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UT School of Public Health Celebrates 40th with Gala Dinner, Symposium

Published: November 03, 2009 by Wendy K. Mohon and Greg Rutzen, Institutional Advancement

The University of Texas School of Public Health hosted a two-day celebration of its 40th anniversary in September. A gala dinner on Sept. 17 featured guest speakers Kenneth Shine, M.D., executive vice chancellor for health affairs of The University of Texas System, and Charles "Mickey" LeMaistre, M.D., former vice chancellor for health affairs for UT System and president emeritus of The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. LeMaistre is credited with helping to establish The UT School of Public Health during his role with UT System. Shine and LeMaistre addressed healthcare reform and chronic disease prevention, respectively.

"The UT School of Public Health is truly an asset to the State of Texas and our researchers have developed breakthrough research that affects the lives of everyone," said UT School of Public Health Dean Roberta B. Ness, M.D., M.P.H.. "Many of you in this room have given your hearts and souls to public health. The history of this school is your history and I value your commitment more and more each day."

On Sept. 18, alumni, researchers from SPH and keynote speaker Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden made presentations during a symposium. Researchers addressed how public health has transformed over the years in areas of policy and behaviors, genetics, cardiovascular disease, cancer, obesity and other health issues. Bolden, administrator of NASA whose talk was delivered via video, discussed the global impact of public health, including how it has benefitted NASA's space station and the daily lives of the world's population.

Also on hand for the anniversary event were two former deans of SPH, B. Palmer Beasley, M.D., who served as SPH dean from 1987-2000; and Guy Parcel, Ph.D., who was SPH dean from 2001-2008. Each gave their perspective on how the school has evolved over the decades.

Beasley recalled that there were no biology or health promotion courses when he took over as dean, following the 1986 death of the school's first dean Reuel A. Stallones, M.D., M.P.H., a renowned epidemiologist who is credited with setting the course for the original education philosophy that allowed students to create their own course work and research projects. Stallones established the school's first regional campus outside Houston, located on the UTHSC-San Antonio campus. The SPH building is named for him. Beasley added campuses in El Paso and Dallas were added.

During Parcel's tenure, the Brownsville and Austin regional campuses were created and the school was restructured again dividing it into five disciplines: Biostatistics, Environmental and Occupational Sciences, Epidemiology and Disease Control, Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences, and Policy & Community Health.

Ness, who became the SPH's fourth dean in November 2008, noted that the school's research portfolio has grown during her first year as dean and said, "Clearly, the school has profound intellectual capital to build upon." She said she anticipates recruiting up to 10 new faculty members at regional campuses in the near future and noted that $400,000 in recently awarded federal funding will support scholarships "to attract the best students, who, in turn, attract the best faculty and so on."

SPH 40th anniversary symposium

SPH Deans Celebrate UT School of Public Health's 40th

All the deans for the UT School of Public Health's regional campuses, along with former deans, gathered Sept. 17-18 to celebrate the school's 40th anniversary. Pictured from right: SPH Austin Dean Cheryl Perry, PhD; SPH Dallas Dean Raul Caetano, MD, MPH, PhD; Guy Parcel, PhD, UTSPH dean from 2001-2008; SPH El Paso Dean Hector Balcazar, PhD; Palmer Beasley, MD, UTSPH dean from 1987-2000; SPH Brownsville Dean Joe McCormick, MD; Roberta Ness, MD, MPH, current UTSPH dean; and SPH San Antonio Dean Sharon Cooper, PhD.