Sarah Surber

Sarah Surber

Assistant Professor

Sarah Surber


 Public Health

Dr. Sarah Surber is an assistant professor with a background in environmental justice and environmental public health. Her academic research focus includes environmental policy and law, particularly for the impacts on community public health in vulnerable health populations. 

She is currently researching the health and financial impacts from environmental pollution in air, water, and waste; occupational violence affecting the workforce; the opioid epidemic; and outcomes for children in foster care, as well as their foster and kinship caregivers. Her research experience includes working with and forming connections between community groups and organizations at state and local levels.

She has also practiced environmental law for over a decade, including environmental litigation and regulatory law in air, water, waste, and toxic torts in law firms, as well as in state regulatory agencies.

Her educational background includes a master of science in environmental science, law degree, and doctorate in occupational and environmental public health.


  • Ph.D., Occupational and Environmental Public Health, West Virginia University, 2017
  • J.D., West Virginia University College of Law, 2006
  • M.S., Environmental Science, Marshall University, 2012
  • B.A., Political Science, Marshall University, 2003

Awards and grants

2020-2025 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) grant, Recovery, Treatment, and Workforce Support, Co-Principal Investigator and Evaluation Team Researcher

2021 West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission (WVHEPC) grant, Developing and Utilizing Open Educational Resources (OER) Materials, Principal Investigator
2020-2021 National Science Foundation (NSF), Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (S-STEM) grant, Project-Based Work Study Studio, Co-Principal Investigator
2019-2020 Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Rural Communities Opioid Response Program (R-CORP) planning grant Appalachian Rural Opioid Consortium, Researcher

Selected publications

Sarah J. Surber, OSHA Enforcement to Protect Health Care Workers from Violence, American Journal of Public Health, 111(5): 829-831 (2021). 

Supporting Children and Families in West Virginia 2019-2020: Foster Care, Kinship, and Adoptive Parents and Caregivers in West Virginia,

Olivia Milam, Haroon Malik, Sarah Surber, Digital Canaries: Identifying Hazardous Patterns in MSHA Data Using a Machine Learner, Procedia Computer Science, 177: 227-233 (2021). DOI: 10.1016/j.procs.2020.10.032  

Sarah J. Surber, A Conceptual Model for Integrating Community Health in Managing Remediation of West Virginia and Central Appalachia’s Abandoned Coal Mines, Environment, Development, & Sustainability, 23: 1563-1578 (2021). DOI 10.1007/s10668-020-00638-9.

Sarah J. Surber & David S. Simonton, Disparate Impacts of Coal Mining and Reclamation Concerns for West Virginia and Central Appalachia, Resources Policy 54(C): 1-8 (2017).

Sarah J. Surber, Environmental Enforcement as a Shield Rather than a Sword: How Environmental Injustice Resulted from Increased Coal Mining Violations after a Settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency, Environmental Justice, 6(5): 169 (2013).

Law Review Articles:

Sarah J. Surber The Scopes Monkey Trial Revisited: How the Coal Industry and the Surface Mining States Ignore Science to the Detriment of the Appalachian Environment, University of Kentucky Journal of Equine Agriculture & Natural Resources Law Vol. 6, Issue 1, 59 (2014).

Sarah J. Surber, Writing a Check that the State Can’t Cash: Water Pollution from Coal Mining and the Imminent and Inevitable Failure of the West Virginia Special Reclamation Fund, Tulane Environmental Law Journal Vol. 27, Issue 1, 1 (2013). 


Currently teaching

 PH 3500 Environmental Health, 3 credits, 2 sections, Winter 2022

Courses taught

 PH 3500 Environmental Health