New Faculty Q&A: Leanne Cusack

Dr. Leanne Cusack is a new WOU Health and Exercise Science assistant professor. She’s attended University of Waterloo (Canada) and Oregon State University, and she’s been teaching at a university level for about 10 years. This term, she is teaching Epidemiology and Infectious Disease/Injury Prevention. Cuasack’s office can be found at RWEC 237.


Why did you choose WOU?

I was excited to join WOU because I truly love teaching. I love the interactions with students and watching them grow into critical consumers of knowledge. I am also passionate about my areas of research and love passing on this knowledge to students.


Why did you choose your field of study?

I started off with an undergraduate degree in Environmental Science with a minor in Biology. I chose this field because I liked the outdoors and wanted to find ways to protect the environment. But after working as a field biologist for a few years, I realized that I was more interested in human health and how our interactions with the environment can affect our health. So, we need to protect the environment in order to protect our own health, and this led me to pursue a master’s and Ph.D. in Public health with a focus on Environmental Health and Epidemiology.


Cusack smiling at camera, open blinds in the background.
Leanne Cusack

Can you explain your dissertation?

I examined the beneficial effects of omega 3’s and risks of mercury in fish consumption. I looked at the effects of neurodevelopment in children and the cardiovascular risks in adults. I also examined how this differed depending on where you lived (inland vs coastal for example) and how fish consumption rates varied for women of childbearing age. And lastly, I looked at the associations between fish consumption and methylmercury levels in the blood of women of childbearing age.


Top three hobbies?

Mountain biking, snowboarding, soap making.


What is your go-to drink order at Caffe Allegro?



What is a book that you recommend everyone read?

Surviving the Extremes!


What is your favorite place to vacation?

We love to travel anywhere, but since I am from Canada, I like to head there every Christmas and for a bit each summer.


Who is your role model?

Currently, Dr. Fauci! Or Dr. Bonnie Henry or Ruth Bader Ginsburg.


Do you have any pets?

I love animals but do not have any at the moment. I hope that we can get another dog soon, though!


On a Saturday morning, you can find me___?

In the woods, hopefully!


What is your favorite class to teach?

Biostatistics or Epidemiology. I love teaching statistics because I have so many students who come into the class thinking it is going to be hard and that they are not going to do well. But I believe that most students can get through the class and learn a lot. I love watching the light bulb go off and students finally getting it and understanding statistics. Especially during times like this, when we are constantly being inundated with numbers regarding COVID, having students understand what these numbers mean and how reliable the sources are is extremely important.


What was your favorite class to take as a student?

Food microbiology or microbiology. I thought it was so cool to see what was growing on or in food, and I enjoyed working in the lab.


Any advice for incoming freshmen?

Take classes that interest you. There may be fields out there that you didn’t know existed. You never know where the path might lead.

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