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MPH History

An Accredited MPH Program for over 50 years

As the first accredited MPH program, the University of Tennessee celebrated 50 years of national accreditation in 2021, a tribute to the dedication, significant contributions and vision of faculty, students, alumni, and community friends who value public health. Forty milestones were selected to highlight our programs history. Hopefully these milestones will resonate with the 1200 MPH alumni, the staff, and faculty, including retirees, who devoted their talents to teaching, advising, research, and service. Thank you for being part of our past and our future.

A Timeline of MPH Program Milestones

  • In 1969 the first public health degree program outside a school of public health or college of medicine in the USA received accreditation by the Committee on Professional Education of the American Public Health Association (APHA). The accredited MS degree in Public Health Education was housed in the UTK College of Education.
  • By 1971 the state of Tennessee approved the academic MPH degree at UTK.
  • The first person granted the MPH was Mr. William Forrester, on August 17, 1970. Mr. Hugh Barnes was the first recipient of the MPH after the program became fully accredited in 1971.
  • US Public Health Service traineeships were available beginning in 1972 to qualifying public health education students in the MPH program.
  • Also in 1972, an MPH concentration in health planning and administration (HPA) was approved.
  • During 1974 the third MPH concentration, occupational and environmental health and safety (OEHS) was established. The HPA concentration had its first graduate.
  • An accreditation extension of the MPH program was awarded by APHA in April 1976. The OEHS concentration had its first graduate.
  • An event recognizing ten years of programs, including the MPH accreditation, was held on June 19-20,1980, Division of Health and Safety.
  • October 19, 1982, marked the initial accreditation by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) as a community health education program. Prof. Charles B. Hamilton was appointed as director for the public health program. His director service continued until his retirement in 2014.
  • Spring 1983 offered the first interdisciplinary Public Health 509 Graduate Seminar in Public Health, cross-listed by five academic units. The course continues to be offered during the fall and spring semesters.
  • September 20, 1984, CEPH extended the accreditation of the community health education program. Also during fall 1984, a statistics minor was offered through the MPH program affiliation with the Intercollegiate Graduate Statistics Program. The first MPH student with a minor in statistics graduated in 1986.
  • During summer 1985, the five hundredth graduate earned the MPH degree.
  • American Industrial Hygiene Foundation in 1986 offered fellowship awards to outstanding MPH students in the OEHS concentration.
  • During fall 1987 the MPH program received accreditation in the broader category, community health/preventive medicine (CH/PM), from the Council on Education for Public Health. The UTK program became the first program in the nation outside of a school of medicine to be accredited in this category. This accreditation included all three concentrations, CHE, HPA, and OEHS.
  • In 1988, the university converted from the quarter to semester system leading to significant curricular changes.
  • A research-oriented master’s essay option was developed and approved in 1988 for students with extensive work experience. The essay could be completed in place of an internship.
  • A health planning and administration (HPA) student completed the first master’s essay in 1989.
  • UT offered the first MPH degree program with a community health education concentration for US Army Veterinarians in cooperation with the College of Veterinary Medicine and the College of Social Work in 1990.
  • To enhance communication among students and their concentration representatives, the MPH Memos newsletter was initiated in spring 1991.
  • The twentieth year recognition for celebrating the first MPH degree awarded was held in fall 1991.
  • The MPH program was awarded an accreditation extension by CEPH in 1993.
  • The June D. Gorski Scholarship Endowment (the first UTK public health scholarship) was established in 1995 to recognize graduate students in public health or health education who demonstrated a commitment to community-based initiatives through preventive measures, advocacy and collaboration.
  • The twenty-fifth anniversary of the MPH program was celebrated in fall 1996. By this time, nearly 850 individuals had earned an MPH degree from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
  • In 1997 the MPH program was the first academic unit in the nation to formalize observation of National Public Health Week on campus. This annual event, now led by the American Public Health Association, began with community health education students in Public Health 552 Community Health Assessment who organized a panel presentation to participants in the Public Health 509 Graduate Seminar in Public Health.
  • In cooperation with the Department of Nutrition, a dual degree (MS-MPH) was approved in 1997 for students in public health nutrition with the first graduate later that same year. These students could select either the CHE or HPA concentration.
  • A gerontology concentration was developed and approved in August 1998.
  • The UTK public health website launched in April 1998.
  • The occupational and environmental health and safety (OEHS) concentration had its last graduate in 1998. The concentration was discontinued due to a lack of financial resources.
  • The gerontology concentration graduated its first student in 1999.
  • Office of the Chancellor recognized the MPH program as one of thirty-five outstanding programs at UTK in 1999. This offered substantial reinforcement of faculty involvement and program quality.
  • October 7, 2000 the MPH program received an accreditation extension from CEPH.
  • The first Tennessee Public Health Workforce Development Consortium courses were offered in January 2003. Students were public health employees in the state of Tennessee earning graduate credit for coursework online. Also in fall 2003, the 1000th MPH student graduated from the program.
  • Outstanding field preceptors were first recognized in spring 2004 during the National Public Health Week presentation during the PUBH 509 Graduate Seminar in Public Health.
  • The veterinary public health (VPH) concentration in the MPH program was initiated in August 2004. The course offerings were a collaboration with the College of Veterinary Medicine making VPH the fifth MPH concentration approved.
  • The veterinary public health (VPH) concentration graduated its first MPH student in 2005.
  • Emphasizing workforce development in public health, practitioners were invited to participate in focused discussions with members of the Public Health Academic Program Committee beginning in October 2006. The first invitation was extended to directors from the East Tennessee Regional Health Office with a total of 12 practice organizations participating to date. The gerontology concentration was discontinued in 2006; and the final student in gerontology was graduated in 2007.
  • On June 14, 2008, the MPH program received accreditation extension by CEPH to July 1, 2015.
  • The Department of Public Health was established July 2010 as one of eight academic departments in the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences. Paul C. Erwin, DrPH, MD, was appointed Department Head.
  • An epidemiology minor (12 credit hours) was initiated in August 2010.
  • A 12-hour health policy certificate was offered in August 2011.
  • The Kate White Emory Public Health Student Leadership Development Travel Fund was established September 2011 by Asst. Prof. Margaret Knight, granddaughter of Kate White Emory, to assist MPH students traveling to conferences or other professional meetings.  The fund continued until 2015.
  • In March 2012, the Department of Public Health and the Knox County Health Department celebrate the 1-year anniversary of forming the UT-Knox Academic Health Department (AHD), which was the first AHD in Tennessee!
  • In fall 2014, the first student was enrolled in the new JD/MPH degree program.  The JD/MPH degree is a dual program,  offered with the cooperation of the University of Tennessee College of Law, that reflects the interrelationship between the legal system and the protection and promotion of the public’s health.
  • In June 2016, the MPH program received accreditation extension by CEPH to 2023.
  • In cooperation with the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, the dual Doctor of Veterinary Medicine / Master of Public Health (DVM/MPH) degree program launched in fall 2016.