When typhoid struck the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus while playing
Detroit in 1934, Don W. Gudakunst rushed to investigate. The deputy health commissioner
of Detroit and a non-resident professor of preventive medicine and public health at
U-M, Gudakunst worked with a team of nurses and interns to examine company members
and give inoculations. He stayed with the circus, watching for typhoid, until the
troupe left the state. Health officials later traced the probable origins of the disease—which
killed seven circus members—to contaminated drinking water in Pennsylvania. In the
wake of the outbreak, circus management instituted new safety measures, among them
latrines with fly-proof seats and covered coolers for drinking water. Today's SPH
Department of Epidemiology remembers Gudakunst through the Don W. Gudakunst Memorial
Trees once grew on the spot where builders laid the cornerstone for the new U-M School
of Public Health on July 2, 1942. Two years earlier, the Rockefeller Foundation had
determined that the United States suffered a shortage of well-trained health professionals
and had called for the establishment of schools to address the crisis. The University
of Michigan responded by creating SPH. Launched with major funding from both the Rockefeller
and W.K. Kellogg foundations, the school started out with just three departments:
Public Health Practice, Epidemiology, and Environmental Health. A fourth, Tropical
Disease, was added in 1943 as result of U.S. involvement in World War II.
Installed on July 2, 1942, the cornerstone for SPH contains school catalogs, budgets,
newsletters, course announcements, a copy of the school's by-laws, a 1930 account
of the early development of public health at U-M, a list of students who attended
SPH during the academic year 1941-1942, and an announcement of SPH commencement exercises
4Henry Had Some Little Lambs
During the tenure of Dean Henry F. Vaughan, a flock of sheep grazed in the school's
backyard. A source of red blood cells for lab experiments, the sheep drew complaints
when their bleating disrupted lectures inside SPH. By 1965, the animals were gone
and their pasture turned into a parking lot.
5What a Relief
Flanking the original entrance to the original SPH building, a pair of limestone
bas-reliefs convey what Battle Creek architect Lewis J. Sarvis saw as the "two outstanding
parts to a school of public health: basic scientific research, medicine, and training
of career workers in public health nursing as related to public health; and industrial
hygiene and engineering as related to public health." A tree—symbolizing public health
itself—frames each panel. Sarvis designed the original SPH building, now known as
6They Gambled the Night Away
Fake money and costumed faculty: what better way to kick off a school year? The brainchild
of then-Dean Henry F. Vaughan, "Michereno" brought the SPH community together every
fall in the 1950s for a night of gambling and prizes aimed at fostering camaraderie.
"It was funny, hilarious, and most enjoyable," remembers Professor Emeritus Khalil
Mancy, who dressed as a rich Arab sheik for one "Michereno."
7We Walk, We Bike, We Bus
Members of the SPH community have been taking part in the annual Ann Arbor Chamber
of Commerce Commuter Challenge since 2005, logging on average each year a total distance
of 18,233 miles of alternate commutes.
From 2011 through 2016, the SPH team burned a yearly average of 131,198 calories,
with a five-year total of 91,008 pounds avoided in carbon dioxide emissions. SPH has
consistently ranked at the top among Ann Arbor organizations that participate in the
Two SPH alums have held the top post in the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration:
John Pendergrass, MPH '56, who served as OSHA director from 1986 to 1989, and John
Henshaw, MPH '74, OSHA director from 2001 to 2004.
For years, this silver tea service helped welcome international students to SPH during
an annual reception held in the faculty dining room.
Dean's Assistant Sylvia Koski has served every SPH dean since Richard Remington took
office in 1974 as the school's third dean (after Henry Vaughan and Myron Wegman).
The two most recent SPH deans, Martin Philbert and Ken Warner, both made it a condition
of their accepting the job that Koski keep hers. In 2015, Koski received the competitive
U-M Candace Johnson Award for Staff Excellence.
Craig Harris, the NSF International Chair of Environmental Health Sciences, is a painter. His
meticulously rendered watercolors—whose richness of detail is reminiscent of oil paintings—pay
homage to the natural environment. "I have a passion for the outdoors," says Harris,
who grew up in Idaho and Washington State and goes hiking, backpacking, and fishing
whenever he can. Asked if there's a link between his avocation as an artist and his
professional life as a toxicologist, Harris says, "A lot of what I paint is really
organic, and that's kind of what I do professionally. Toxicology is all about patterns
and textures and spatial kinds of things."
The current SPH faculty and staff roster also includes several singers and extreme
athletes, a cellist, an organist, a clarinetist, a race car driver, a parachutist,
and a chocolatier.
12A Shy Student Finds Her Voice
So shy as a student that she couldn't address her fellow students without turning
her back to them and using a flip-chart to tell her story, SPH alumna Beverlee Myers,
MPH '61, became the first woman and first non-physician to head California's Department
of Health Services when then-Governor Jerry Brown appointed her in 1978.
