Fathers & Sons

Fathers & Sons

Proud Father, Proud Son

What's the best thing about going to grad school with your dad? "My favorite part was the way he interacted with the teachers, because he had so much real-world experience," says Matt Hoffman, M.H.S.A. '08, of his dad and fellow student, Jeffrey Hoffman, M.P.H. '08. "Dad's insights and opinions often led to some very interesting discussions."

And the best part about being in class with your son? "Matt could help me with some of the technical aspects of the stuff I didn't have the skills for," Jeffrey laughs. "He did it better, I'll be the first to say it."

The Hoffmans spent two years together as classmates in the school's Executive Master's Program in Health Management and Policy, which combines on-campus with distance learning. Before starting the program, Matt, 30, managed a personal fitness center. Jeffrey, 59, was a recently retired thoracic surgeon. Both say the program did what they'd hoped: Matt came out of it with a job as a health care IT consultant with a firm in Ann Arbor, and Jeffrey got the health administration knowledge he'd always wanted.

As the oldest student in the program, though, he found school harder than he'd remembered. "I probably was more like a sponge 40 years ago," he admits. "I'm a soaked sponge now." Father and son marched proudly together at the school's graduation ceremony in April.

From the Archives: Victor and Henry Vaughan

The story of Victor Clarence Vaughan is in some respects the story of public health in the late-19th and early-20th centuries. As a boy growing up on a Missouri farm in the 1850s and '60s, he saw how recurring epidemics of dysentery ravaged the population, and he never forgot the sight of the tiny coffins that had to be "shaped and molded" to receive the bodies of his siblings and playmates. He witnessed the effects of malaria; those who contracted the disease, he said, "shook with ague."

At the University of Michigan, where he was first a student, then a faculty member and later dean of the medical school, Vaughan studied and taught chemistry, medicine, histology, and physiological chemistry—today's biochemistry.

In his long career as a practitioner and epidemiologist, he battled the scourges of his day: typhoid, scarlet fever, diptheria, polio, meningitis. He helped establish public water systems throughout the Great Lakes region, and on the eve of the Columbian Exposition, he advised the city of Chicago on the safety of its drinking water. He worked with the U.S. Army to combat yellow fever and malaria in Cuba during the Spanish-American War—and came down with yellow fever himself. (When his commanding officer tried to send him home, Vaughan refused. "I assured him that I had no such intention, that I was now immune, and that my usefulness in the camp was thereby increased." Wiser heads prevailed, and Vaughan was sent home to recuperate.)

It's fitting that Victor Clarence Vaughan should be the person who in 1911 proposed to the UM Board of Regents that a curricula for master's and doctoral degrees in public health be introduced. "There is a great demand, and a growing one," Vaughan told the board, "for health officials who should know not only medicine, but the principles of heating, ventilating, plumbing, sewage and garbage disposal, water supplies, methods of purification of water, etc."

And it's fitting that 30 years later, when another group of UM regents approved the creation of a school of public health on the Ann Arbor campus, they chose as its first dean a sanitary engineer and former Commissioner of the Detroit Department of Health named Henry Frieze Vaughan—Victor Vaughan's son, and the namesake of Victor's friend and UM colleague Henry Simmons Frieze.

The older Vaughan did not live to see his son inherit his UM mantle, but the achievement would not have surprised him. At the start of his autobiography, published in 1926, two years before his death, Victor Vaughan wrote, "In human beings, as in bacteria, the thread of life is continuous. Enrichment or impoverishment of the soil may modify growth but does not readily alter the essential qualities of the seed." He would have been proud to see his son's name still attached to the school whose existence Victor Vaughan helped bring into being.

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