Molly O’Dell
Board President

Molly is an energetic and compassionate physician, author and advocate for all things health. Her collaborative leadership style blends science, experience and practicality to support individuals, organizations and communities. She has a knack for exposing practices that create disparities and therefore promotes policy to breed equity.

Molly graduated from Longwood College in 1972 and went on to the Medical College of Virginia where she received her M.D. before her residency at Roanoke Memorial Hospital, now Virginia Tech-Carilion School of Medicine.

She started her medical career as a solo practitioner in Buchanan, Virginia where she enjoyed all aspects of family medicine including house calls, surgery, prenatal care and bartering services for medical care.

She then joined the Virginia Department of Health as a Medical Director of the Alleghany Health District where she provided patient care and statutory oversight for all public health services including communicable disease surveillance, control and prevention, maternal and child health, STI and Family Planning services, vital statistics, environmental health services including soil evaluation for septic and well permits, restaurant, campground, camp inspections and rabies control. In 1994 she assumed leadership for the Roanoke City Health District and re-organized the two districts with one leadership team for the entire 5th Planning District. In addition to the original responsibilities, at this time, she led efforts for all public health preparedness, chronic disease prevention and health education and community collaborative initiatives including CHIP, School Based Clinics, and the creation of a new model Neurodevelopmental Clinic.

Since 2008 Molly has also served as health faculty for National Episcopal Church Pension Group sponsored CREDO conferences which promote well-being for active and retired clergy in North and Central America. 

In 2010 she completed her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Nebraska and after Virginia Tech developed a medical school and MPH program, she was recruited as faculty and continues as adjunct in both public health and family and community medicine.

In 2016 she retired from the health department and published a chapbook of poems, Off the Chart and a multi-genre collection, Care is A Four Letter Verb

In early 2021 she was asked to return to VDH to lead the COVID response for the Alleghany and Roanoke City Health Districts where there was a vacant health director position. She accepted the call and returned to VDH until she gratefully recruited a replacement about the time vaccines became available. A few days later, she assumed the role as public health consultant for the Virginia Tech Leadership team and enjoyed working for VT until the close of 2022.  She also published Unsolicited 96 Saws and Quips from the Wake of the Pandemic in 2022.

Currently, she keeps fit, writes, delivers meals on wheels, serves as poetry editor for the Journal of Medical Humanities, adjunct faculty for VT-CSOM, VT School of Population Health, Well-being consultant for the National Episcopal Health Pension Group, Buchanan Town Planning Commission and board chair for the Child Health Investment Partnership, an organization she co-founded over 30 years ago.  CHIP staff across the Commonwealth work to assure all children have equal access to health care and enter school ready to learn.

She loves to hike, kayak, dig in the dirt and spends as much time outdoors as possible.