Myers's distinguished career—cut short in 1986 by her death from cancer—included
nine years as speaker of the American Public Health Association Governing Council,
four years as director of the New York State Medicaid Program, and periodic service
as a health care consultant in Senator Edward Kennedy's office. Her SPH mentor, Avedis
Donabedian, recalled that as a student, Myers gave no sign "of the resolute leader,
the cool risk-taker, the consummate politician, the commanding executive she was to
become." The California Department of Public Health's Beverlee A. Myers Award for
Excellence in Public Health honors her memory.
From 1970 to 2001, Professors Peter Meier and Rolf Deininger of the Department of
Environmental Health Sciences staged an annual fall pig roast to welcome new students
to the department. In the first years, the German-born Meier went to Frankenmuth,
Michigan, to harvest the pig himself with the aid of his brother Hans, a butcher.
The event itself, always held in a local park, started at six a.m. when department
staff members like Susan Crawford arrived to start the nine-hour roasting process.
The menu included Meier's homemade sauerkraut, roasted pig skin and meat, hot dogs,
sausages, hamburgers, pork loin, and beer. Some 200 people came every year and brought
more dishes to pass.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, six students from the Tulane University School
of Public Health and Tropical Medicine continued their public health educations as
non-degree students at SPH until they could return to Tulane in 2006. After Katrina,
the SPH Office of Public Health Practice also took 40 SPH students to Louisiana and
Mississippi during spring break to help with relief efforts. A decade later, U-M SPH
continues to work with community partners in Biloxi, Mississippi, and has extended
its work to include the greater Mississippi Delta region.
15A World of Good
Since 1960, over 2,500 U-M students—many of them past, present, or future SPH students—have
volunteered for the Peace Corps, whose origins famously date back to the steps of
the Michigan Union. There, on October 14, 1961, presidential candidate John F. Kennedy
first floated the idea of a voluntary corps devoted to fostering global peace. Marvin
Hanson, MPH '69, signed on in 1962 and spent two years in Sierra Leone. "Whenever
I've had to prepare a resume or a job application, my lead item—front and center—was
that I was among the first Peace Corps volunteers and that I am a graduate of U-M,"
he said years later.
16Safe Sex Champion
The outbreak and sudden, lethal spread of AIDS in the 1980s spurred Ann Arborite
BethAnn Karmeisool to action. After learning how poorly informed many adolescents
were about sexual health, Karmeisool left a corporate job to open the S3 Safe Sex
Store in downtown Ann Arbor in 1995. During its 20 years of existence, S3 offered
HIV counseling and testing in addition to selling safer sex products. Karmeisool went
on to earn an MPH ('09) in health behavior and health education from U-M SPH. In 2014,
she told the Michigan Daily that when she first opened the store, people's number-one
fear concerning their sexual health was "contracting HIV. People were afraid to die."
Although Karmeisool closed the physical store in 2015, she continues to operate S3
online and to offer counseling.
In his later years, SPH Professor Emeritus Avedis Donabedian acquired a burial plot
in Forest Hills Cemetery, which abuts SPH II. He told colleagues and friends at the
school he did it so he could continue to inspire them after death. A world-renowned
expert in quality of care, as well as a poet, Donabedian wrote these lines 18 days
before his death in 2006: "To strive, to engage, to work, these are noble things.
But to be set free when the time comes is no little matter either. It is benison,
the balm of forgiveness, the fond farewell."
18An Exemplary Alumnus
Ann Arbor's first—and to date only—African-American mayor, Albert H. Wheeler, received
a master's degree in public health from Michigan in 1938, before U-M SPH officially
became a school. In 1941, Wheeler earned his doctorate from SPH with a dissertation
on syphilis testing. His wife, Emma Monteith, also received her master's in public
health from Michigan in 1938; the two met as public health students. Monteith went
on to become the Ann Arbor NAACP chapter president in 1957. She and Wheeler both worked
lifelong for civil rights and the NAACP.
Wheeler joined the microbiology and immunology faculty at U-M and in 1952 became the
university's first tenured black professor. In 1975, he ran as a Democrat for mayor
of Ann Arbor and won. He helped establish the Michigan Civil Rights Commission and
the Ann Arbor Human Rights Commission, and at the behest of President Jimmy Carter,
he served on the Mayor Advisory Council to the White House Office of Drug Abuse Policy.
Wheeler died in 1994. Ann Arbor's Wheeler Park is named for him.
The school's first dean, Henry F. Vaughan, was also the first person to receive a
DrPH from U-M SPH. Public health—and an academic career at Michigan—seem to have been
his birthright. Henry was the fourth son of Victor Clarence Vaughan, who effectively
launched public health education at Michigan when he began teaching sanitary science
at the university in 1881. Victor named Henry after his close friend and U-M colleague
Henry Frieze, whom Victor regarded as "my ideal of a learned man."
