Celebrating the Centennial
A century ago, Columbia University made a bold commitment to help shape the study and practice of public health.
In 1922, we began with a single student, in a single room on West 59th Street. Since then, the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health has educated generations of leaders, led groundbreaking scientific discovery, and delivered solutions to protect and improve the health and wellbeing of people everywhere.
Recent events have made clear what many of us have long known. The work of the Columbia Mailman School is indispensable. From navigating the COVID-19 crisis and understanding the health effects of climate change to reducing health inequities in this country and around the world, Mailman’s experts are leading the way on the issues that matter. As we mark this centennial, let us celebrate the school and its students, faculty, and staff for their tireless and courageous efforts to protect our collective health.
Lee C. Bollinger, President and Seth Low Professor of the University
Norman Edward Ditman, MD, of the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, pens an impassioned proposal for a school of sanitary science and public health; Columbia President Nicholas Murray Butler asks him to explore the idea.
Photo: Dr. Nicholas M. Butler (Library of Congress)
The Rockefeller Foundation begins to examine "the desirability of improving medical education in the United States, with a special view of men for public health service." Its research suggests that New York City needs a public health institution, and that Columbia could make an ideal partner.
A University committee proposes bundling existing courses with new offerings to provide degrees and certificates to doctors, nurses, sanitary inspectors, and local public health officers. The Rockefeller Foundation hosts a summit with attendees from Columbia University, Johns Hopkins University, Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Chicago.
World War I begins.
The Welch-Rose Report, a Rockefeller Foundation-funded blueprint for building U.S. public health schools, is published. Due in part to Columbia's unusually interdisciplinary proposal emphasizing engineering and the social sciences alongside medicine, the Foundation elects to foster a school of public health at Johns Hopkins.
Photo: Wickliffe Rose (National Archives) and William H. Welch (Johns Hopkins School of Medicine)
New York hospital cook "Typhoid Mary" Mallon infects 25 and is quarantined for life.
The estate of Joseph De Lamar, a Netherlands-born adventurer and financier, bequeaths over $5 million to Columbia's College of Physicians and Surgeons to study nutrition and "provide for the study and teaching of the origins and cause of the human disease and the prevention thereof."
Photo: Joseph Raphael De Lamar (Wikipmedia)
A deadly "Spanish flu" spreads around the world.
Photo: 1918 Flu (Wikimedia)
The Trustees of Columbia University adopt a resolution to fulfill De Lamar's intentions by establishing an institute of public health.
Haven Emerson, MS/MD 1899, a Columbia lecturer who oversaw U.S. forces' response to communicable diseases in World War I, helped found the American Epidemiological Society, and served as New York City's health commissioner (the first of nine from the School so far), is appointed head of the new Institute of Public Health under the College of Physicians and Surgeons. He begins in humble circumstances on West 59th Street, with just one student and an office "with the smells from the cadaver room coming up through the floors." The new Institute is put in charge of training graduate nurses at Teachers College.
Photo: Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons (CUIMC Health Sciences Library)
Frederick Banting, MD, pioneers insulin treatment of diabetes; the Soviet Union is established.
The Institute begins offering popular training sessions in preventive medicine and public health administration. Emerson lectures in 28 U.S. cities, during which time he conducts extensive hospital and public health surveys.
The Institute is renamed the De Lamar Institute of Public Health. It now has five branches: Epidemiology, Industrial Medicine, Industrial Physiology, Public Health Administration, and Sanitary Science. It begins offering an MS in public health.
Image: New York Times August 22, 1926 page E5 (Proquest Historical Newspapers)
A blizzard plus smog from coal-burning stoves draws attention to air quality in New York City.
The Institute and the University's College of Physicians and Surgeons partner with the University of Puerto Rico to establish a School of Tropical Medicine in San Juan.
The Institute grants its first MS in public health. The degree recipient is a woman, though her name is lost to time.
A League of Nations treaty officially abolishes all forms of slavery.
The Edward Stephen Harkness family donates 22 acres in Washington Heights, and the Institute has a home on the new Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center campus.
After a typhoid outbreak, professor Earle Phelps, a pioneer in environmental health, contributes to a Department of Agriculture report establishing federal regulatory control of the shellfish industry.
Scottish researcher Alexander Fleming inadvertently discovers penicillin; the iron lung is first used.
