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Milton J. Rosenau, MD Milton J. Rosenau, MD with female students

Milton J. Rosenau, MD

Director, UNC Division of the Public Health 1936-1939
Dean, UNC School of Public Health 1939-1946

Dr. Milton Rosenau’s mandated retirement from Harvard in 1935 could not have been better timed for those dreaming of a new public health training center at the University of North Carolina.

Even at age 65, Rosenau’s energy was more than sufficient for the administrative, academic and political demands of leading the new division. “You can’t retire a man who isn’t tired,” he said.

As director of the U.S. Public Health and Marine Hospital Service Hygenic Laboratory (the forerunner of the National Institutes of Health), he had:

  • SERVED as first chair of the first department of preventive medicine in the U.S. at Harvard from 1909 – 1935
  • ESTABLISHED the first university-based public health training center
  • STUDIED diphtheria, tetanus, yellow fever, tuberculosis, smallpox and rabies, and ways to pasteurize milk
  • PUBLISHED the standard text in the field, the revised version of which is still used today (Preventive Medicine and Hygiene, 1913)

At UNC, his reputation and charm raised funds and attracted a dynamic faculty. It was his leadership that enabled the division to become a separate school.

“PREVENTIVE MEDICINE dreams of a time when there shall be enough for all, and every man shall bear his share of labor in accordance with his ability, and every man shall possess sufficient for the needs of health. These things he should have as a matter of justice and not of charity.”

Edward G. McGavran, MD Edward G. McGavran, MD

Edward G. McGavran, MD

Dean, 1947 – 1963

Rosenau’s sudden death in 1946 brought about a void in leadership and decline in reputation.

McGavran, head of preventive medicine at the University of Kansas, was persuaded to take the deanship in 1947 only after the N.C. General Assembly agreed to provide needed funding for support and faculty.

With help from private foundations, McGavran oversaw an expansion of field training and development of the state’s venereal disease laboratory.

“McGavran saw himself primarily as an administrator whose job was to create an atmosphere where faculty, staff and students could work and learn together,” says historian Robert Korstad. “By the end of his first year, nine new faculty positions had been created, and the budget for research had increased from $75,710 to $230,710.”

Fred Mayes, MD student protest in 1960s

Fred Mayes, MD

Dean, 1963 – 1972

The context for Mayes’ becoming dean was the turbulent 1960s, in which great social upheaval was just beginning.

A memorial plaque calls Mayes “a gentle architect of change…a bridging force between values of the past and demands of the future.”

A teacher, practitioner, and state health officer with a master’s from Harvard, MAYES oversaw, as dean:

  • EXPANSION of the environmental sciences and engineering and biostatistics departments under chairs H.G. Baity and Bernard Greenberg
  • ESTABLISHMENT of the Carolina Population Center
  • OUTREACH of the epidemiology department, through the Evans County [Georgia] Cardiovascular and Cerebrovascular Study and other research, that began to show the relationship of exercise and nutrition to health and address health disparities
Bernard Greenberg, PhD Dr. Greenberg talking to students

Bernard Greenberg, PhD

Founding chair of the biostatistics department, 1949 – 1972
Dean of the School, 1972 – 1982

The national impact and global reach of Bernard Greenberg’s work was profound. He:

  • RECEIVED a number of training grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), allowing him to travel abroad to train students, postdoctoral fellows and faculty.
  • PUBLISHED the first article (1959, in The American Statistician) on the design and conduct of clinical trials.
  • TESTIFIED before Congress that the polio vaccine actually increased incidents of polio. Misuse of statistical methods had made the opposite seem true.
  • CHAIRED a national committee directed to formulate a process for large, multi-center clinical studies. The resultant “Greenberg Report” is a landmark policy document.

Greenberg’s accomplishments as dean:

  • MADE the school more academically rigorous and improved its reputation for research and teaching
  • REENERGIZED alumni, especially through the alumni letter, Body Politic
  • CREATED the Division of Community Health Service (including off-campus and bachelor’s programs, and the Area Health Education Centers) to help the School better respond to needs of N.C. citizens and health professionals
  • SOUGHT diversity and provided leadership opportunities for minority students
Michel Ibrahim, MD, PhD McGavran-Greenberg Hall

Michel Ibrahim, MD, PhD

Dean of the School, 1982-1996

As a UNC alumnus (master’s of public health in biostatistics) and professor and chair of UNC’s epidemiology department, Ibrahim:

“When I took over, the School was well respected nationally. My job was to preserve that high standing and improve on it if I could. One of the first things I wanted to do was get the building for the School, because you can’t achieve your mission without proper facilities.”