In an effort to promote hand-washing, epidemiologists at SPH in the 1950s insisted
that every room in SPH hold a washbasin. Eventually, the cost of plumbing repairs
dampened the zeal for hand-washing, and the sinks were removed.
At least four faculty occupants of offices in the southwest corner of SPH II have
been elected to the Institute of Medicine, now the National Academy of Medicine: Michael Boehnke, Avedis Donabedian, Catherine McLaughlin, and Kenneth Warner. Four additional SPH members of the IoM (Gonçalo Abecasis, Marshall Becker, Noreen Clark, and Roderick Little) at one point occupied northwest corner offices of SPH II while serving as department
For many male students, SPH Professor Mabel Rugen was the first female teacher they'd
ever encountered. "Once they found they couldn't shock me, I never had any trouble,"
recalled Rugen, who taught at SPH from 1930 to 1970. Established in 1992 by Rugen
herself, the school's Mabel Rugen Fund supports young researchers and doctoral students
pursuing interdisciplinary studies in health education.
When officials at Procter & Gamble wanted to ensure that polymers in their disposable-diaper
and paper-towel products were not leaching into groundwater, they asked U-M SPH Professor
James E. Martin and U-M Professor of Civil Engineering Eugene A. Glysson to conduct
a study. Inside the SPH basement, the two scientists created a landfill environment
using five ten-foot-tall fiberglass cylinders. Each cylinder held a half-ton of shredded
refuse and an assortment of disposable diapers or paper towels moist-ened with distilled
water and marked with carbon-14. Over the course of a year, from 1988 to 1989, Martin
and Glysson sprinkled rainwater into the cylinders to simulate the effect of weather
on landfills. Using radioactive isotopes, they then tracked the movement of polymers
in both the diapers and paper towels. They found that most polymers bonded with other
refuse and did not enter the groundwater.
24If Desks Could Talk
Thomas Francis Jr. used this desk in the 1950s to conduct the clinical trials for
the Salk polio vaccine. The desk—manufactured by Stow & Davis of Grand Rapids—now
sits in the office of Matthew Boulton, SPH Senior Associate Dean for Global Public Health, who enjoys showing the desk
to visitors and students and explaining its history. "Everybody is awed," he says,
"and everybody touches it."
25A Joyful Noise
On a bus ride in 2004, during the last annual gathering of partners in Allies Against
Asthma, a U-M-based national program to improve asthma control for children and adolescents,
participants burst into song. To the surprise of many, SPH Dean Noreen Clark, then-director
of the program, joined right in. The song, written by deputy director Amy Friedman-Milonovich
and sung to the tune of "Y-M-C-A," was designed to highlight the sustainable work
achieved by the program's commu-nity partners. It concluded with these lines: "It's fun to be part of A...A...A It's fun to be part of A...A...A You have everything That you need to succeed Sustaining is guaranteed."
26Small Victories Add Up
Widely considered the world's foremost expert on tuberculosis, SPH alumnus George
W. Comstock, MPH '51, conducted studies in the 1950s that led the health profession
to adopt use of the drug isoniazid (INH) to treat TB. At one point, Comstock and his
family themselves took INH as part of the study. Today's CDC guidelines on INH therapy
still use Comstock's data. Comstock received his MPH from SPH while serving as a captain
in the U.S. Public Health Service and later served on the public health faculty of
Johns Hopkins University, whose George W. Comstock Center for Public Health Research
and Prevention honors his memory. Comstock was fond of quoting the 19th-century thinker Horace Mann: "Be ashamed to
die until you have won some victory for humanity." But Comstock added his own spin:
"Most of us aren't going to win any big victories, but we can win little ones every
day, and they mount up."
27A Revered "Father"
A virologist, veterinarian, and lifelong animal lover, SPH alumnus George Baer, MPH
'61, devoted his life to both animal and human health. In the early and mid-1960s,
he worked to prevent bat rabies in the American Southwest and helped Mexican officials
devise a plan to control paralytic bovine rabies.
In 1969, as director of the CDC's Rabies Laboratory, Baer led a team of scientists
in developing an oral rabies vaccine for wildlife. His efforts led to the eradication
of wildlife rabies in most of Europe—and to Baer's designation as the "father of oral
rabies vaccination." His book, The Natural History of Rabies, first published in 1975, remains an international reference for rabies control.
28SPH Students Battle Hunger
Each fall, incoming SPH students volunteer at Ann Arbor-based Food Gatherers, a nonprofit
umbrella agency for food rescue and distribution throughout Washtenaw County, Michigan.
Launched in 1988 by former U-M SPH student Paul Saginaw, co-founder of Zingerman's
Delicatessen, Food Gatherers is the state's first food rescue program. U-M SPH has
been a partner since 2006. Last summer, SPH student interns designed and taught nutrition
education classes at 31 Summer Food Service Program sites sponsored by Food Gatherers.