Adelaide Ross Smith, the first female professor, identifies silicosis as a major health hazard to subway workers.
Photo: Adelaide Ross Smith (1916 Wellesley College Yearbook)
The stock market crashes, initiating the Great Depression.
Using statistics from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Haven Emerson undertakes the first large-scale analysis of births, stillbirths, and deaths by age, sex, and cause of death in New York City.
Photo: Haven Emerson
Adolf Hitler becomes chancellor of Nazi Germany.
After years of planning, the Institute relocates to three floors of a new building shared with the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene at 168th and Broadway; Mayor Fiorello La Guardia keynotes the dedication ceremony. The partnership supports a long-standing interest in urban healthcare and population-based research; the two organizations share the building to this day.
Swiss chemist Paul Müller, PhD, discovers the potential of DDT as an insecticide.
Harry Stoll Mustard, MD, author of seminal textbook An Introduction to Public Health, becomes head of the Institute, overseeing significant expansion. He is the first of five faculty to serve as editor-in-chief of The American Journal of Public Health.
Photo: Harry Stoll Mustard, MD
John Fertig, PhD, becomes chair of the new Department of Biostatistics. Fertig stays for 35 years, the longest-serving chair and mentor to generations.
The Institute helps launch a Department of Public Health for Puerto Rico.
The DrPH is offered for the first time.
Allied troops evacuate Dunkirk; the first prisoners arrive at Auschwitz; a landmark study describes experimental use of penicillin on animals.
Enrollment swells due to need for public health expertise during wartime, and the Institute creates new courses, including industrial hygiene.
As World War II rages, the Institute works with the Navy to train medical officers in fundamentals of public health and tropical medicine.
Parasitic disease expert Harold Brown, MD, DrPH, comes to the Institute as founding professor of the new Division of Parasitology.
Photo: (Columbia University Archives)
Jews confined to the Warsaw Ghetto begin a doomed uprising against the Nazis; a famine in India's Bengal Province kills over 2 million; the antibiotic streptomycin is discovered.
The Institute is renamed the School of Public Health.
With support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Division of Hospital Administration is established, and the School becomes one of the first to offer an MS in hospital administration.
Atom bombs are dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki; World War II ends.
The Division of Public Health Education is established, a precursor to the Lerner Center for Public Health Promotion. The School begins offering specialized MS degrees in parasitology, biostatistics, public health education, and industrial hygiene.
A study into the therapeutic potential of compounds in mustard gas is published, the first example of cytotoxic chemotherapy.
Harry Stoll Mustard, MD is appointed New York City health commissioner. In his absence, professor Harold Brown, MD, DrPH becomes acting director.
The term "Cold War" is coined; the U.S. launches a national program for eradicating malaria; India achieves independence; pilot Chuck Yeager breaks the speed of sound.
The School partners on a hypertension epidemiology project sponsored by Massachusetts.
Mohamed Othman Shoib of Egypt is the first student to receive a DrPH; he goes on to serve as the World Health Organization's (WHO's) chief medical officer for social and occupational health. Between 1930 and 1965, more than 300 international students earn degrees.
Photo: Mohamed Othman Shoib (left)
President Harry S. Truman orders development of the hydrogen bomb and sends U.S. troops to defend South Korea; the first kidney transplant is performed.
Harold Brown becomes official director.
Years before the Peace Corps was founded, Brown creates an innovative program that sends over 200 medical and public health students, including future Dean John H. Bryant, to work and do research in Surinam, Liberia, and St. Thomas.
The first sociologist, George Rosen, MD, PhD '44, MPH '47, joins the faculty; students in his required course in survey research conduct interviews across Washington Heights.
Norethisterone, the basis for birth control pills, is synthesized.
The new Institute of Administrative Medicine, complementing the Division of Hospital Administration, bolsters the School’s teaching and research efforts regarding insurance.
Professor Norman Jolliffe, MD, opens one of the first public health clinics to study obesity and cardiovascular disease.
The first successful mechanical heart is used; former U.S. Army soldier Christine Jorgensen receives the first high-profile sex reassignment surgery.
Ray E. Trussell, MD, an epidemiologist and specialist in health and hospital administration, takes over as head of the School, aiming to fuse social sciences and quantitative research. He triples the number of faculty during his 14-year tenure.
