May 16, 2012

Prevention was the seed from which North Carolina’s public health school grew.

In the early 20th century, the ravages of poverty and lack of education in the mostly rural southern state made its people vulnerable to hookworm, smallpox, typhoid, tuberculosis, venereal diseases, and diseases of nutritional deficiency, including rickets. This was in addition to unnecessary deaths from influenza, childhood diseases and other illnesses that preyed on an undernourished population often living in unsanitary conditions.

Thanks to the vision of a few dedicated medical and public health professionals and educators in the state, and with support from early benefactors that included the Rockefeller and Z. Smith Reynolds foundations, the University of North Carolina and the N.C. State Board of Health developed collaborations that served the state’s communities. UNC’s contributions also confirmed the need for a state school at which more public health workers could be trained to make a difference at the county level.
Former Harvard professor Milton Rosenau, MD, often called the modern “Father of Preventive Medicine,” agreed in 1936 to direct what was then the division of public health within UNC’s medical school.

Under his leadership, and that of subsequent deans, the UNC public health school has advanced prevention efforts across North Carolina and around the world. Whether in health education, nutrition best practices, epidemiological discoveries or other public health areas, the commitment to our state remains firm. Our goal here and throughout the world is to promote health and prevent disease for all people.

Read more about the first 50 years of the School’s illustrious history at

– Linda Kastleman


Carolina Public Health is a publication of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health. To view previous issues, please visit