29The Ice Rink That Wasn't
Over the years, countless SPH students, faculty, and staff have taken the short downhill
walk from the school to Nichols Arboretum, where they've found not only acres of woodland
and prairie—and a world-renowned peony garden—but also a quiet place to reflect and
rejuvenate. (At least one SPH couple got engaged in the Arb!) Established in 1907,
Nichols Arboretum extends across gently undulating glaciated topography between Geddes
Road and the Huron River and is a refuge for birds and other wildlife.
It could have been otherwise. In the 1920s, a group of U-M faculty urged the administration
to turn the space into a winter sports facility, and plans were drafted to convert
parts of the Arb into ski and toboggan runs and an ice-skating and hockey rink. U-M
President Alexander Ruthven assembled a task force to evaluate the idea. Happily,
the committee concluded that Nichols Arboretum "should be kept so that it might become
a haven of quiet one hundred years from now when our rich native flora will have become
a thing of the past in most places."
30A Generous Hand
When his student Paul Cornely needed money to get married in 1934, at the height
of the Great Depression, SPH Professor and health insurance pioneer Nathan Sinai (left)
promptly wrote him a check for $175. Years later, a grateful Cornely said, "People
might wonder whether Sinai's elegance would cause him to lose the common touch." Clearly
it did not.
"Human beings are highly overrated." So goes the favorite joke of the late Sylvia
Hacker, who spent 16 years on the faculty of the U-M schools of public health and
nursing. An award-winning sexual health researcher and sex educator, Hacker used humor
to encourage open, healthy dialogue about human sexuality. She hosted her own call-in
TV show, Sexy Minutes, and with her daughter, Randi Hacker, she co-wrote a book entitled
What Teenagers REALLY Want to Know about Sex. Sylvia Hacker also made TV appearances
on the Montel Williams and Phil Donahue shows. She died in 2013. Her obituary read,
in part: "A life-long opponent of both exercise and vegetables, she nevertheless survived
in remarkable health to the age of 90."
32Women's Rights, Then and Now
Elizabeth M. Dusseau, MSPH '42, and eventually a faculty member at SPH, helped establish,
and for years afterward chaired, an Affirmative Action for Women Committee in the
SPH Department of Epidemiology. Dusseau was born in 1911 and grew up in a family that
prized education for male and female children—then a radical concept. In her work
life, she both observed and experienced gender discrimination. "Get Aunt Toots to
start talking about women's rights," recalled her niece, Anne Dusseau, "and she'd
give you an earful." Today's Elizabeth Dusseau Scholarship at the U-M Center for the
Education of Women supports women pursuing a scientific field at Michigan.
33A Senate Seat
At a wedding in 2006, SPH Professor Mark Fendrick met then-Senator Barack Obama's health legislative assistant. One connection led
to another, and Fendrick soon found himself using Obama's Senate office to work on
legislation surrounding the concept of value-based insurance design, or V-BID. Developed
at U-M by Fendrick and others, V-BID aims to change the focus in health care spending
from how much we're spending to how well we're spending it. V-BID was incorporated
into the ACA in 2010 and is now used by both Medicaid and Medicare.
34No Such Thing as a Free Lunch
In the 1950s, SPH featured a lunch room on the third floor. It was an unwritten rule,
remembers SPH Professor Emeritus John Gannon, that faculty were expected to eat there
daily. That way, Dean Henry Vaughan knew where to find them. Meals were both heavily
subsidized and heavy. "Vaughan didn't go cheap on anything," Gannon laughs. "But it
wasn't so good on your weight."
35A Women's Health Pioneer
Asked in 1993 why so much public health research focused on men and not women, SPH
epidemiologist Mary Fran Sowers replied, "I think economics drives the situation.
Men were the money-makers; they were the industrial component, so their health was
important, and we tended to focus on that." Sowers added that because until recently,
most researchers had been men, "the natural tendency was to ask questions that were
specific to and important to men."
With her groundbreaking studies in the areas of bone health, osteoarthritis, reproductive
aging, cardiometabolic dysfunction, and physical functioning, Sowers helped change
women's health into a major discipline. At the time of her death in 2011, she was
principal investigator for several trailblazing studies, including the Study of Women's
Health Across the Nation (SWAN), the largest multiethnic national cohort study of
midlife women as they transition through menopause. SWAN continues at SPH under the
direction of Sowers's colleague and friend Siobán Harlow.
36Before Findings magazine launched in 1986, SPH had a weekly newsletter called "The Phib" (for "Public
Health Information Bulletin"), pronounced "The Fib."
37The Croissant Vendor
While teaching the basics of hospital administration at SPH from 1969-1971, instructor
and research associate Paul Bash started making croissants in his spare time and selling
them at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market, along with other baked goods. "Back in those
days, croissants were the new kid on the block," he recalls.