The Institute of Administrative Medicine is integrated into what is renamed the School of Public Health and Administrative Medicine.
Photo: Ray E. Trussell, MD
The polio vaccine receives Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval; Emmett Till is lynched in Mississippi; after Rosa Parks is arrested, Martin Luther King Jr. leads an extended bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama.
The Division of Community and Social Psychiatry is established.
Researcher Jack Elinson, PhD, joins the faculty to teach survey methods and a required Social Foundations of Health course.
The School launches a continuing education program for professionals that becomes the most extensive in the country.
Elvis Presley makes his chart debut with "Heartbreak Hotel"; Egypt's nationalization of the Suez Canal precipitates an international crisis.
The Columbia University Institute of Human Nutrition Sciences is established within the School and soon begins offering an MS in human nutrition.
A novel influenza strain spreads from southern China around the world, eventually killing at least 1 million people; the Soviet Union launches Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite to orbit the Earth.
Professors Elinson and Trussell publish the results of their innovative Hunterdon County Study, utilizing household interviews and clinical evaluations to measure chronic disease. It is the model for the present-day National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a key source of data on the nation’s health.
Trussell develops an informed consent requirement for municipal hospitals that becomes standard nationwide.
Fidel Castro becomes premier of Cuba; NASA selects its first astronauts; Alaska and Hawaii become U.S. states; the United Nations (U.N.) adopts the Declaration of the Rights of the Child.
The Division of Sanitary Science becomes the Division of Environmental Science.
Black students begin a sit-in at a segregated Woolworth's lunch counter in North Carolina; the FDA approves the world's first oral contraceptive.
Trussell is named New York City commissioner of hospitals, overseeing 21 facilities, and leverages his dual roles to upgrade the public hospital system and public health education alike.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower warns of an emerging "military-industrial complex"; Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becomes the first human in space; Freedom Riders take buses across the American South; thalidomide is taken off the market.
Samuel Wolfe, MPH '60, DrPH '61, later chair of Health Policy and Management, leads an effort to ensure that Saskatchewan proceeds with plans for universal health insurance, paving the way for Canada’s national health plan.
Rachel Carson's Silent Spring is published, galvanizing the emerging environmental movement.
Harlem Hospital partners with Columbia, handing the School responsibility for social services, home care, addiction recovery, environmental health services, and more. A special unit of Sociomedical Sciences monitors and evaluates patient care.
Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique is published; hundreds of thousands march on Washington for civil rights.
With support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the School creates a three-year PhD in administrative medicine.
The U.S. surgeon general acknowledges that smoking might be hazardous to health; the Civil Rights Act is signed into law; the Gulf of Tonkin incident escalates U.S. involvement in Vietnam.
The Methadone Maintenance Evaluation Unit, directed by professor Frances Gearing, MD, MPH '57, is established to evaluate the efficacy of the first methadone maintenance treatment program.
Professors Mervyn Susser, MB, BCh, DPH, and Ernest Gruenberg, MD, DrPH, FAPA, establish the world’s first Psychiatric Epidemiology Training Program with funding from the National Institute of Mental Health.
Photo: Mervyn Susser
Trussell steps down, and professor Milton C. Maloney, an MPH alum, becomes interim dean.
The School establishes the Division of Sociomedical Sciences, the first in the country to offer graduate degrees in social science with a focus on health.
Photo: Sociomedical Sciences Bulletin
Professors Ann F. Brunswick, PhD, and Eric Josephson, MCHS, begin their Longitudinal Harlem Adolescent Health Study, the nation’s first community sociomedical survey of teenagers lasting 25-plus years.
A descendant of the 1957 influenza first observed in Hong Kong becomes a global pandemic; anti-war and anti-segregation protests roil the Columbia University campus; Martin Luther King Jr. and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy are assassinated.
Professor of Tropical Medicine John Frame, MD, is on the first team to publish a study about Lassa fever, a virus endemic to West Africa.
Photo: Lassa fever virus (Centers for Disease Control)
A few weeks after bombing a Columbia library, members of the Weather Underground accidently blow up their Greenwich Village townhouse; television ads for cigarettes are banned in the U.S.; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is established.
