marcellus Shale natural gas development.

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Widespread COVID Vaccinations in U.S. May Not Mean an End to Travel Restrictions



Vaccinating large swaths of the American population is the best defense against COVID-19 mutations, but the United States reaching herd immunity might not be enough to allow people to travel around the world free of restrictions. Bringing a true end to the pandemic will take a global vaccination effort because the virus spreading anywhere gives room for mutations to take place. Vaccines have largely been believed to be effective against variants so far, but the possibility that one could escape the vaccine and take hold in the U.S. raises the possibility of needing to keep travel restrictions in place until the world is vaccinated. "It's not an unreasonable thing to request that people either be vaccinated and perhaps also test negative," Ruth McDermott-Levy, director of Villanova University's Center for Global and Public Health, told Newsweek. "I can see that until we get this under control."

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Model Finds Midwest and Southern States at Risk for COVID-19 Surges as They Reopen

Healthline  online

It could begin anywhere. As restrictions are eased nationwide, any stray cough or sneeze could potentially start a new wave of COVID-19. New modeling by PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia shows early signs that new clusters of COVID-19 may soon flare across the Southern and Midwestern United States. Researchers built their model using data from a variety of publicly available sources to observe how factors like social or physical distancing, population density, daily temperatures, and humidity affect the number and spread of COVID-19 cases over time across a county.

Research Grants (2)

Screening and Health Access for Immigrants in Philadelphia: Impact Evaluation Project

American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN)/Center for Disease Control (CDC): Public Health Project 


Ethical Principles for Global Health Nursing Practice: A Delphi Study

Association of Community Health Nurse Educators 


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Select Academic Articles (5)

Health Concerns of Northeastern Pennsylvania Residents Living in an Unconventional Oil and Gas Development County

Public Health Nursing

Ruth McDermott-Levy, Victoria Garcia


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Developing Curriculum Recommendations for Environmental Health in Nursing

Nurse Educator

Jeanne Leffers et al.


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Challenges and Successes in Making Health Care More Accessible to Rural Communities in Waslala, Nicaragua Using Low-cost Telecommunications

Global Humanitarian Technology Conference (GHTC)

Pritpal Singh, Ruth McDermott-Levy, Elizabeth Keech, Bette Mariani, James Klingler, Maria Virginia Moncada


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Promoting Cultural Understanding Through Pediatric Clinical Dyads: an Education Research Project

Nurse Education Today

RuthMcDermott-Levy, Mary Ann Cantrall, Kathryn Reynolds


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Fracking, the Environment, and Health

American Journal of Nursing (AJN)

Ruth McDermott-Levy, Nina Katkins, Barbara Sattler


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