When he confided to his SPH colleague and friend Irene Butter that he liked teaching
but not research, she said, "Paul, why don't you go do what you want to do and become
a chef?" So he did, eventually opening his own four-star French restaurant in Little
Now retired, Bash says running a restaurant isn't all that different from running
a hospital. "You definitely want a quality operation. And just like a hospital, you
have constant turnover." He says he never regretted "jumping ship. But I love U-M,
even though all my family are Ohio State grads. I was smart enough to 'cross the line'!"
38A Transatlantic Grudge
Victor Clarence Vaughan, who launched public health studies at U-M when he began
teaching sanitary science at the university in 1881, spent time in the labs of both
Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch.
While Vaughan admired Koch, he was not, in his words, "altogether pleased with his
personality." In his 1926 autobiography, Vaughan described Koch as "in many respects a typical German, ready to stamp upon
those who did not acknowledge his authority."
Vaughan was especially peeved that Koch claimed sole credit for the discovery that
typhoid spreads largely by direct contact. Vaughan himself had reached the same conclusion
in 1898, as a member of the U.S. Typhoid Commission. But the official announcement
of Koch's discovery "did not mention our work begun ten years, and published four
years previously," Vaughan complained. "Since this is my autobiography it is my duty
to disclose some of my vices as well as magnify all my virtues; therefore I will admit
that I was not greatly depressed when I learned that in the invasion of Belgium in
1914 the German army suffered from typhoid fever more seriously than did the English
In 1993, a major flu vaccine study by SPH epidemiologist Arnold Monto helped convince Medicare policy- makers to make the seasonal flu vaccine a covered
benefit for Americans 65 and up.
During the tumultuous 1960s, SPH Professor Isadore Bernstein, an internationally
recognized expert in environmental toxicology and cutaneous biochemistry, became the
target of protests after students learned he had received funding from the U.S. Department
of Defense to study the health effects of mustard gas. During a campus meeting about
Bernstein's work, a protester threw an orange that just missed hitting the scientist
on the head.
Until the middle of the 20th century, widespread tooth decay meant that few Americans
kept their teeth, and toothaches, often accompanied by abscesses, were routine. As
early as 1901, however, researchers had noticed a lower prevalence of caries and dental
decay in geographic areas with naturally high levels of fluoride in the water. SPH
alumnus David Ast, MPH '42, then dental director for the state of New York, proposed
a government project to study the fluoridation of water supplies drawn from the Hudson
River. Although he failed in his bid to conduct the nation's first fluoridation trials,
Ast conducted the second trials, in upstate New York. That work prompted federal dentists
to launch a study in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which in 1945 became the first U.S. city
to fluoridate its drinking water. SPH researchers collected data from the project,
whose outcomes were so promising the U.S. Public Health Service established fluoridation
programs nationwide in the 1960s. Other countries soon followed suit.
Born in Zurich, Switzerland, SPH Professor Ernst Siegenthaler knew a thing or two
about milk. During his 18-year tenure at Michigan, from 1967 to 1985, he contributed
significantly to improvements in food safety—especially dairy products. A past officer
with the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations and a former consultant
for the Swiss Federal Institute of Dairy Research, Siegenthaler taught in the school's
human nutrition program and oversaw the training of food sanitarians who came to Michigan
from across the U.S. His overseas experience had taught him that "the problems of sanitation in America
do not necessarily apply to other parts of the world. When you are in a developing
country, you cannot throw away food if you don't trust it," he said. "Instead, you
have to solve that problem."
When President Richard Nixon terminated federal aid to schools of public health in
1973, SPH faced a crisis. Despite an additional budget reallocation from the U-M administration,
it was clear that without drastic action, the school's junior faculty members would
have to be laid off within a year. Dean Myron Wegman "then orchestrated one of the
greatest deanly leadership episodes ever," remembers Kenneth Warner, a junior faculty member at the time, and today the Avedis Donabedian Distinguished
University Professor of Public Health at SPH.
During a dramatic meeting that June, the tenured SPH faculty, at Wegman's urging,
voted by more than a two-to-one margin to replace their traditional 12-month appointments
with nine-month contracts, so that the school's junior faculty could keep their jobs.
Warner says that while he credits Wegman "for his superb leadership, I also have
always been deeply grateful to my senior colleagues, who exhibited remarkable unselfishness
and had the institutional devotion necessary to allow me and my fellow junior faculty
to continue serving on the faculty of this great institution."
44On (and off) the Chopping Block
After Dean June Osborn left SPH in 1993, U-M Provost Gil Whitaker announced he would
not authorize a search for a new dean until he'd determined there was a genuine need
for a school of public health at Michigan. He believed much of the school's work was
duplicated elsewhere on campus, and he called for an external review.