Ibrahim is now UNC professor emeritus and professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.

William L. Roper, MD, MPH Michael Hooker Research Center

William L. Roper, MD, MPH

Dean of the School, 1997 – 2004

Before coming to UNC, ROPER had a long career of leadership in private, academic and government organizations, including as director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and senior vice president of Prudential HealthCare. As dean, he established and directed the N.C. Institute for Public Health to provide specialized training, consulting, research and technical assistance to groups across the state and oversaw the construction of the Michael Hooker Research Center. He was committed to collaboration with other health affairs schools on campus and developed new partners for improving public health, including from the private sector.

Public Health Grand Rounds, a collaboration of the School’s N.C. Institute for Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is a tradition established under Dean Roper. The Grand Round format presents a case study on a pressing public health topic, which is reviewed by a panel of experts. Past topics have included pandemic flu, emergency preparedness, bioterrorism, chronic disease and child health.

“In this era of possible health reform, a significant opportunity lies in drawing the fields of public health and health care delivery closer together. A significant step toward achieving this goal would be building cooperative linkages between schools of medicine and schools of public health. The academic institutions that are training future leaders for medical care and for public health must collaborate to produce both physicians who are equipped to deal with the health problems of populations and public health workers who understand the medical care system. Indeed, over the long term, we can aspire to having a ‘health system’ that does not involve constant discussion of this matter of two separate and different worlds.”

Roper is now dean of the UNC School of Medicine, chief executive officer of the UNC Health Care System and vice chancellor for medical affairs at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Barbara K. Rimer, DrPH Dr. Rimmer talking with students

Barbara K. Rimer, DrPH

Dean and Alumni Distinguished Professor, 2005 – present

Rimer served in several academic and government positions before coming to the School. Most recently, she was professor of community and family medicine at the Duke University School of Medicine and then director of the Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences of the National Cancer Institute. She is the first woman and first behavioral scientist to serve as the School’s dean.

Since becoming dean, Rimer has focused on several priorities, including improved communications; Carolina Public Health, a biannual magazine, was launched in 2005. Rimer has collaborated with faculty leaders to develop strategic initiatives to address obesity, global health, health disparities and water. A primary initiative is to create a supportive and diverse environment at the School. To that end, one of Rimer’s first acts as dean was to create the position of special assistant to the dean for diversity. She has emphasized the translation of research into policies, programs and practices that improve health.

Under Rimer’s leadership, the School received a $50 million gift from Dennis and Joan Gillings. A major product of the gift is creation of Gillings Innovation Laboratories to solve big public health problems in North Carolina and around the world.

“Public health focuses on people – people within populations. Thus, our impact can be huge, because our knowledge and interventions can shift whole populations toward improved health. The research being conducted in our School – and its application in communities – can truly change the world.”

Dean Rimer is co-editor and contributor for the book Health Behavior and Health Education: Theory, Research, and Practice, now in its fourth edition, and also maintains the blog, Monday Morning.

Students talking in the Hooker Research Center

The UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health

  • Ranked the number one public school of public health in the nation, number two among all schools, public or private (U.S. News & World Report, 2007).
  • One of about 40 in the country accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health, the independent agency charged by the U.S. Department of Education with reviewing and evaluating schools of public health.
  • The second largest school of public health in the U.S., with more than 200 full-time faculty.
  • Comprises eight degree-granting divisions, including the departments of Epidemiology, Environmental Sciences and Engineering , Health Policy and Management, Health Behavior and Health Education, Nutrition, Biostatistics, and Maternal and Child Health, as well as the Public Health Leadership Program (formerly Public Health Nursing, one of the four original departments in the School).
  • Grantor of doctoral, master's and undergraduate degrees and certificates to residential and distance learning students.
  • Supported in the areas of service and outreach by the North Carolina Institute for Public Health. The Institute extends the School's service capabilities and promotes the School's commitment to community service as its public responsibility.
  • Home to about 1,700 students each year: 65% from North Carolina; 10% from outside the U.S., and about 600 in distance education programs.

Public health advances require collaboration among many disciplines, so our proximity to UNC’s schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry and pharmacy allows our undergraduate and graduate students access not only to our state-of-the-art Michael Hooker Research Center but also to labs and classrooms dedicated to promoting public health in its many forms.