Laura Merrell is one of JMU Health Science major’s favorite, most trusted professors. While she has only been teaching at James Madison University since 2016, she has had an overwhelmingly positive impact on her students. With specialties in Epidemiology and Chronic Health and Disability, Dr. Merrell has inspired her students to challenge themselves every day.

Danielle Butler, a current senior at JMU stated, “I really enjoyed taking Epidemiology with Dr. Merrell last semester. The course was challenging and always very interesting. Dr. Merrell inspired me to pursue my masters in Public Health.”

What brought you to JMU?

After receiving her Ph.D. in Public Health from The University of South Florida, Dr. Merrell toured several different universities. JMU was the obvious choice because “I could tell that students seemed very interactive, and I enjoyed the faculty very much. I could see JMU being the place where I could adapt and develop my interests and passions.”

What is your favorite thing about being a professor?

Dr. Merrell always has fun in every class she teaches and enjoys interacting with her students. “It really matters to me when I can teach something to a student that might be a hard concept and can break it down to be accessible to them.” 

Dr. Merrell even appreciates the times she gets to learn from her students.

What do you feel sets you apart from other professors?

A good professor is one who is always looking for opportunities to grow in the way they are teaching and to think about how their students are changing and the skills and knowledge that their students will need. Good professors are constantly thinking about ways they can be a better teacher. Listening to students, taking constructive criticism from students and trying to adapt are ways I try to be the best possible professor.

What is your favorite class to teach and why?

Dr. Merrell strongly enjoys teaching Chronic Health and Epidemiology for very different reasons.

Chronic health is a content class where we talk about a lot of health issues that students may be able to relate to personally or within their families – whether it is diabetes, heart disease or cancer. We talk about mental health which is something everyone will experience.” 

Epidemiology is very challenging because I try to make it applicable to how this class will impact students careers in the long run. I want my students to care about this topic so that they will be a better consumer of scientific information, a better health care provider or health administrator.

What is the best thing about JMU students?

JMU students are motivated. They have plans and goals. Particularly in this department and this major – it is not easy! These courses are not ones that you can skate through. Freshmen even have a long-term vision or goal, whether that may be medical school or what not.

In addition, Dr. Merrell also greatly appreciates that JMU students actively attend her office hours and seek out resources that are available to them. 

What is your greatest accomplishment?

Dr. Merrell loves getting positive responses from faculty and students. For example, one student of Dr. Merrell’s told her that because of her course the student was going to create an alternative spring break program utilizing the skills they had been taught.

Another student went on to a masters program and sent her an email saying “they are teaching us something I already know” and expressed their appreciation. 

Thank you, Dr. Merrell, for always inspiring your students!

Let us know who your favorite professors are, Dukes!

One thought on “Professor Spotlight #3: Laura Merrell

  1. Can we get a professor spotlight on a music faculty? I highly suggest Dr. John Peterson — he’s one of the theory professors, and every single one of his students LOVES him.


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