SPH department chairs counter-proposed an internal review. Whitaker agreed, and asked
SPH Professors Noreen Clark and Kenneth Warner to chair it. "We had to work closely with faculty," Warner recalls. Several measures,
including a recommendation to reduce the number of SPH departments from eight to five,
were "a bit challenging." But the faculty endorsed the final report, and when Whitaker
read it he pronounced it the best internal review he'd ever seen.
45Public Health Ethics
In 2005, SPH faculty members Sharon Kardia and Toby Citrin assumed direction of the U-M Life Sciences and Society Program, a campus-wide initiative
aimed at addressing the ethical and societal questions raised by advances in the life
sciences—in particular, issues such as genetic screening, end-of-life decision-making,
custom-designed pharmaceuticals, and reprogenetics. With the sequencing of the human
genome in 2003 and ensuing advances in genetic under-standing, Citrin and Kardia said
they were both wary of the potential for the resurgence of eugenics. A movement popular
in the early 20th century among many scientists—including members of the U.S. Public
Health Service and some public health faculty at U-M—eugenics was founded on the belief
that the human species could be improved through selective breeding, and that the
quality of the U.S. population could be improved through immigration control. "We
absolutely think we're above eugenics," Kardia said in 2005, "and we absolutely are
As director of epidemiology for The Dow Corning Corporation in the early 1990s, SPH
alumnus Ralph Cook, MD, MPH '71, played a key role in addressing the litigation crisis
surrounding the company's silicone breast implants. The stakes for Dow Corning were
high: silicone breast implants had a putative association with multiple different
diseases. Cook launched multiple epidemiological studies at academic institutions
around the world. He insisted that all studies be published in peer-reviewed journals,
regardless of the implications of the findings.
Cook took action "to ensure that the data being collected were as unbiased as possible,"
recalled Carol Burns, PhD '94, who as an SPH doctoral student collaborated with Cook
on one of the studies.
In 1999, an independent panel convened by the Institute of Medicine concluded that
silicone breast implants do not cause any major diseases.
47All that Jazz
Richard D. Remington—SPH biostatistician, alumnus (PhD '58), and dean (1974-1982)—
played tuba in a local Dixieland jazz band, The Boll Weevils, which often performed
at Ann Arbor's old German Park and at the American Legion. Members of the Easy Street
Jazz Band played at Remington's SPH retirement party in 1982.
After taking early retirement in 1989, at 57, SPH Professor Emeritus Eugene Feingold
enrolled in the U-M Law School to get the legal skills he needed to further his life's
work fighting to end poverty and racial discrimination. Today the school honors him
with the Eugene Feingold Excellence in Diversity Award, given to SPH faculty and staff
members who exemplify Feingold's commitment to social justice.
49Michigan's PBB Crisis
In 1973, Michigan—and a swath of the Midwest—suffered a public health disaster when
a chemical fire retardant was acci-dentally misbagged and distributed as livestock
feed to farms throughout the region. The retardant contained polybrominated biphenyls,
or PBB. Millions of chickens and thousands of cattle, pigs, and sheep were contaminated,
and over nine million Michigan residents consumed potentially tainted meat, eggs,
and milk. SPH faculty were brought in to monitor the human health impact of the contaminated
feed, and Professor Isadore Bernstein chaired the Governor's Scientific Panel on PBBs,
charged with addressing the problem and preventing future episodes. Today, scientists
continue to investigate the long-term health impacts of the accident.
50He Spoke the Truth to Power
During the 1973 annual meeting of the American Public Health Association, U-M SPH
alumnus Paul Cornely (DrPH '34) led a public demonstration against U.S. Secretary
of Health, Education and Welfare Caspar Weinberger, who gave the meeting's opening
address. Weinberger had recently announced his intention to cut his department's funding,
and Cornely, a past APHA president (1970), objected to the proposed cuts, as did other
public health professionals. As Weinberger spoke, Cornely led his colleagues in a
silent march of protest. Ultimately, Weinberger received so much pushback he reduced
the cuts. Today's Paul B. Cornely Postdoctoral Program for Minority Scholars at U-M
SPH honors the legacy of this spirited public health physician, educator, scientist,
As a professor of health behavior and health education at SPH, Ruth Simmons was instrumental
in shaping the World Health Organization's Strategic Approach to Contraception Introduction,
a framework to determine which contraceptives should be offered by a given family-planning
The 1997 framework led to significant impacts on the delivery of reproductive health
services worldwide. A key outcome has been the creation of ExpandNet (expandnet.net),
a global network of public health professionals devoted to advancing the science and
practice of scaling up successful health innovations. Simmons plays a lead role in
52The Gift of Sight
One snowy day in 1978, several members of the SPH class of 1977 gathered near Ann
Arbor to create "a community of people who might gain common interest in service,"
remembers Girija Brilliant (MPH '77, PhD '83), who with her husband, Larry (MPH '77),
spearheaded the group. The gathering led to a foundation called Seva, which has since
helped preserve and restore sight to millions of people worldwide. SPH alumnus David
Green, MPH '82, joined Seva in 1983 and later founded his own organization, Aurolab,
dedicated to producing low-cost intraocular lenses and ophthalmic sutures for eye
patients in the developing world. In 2004, Green won a MacArthur award for his work.
