MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia University celebrated the arrival of 179 students and 13 new faculty members Friday at the first school created in more than 50 years, the new School of Public Health.

The Legislature included $1 million in WVU's 2011-12 budget to help get the school started, and it's since gotten some private donations as well.

"The time was right to take this step. We already had in place about 80 percent of the faculty and other requirements needed for a nationally accredited school here," said Health Sciences Chancellor Christopher Colenda.

West Virginia has historically fared poorly in national rankings for various health and mental health conditions, and Colenda said the School of Public Health will help everyone across the state who's working on those problems.

It has three graduate degree programs: The master of public health program has 122 participants, while the master of science in school health education has 35 students. The doctorate degree program in public health sciences has 22 enrolled.

The school has five disciplines of study — biostatistics, epidemiology, health policy, management, environmental health sciences and behavioral sciences.

"We will soon be graduating job-ready students who will become leaders in public health and producing research that makes a difference in people's lives," said interim founding dean Alan Ducatman.

At a celebration lunch, Ducatman also announced that six faculty scientists have won research grants from the National Institutes of Health and the American Heart Association to study chronic kidney disease, exercise and obesity in adolescents, and youth driver safety.

The school is currently seeking accreditation from the Council on Education for Public Health.