A Legacy of Diversity and Inclusion

1940 – 1964

The first cohort of health education students at North Carolina Negroes College. Dr. Lucy Morgan, second row, left.

The first cohort of health education students at North Carolina Negroes College (North Carolina Central University). Dr. Lucy Morgan stands second from left.

  • 1940: UNC School of Public Health established
  • 1940s-50s: Field training programs created across the U.S. to close racial gaps in health outcomes
  • 1945: Joint public health training program established with North Carolina Central University (then the North Carolina Negroes College). Close partnerships with NCCU continue to this day. At a time when the South was segregated, people in this School were not intimidated by prevailing customs. That spirit is part of our school’s DNA.
  • 1950s: Students from around the world earn graduate degrees from our programs, including students from Burma, Formosa, Egypt, Guatemala, Iran, India, Israel, Nicaragua, Paraguay and the Phillipines.
  • 1955: Health education training program focused on the needs of American Indians established in partnership with the U.S. Public Health Service.
  • 1959: Dr. John Cassel, a South African expat who left his country because of its apartheid policies, becomes the first chair of the School’s new Department of Epidemiology. Other South African public health luminaries join the faculty at our School.
  • 1960s: School faculty and students organize sit-ins and marches advocating desegregation and civil rights. Numbers of African-American and international students grow; their presence and advocacy are a catalyst for change.
  • 1964: William A. Darity and Edward V. Ellis become the first African-Americans to earn doctoral degrees (in health education) from the School — and from the UNC Graduate School.

1965 – 1989

Students at an early Minority Student Caucus meeting

Students attend an early Minority Student Caucus meeting.

  • 1968: South African native Dr. Guy Steuart joins SPH faculty as chair of Health Education. He brings with him the Action-Oriented Community Diagnosis methodology, an interdisciplinary approach to gaining a nuanced understanding of the dynamics, resources and problems of communities and how these factors affect the health of individuals who live in them. This methodology is used to this day as an ethical way to work with vulnerable communities.
  • 1971: The Black Student Caucus (now the Minority Student Caucus) is launched by students. Key faculty members support their efforts. The Caucus still helps UNC-Gillings sustain a diverse, inclusive environment and research and outreach focus on health disparities.
  • 1977: The School’s Minority Student Caucus organizes the first Minority Health Conference. Now in its fourth decade, over 1000 researchers and practitioners participate each year in this student-led, national conference.
  • 1985: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services releases its first task force report on Black and minority health. The School gets research funding to study critical minority health issues, including funding for cancer prevention and control as well as for cardiovascular health.
  • 1980s: With effective advocacy on the part of students, courses established on women’s health, minority health.

1990 – present

Rumay Alexander, EdD, RN

Dr. Rumay Alexander

Trinnette Cooper, MPH, coordinator for diversity programs and recruitment

Trinnette Cooper

  • 1994: The School’s Minority Health Project is started.
  • 1997: The School’s Program on Ethnicity, Culture and Health Outcomes is launched.
  • 2001: Interdisciplinary Certificate in Health Disparities launched.
  • 2005: Dr. Barbara K. Rimer is named dean and makes overcoming health disparities a top priority for the School.
  • 2010: Diversity and Inclusion are named as one of four priority foci in SPH2020, our School’s strategic plan.
  • 2011: The School’s Diversity and Inclusion Taskforce offers its recommendations for strengthening diversity at UNC-Gillings. Faculty, staff and students start putting key recommendations from the blueprint into action:
    • Rumay Alexander, EdD, RN, is appointed Diversity Champion for the Gillings School. In this role, she provides guidance and support to faculty, staff and students from across the School on creating a welcoming, inclusive and respectful environment for all;
    • Course in LGBT Health is developed and launched;
    • Dean’s Council posts its diversity statement;
    • We revise and broadly circulate our EEO statement.
  • 2012: Ms. Trinnette Cooper, MPH, is hired as coordinator for diversity programs and recruitment; summer programs are updated.
  • 2013: Admissions practices are reviewed across departments; new, promising practices are adopted.