53A Mentor's Mentor
When her 38-year-old husband was killed by lightning in 1985 while golfing, then-SPH
student Nancy Janz had two chapters left to write for her PhD dissertation. But she couldn't do it.
Devastated by her loss, struggling to raise two young sons, Janz couldn't eke out
so much as three sentences. Her mentor, SPH Professor Marshall Becker, came to the
rescue. "Bring me one paragraph, and we'll take a look at it," he told her.
"And then it was two," Janz remembers. "And then it was a page. He used social cognitive
theory—breaking it down into the smallest little pieces—and he helped me finish that
dissertation." Janz received her doctorate in 1986 and promptly joined the SPH faculty,
where she remains today.
Becker's example continues to inspire her. "Mentorship is not limited to what a student
is focused on inside the walls of SPH," she believes. "You have to understand the
person as a whole. I relate to students in terms of the rest of their lives. That
has been my pledge to Marshall."
In the 1920s, Warren Cook began investigating the ocupational health hazards of fireworks
manufacturing—work that ultimately led fireworks manufacturers to ban the use of white
phosphorus (also used in rat and roach poisons) in their plants. Cook helped found
the American Industrial Hygiene Association in 1939 and served as the association's
second president before joining SPH in 1953 as the school's first industrial hygiene
professor. Today's Warren A. Cook Award at SPH recognizes stellar contributions to
industrial hygiene research.
In 2007, an international team of scientists led by SPH biostatisticians Laura Scott and Michael Boehnke identified nine genetic variants associated with type 2 diabetes. Time magazine hailed
the findings as one of the year's ten medical breakthroughs. In his commencement address
at U-M that year, former President Bill Clinton cited the study as proof that "this
is one of the most exciting times to be alive in all of human history."
56Breaking Down Barriers
A 1994 study by SPH biostatistician Robert Wolfe showed that the traditional system
for determining matches between kidney donors and transplant candidates created barriers,
because it was structured in such a way that whites were more likely to get transplants
than African Americans—who suffer three times the rate of kidney failure as whites.
Using transplant-registry data, Wolfe helped determine that the one criterion most
important to successful kidney transplants also reduced racial disparity in organ
allocation. Soon after the findings were reported in the New England Journal of Medicine,
policymakers introduced a new and more equitable system.
57One of the First
With the introduction of sanitary science to the curriculum in 1887, U-M became one
of the first American universities to teach environmental health.
58Protection from Chemical Warfare
In the wake of 9/11, Rudy Richardson and a team of Russian and American scientists received an anti-terrorism grant from
the U.S. Civilian Research and Development Foundation to develop a rapid-detection
system for novel chemical warfare agents. The research took place outside Moscow and
in Ann Arbor. "This particular cause is something we can all support—developing ways
to defend civilians against the threats of chemical weapons being wielded by rogue
nations or terrorist groups," said Richardson, the Dow Professor of Toxicology at
Following the success of the original project, the collaboration subsequently evolved
into several other lines of research, including computational approaches to predict
toxic and therapeutic actions of compounds, which are now part of a new drug-discovery
program targeting Alzheimer's disease and antiviral agents.
59Bioterrorism Prevention and Preparedness
Following the 9/11 attacks and subsequent anthrax scare, SPH launched the Michigan
Bioterrorism and Health Preparedness Research and Training Center with a $1 million
grant from the CDC. Directed by SPH epidemiologist Arnold Monto, the center sought to leverage faculty expertise in such areas as the rapid detection
of dangerous substances in water, the spread of infectious disease, risk assessment,
health surveillance, and the use of vaccines, antibiotics, and antivirals.
60An Industry Leader
Funded in 1950 by a $10 million gift from General Motors, the school's first teaching
program in industrial health soon became the leading program of its kind in the U.S.
Today's successor to that program, the U-M Education and Research Center for Occupational Health and Safety Engineering, not only focuses on traditional areas, such as industrial health and hazardous materials,
but also on ergonomics, epidemiology, and community issues including industrial noise
In 1989, SPH became the site of a new Radon Resource and Training Center, which served
the entire state of Michigan. The federal Indoor Radon Abatement of 1988 had raised
public awareness of this inert, odorless, and potentially dangerous gas, which leaked
into homes through basement cracks and pass-throughs and contributed significantly
to lung-cancer deaths. Directed by A.P. "Jake" Jacobson, professor and director of
the school's Radiological Health Program, the center offered training courses in radon
detection and reduction techniques for builders, plumbers, radon diagnosticians, state
and local public health personnel, and others.
62A Crusade Pays Off
As an intern in New York's Kings County Hospital, SPH alumnus Gerald Deas, MD, MPH
'57, learned that many black women ate cubes of laundry starch as a snack—a practice
believed to be a holdover from women who ate clay in Africa. Because the ingested
starch tended to cause anemia, Deas launched a seven-year crusade against the Argo
Starch Company, the only company to make laundry starch in an edible form. As a result
of Deas's work, Argo repackaged its starch in powdered form and added a warning stating
"Not Recommended for Food Use." In 1985, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave
Deas a special award for his efforts.
Between 1941 and 1977, 614 nurses earned MPH degrees, with an emphasis in public
health nursing administration, through SPH. In 1976, the master's program in public
health nursing moved from SPH to the U-M School of Nursing.
64Blow Out the Candles
In 2003, research by SPH Professor Jerome Nriagu prompted the U.S. Consumer Product
Safety Commission to ban lead wicks in candles. Until then, candlemakers had routinely
used lead because it made flames burn more upright and helped candles burn longer.
Nriagu's research showed that candles emitted dangerous levels of lead, especially
when burned for long periods of time in enclosed spaces.
At its official opening in 2006, the new SPH Crossroads and Tower facility contained
8,100 square feet of classroom space, 17 conference rooms, 133 laboratory benches,
320,000 feet of teledata wiring, and 2,400 light fixtures. Since then, SPH has become
100 percent wireless, has a full-service café, and more than 50 percent of the school's
older lab space has been renovated.
On its first official day of existence, July 17, 1941, U-M SPH consisted of ten faculty
members: (standing, L to R) Nathan Sinai, professor of public health; Henry F. Vaughan,
dean; Ernest Boyce, professor of public health engineering; John Sundwall, professor
of hygiene and public health; Warren E. Forsythe, professor of hygiene and public
health; Kenneth A. Easlick, professor of public health dentistry; Thomas Francis Jr.,
professor and chair of epidemiology; (seated, left to right) Ella E. McNeil, professor
of public health nursing; Margaret Bell, professor of hygiene and physical education;
Mabel E. Rugen, professor of health education.
U-M administrators sought partial funding from the U.S. Public Works Administration
for construction of a new School of Public Health in 1942, arguing that the school
would benefit the nation's war effort by training health professionals to address
the industrial hazards of wartime manufacturing, the threat of tropical diseases in
combat zones, and the spread of infectious diseases—including sexually transmitted
diseases—both at home and abroad.
Plans for the original 1942 SPH building included rooms for fish, frogs, sheep, pigeons,
chickens, and cats, as well as rooms for animal surgery, washing, recovery, x-ray,
and cadavers, and an animal anatomy museum.
69A Bigger SPH
Named for celebrated SPH epidemiologist Thomas Francis Jr., the SPH II building began
operation in 1971 and allowed the school to increase its enrollment by more than 20
percent—to 641 students.
70Those Were the Days, My Friend
In the 1960s, favorable federal policies for public health training—including the
Public Health Training Act of 1959 and the Hill-Rhodes formula grants, which provided
$2 million annually for project grants to U.S. schools of public health, nursing,
and engineering—enabled large numbers of students to attend U-M SPH with fellowship
71Better Nursing Homes
In 1991, SPH Professor Brant Fries developed the U.S. National Nursing Home Resident Assessment Instrument, the first
comprehensive assessment system to be introduced in every nursing home in the U.S.
"With the population of the United States aging rapidly, it's more important than
ever that we devise a systematic way to improve nursing home care," said Fries.
Established in 1984 with major funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development,
the U-M Population Fellows Program helped launch the careers of hundreds of public
health professionals—many of them returning Peace Corps volunteers. Each year, the
program placed some two-dozen fellows with global organizations in the developing
world, where they worked on reproductive health, family planning, and population-environment
initiatives. The program remained a key component of SPH until 2006, when USAID transferred
its fellowships to the Public Health Institute.
73Executive Ed Takes Hold
In response to a critical shortage of trained administrators for the U.S. government's
expanding Neighborhood Health Center program, SPH launched its first executive education
program, the On Job/On Campus program in health management, in 1972. The OJOC model
later grew to include programs in occupational medicine, public health policy, and
clinical research design.
74Jobs in Detroit
Since its inception in 1995, the Detroit Community-Academic Urban Research Center has provided both part- and full-time employment, as well as training, for over 400
Detroit residents, and training for more than 600 public health master's and doctoral
students and postdoctoral fellows.
75A Healthy Huron River
For 25 years, SPH students helped monitor water quality in the Huron River through
a unique lab course taught by Professors John Gannon and Peter Meier. Data collected
by students at select river sites informed legislation aimed at improving the Huron.
Budget constraints forced closure of the program in 1988.