After a protracted search, John H. Bryant, MD '53, becomes the School's new director. Bryant, a mentee of Harold Brown, works to build partnerships across and beyond Columbia.
In its fifth change in five decades, the School renames itself the School of Public Health.
President Richard Nixon declares war on drugs; smallpox is declared eradicated from the Americas; in the Attica prison uprising, prisoners' demands include better medical care, improved sanitation, and better quality food.
Bryant heads up the new Center for Community Health Systems, an interdisciplinary hub linking researchers, medical personnel, and the Washington Heights community.
Barbara Barlow, MD, and Leslie Davidson, MD '78, launch the "Children Can’t Fly" program with the New York City Department of Health; among other things, it persuades the city to require window guards in homes of children under 10. It reduces childhood deaths from window falls by 96% and prompts worldwide adoption by the WHO.
Photo: "Children Can't Fly" campaign flyer (Centers for Disease Control)
The Watergate break-in takes place.
With Columbia Business School, the School of Public Health introduces the first joint MPH/MBA program.
Photo: Columbia University Spectator)
The Supreme Court returns its ruling in Roe v. Wade.
A federal grant funds renovation of the space at 168th Street.
Allan Rosenfield, MD '59, heads the new Center for Population and Family Health and soon creates the academic program in Population and Family Health.
Psychiatrist and social medicine expert Robert Weiss, MD, takes over the Center for Community Health Systems.
Professor Judith Jones conducts an assessment of in-hospital OB-GYN clinics in Washington Heights, uncovering severe shortcomings.
Professors Zena Stein, MB, Mervyn Susser and coauthors publish Famine and Human Development: The Dutch Hunger Winter of 1944–1945, their investigation of the long-term consequences of undernutrition for 40,000 children conceived and born at the end of World War II.
The Vietnam War ends.
The Center for Population and Family Health opens the Family Planning Clinic, followed by the Young Adult Clinic in 1978.
The U.N.'s Decade of Women begins, and a wave of states ratifies the Equal Rights Amendment.
The School begins offering a PhD in biostatistics. By the late 1970s, it offers six joint degree programs, the most of any school of public health.
The personal computer debuts; a strain of H1N1 known as the "Russian flu" spreads from China to the Soviet Union and Europe; a New York City blackout spurs unrest.
Bernard Challenor, MD, MPH, an infectious disease epidemiologist and the only person to have taught in every department at the School, becomes interim head and the first Black person in the position.
John H. Bryant departs to head the Carter administration's Office of International Health.
Photo: Bernard Challenor teaching.
President Jimmy Carter evacuates Love Canal, New York, following revelations that it was built on a toxic waste dump; the first genetically engineered synthetic insulin is available.
Robert J. Weiss, MD ('51) of the Center for Community Health Systems is appointed De Lamar Professor of Public Health Practice and the first formal dean. The change marks a major shift in the School's role at Columbia, stepping up as a full partner in university life.
Challenor soon takes the lead on the General Public Health Program and coordinates the joint degree program with the School of International and Public Affairs. In honor of his dedication to building a diverse community schoolwide, the Bernard Challenor Spirit Prize is now awarded to a graduating student each year.
Professor Jeanne Stellman, PhD, brings the Women’s Occupational Resource Center to the School; it is devoted to understanding hazards faced by women workers.
Photo: WOHRC News bulletin
San Francisco resident Ken Horne is reported to the Center for Disease Control with Kaposi's sarcoma; the CDC would later retroactively identify him as the first patient of the AIDS epidemic in the U.S.
The School launches a Health Management Institute with the business school to provide key skills to working health professionals.
The CDC reports that five gay men in Los Angeles have a rare kind of pneumonia seen solely in patients with weakened immune systems, the first recognized cases of AIDS.
A summer session offers some 50 courses.
Professors Frederica Perera, MPH '76, DrPH '82, and I. Bernard Weinstein, MD, publish a landmark paper in the Journal of Chronic Diseases proposing a conceptual framework for the use of molecular epidemiology to study carcinogenesis.
Photo: Frederica Perera
The first computer virus infects Apple PCs via floppy disk.
Stephen Wotman, DDS, a public health dentist, becomes interim dean.
Professors Rosenfield and Deborah Maine, MPH, DrPH, publish “Maternal Mortality—A Neglected Tragedy. Where Is the M in MCH?” in The Lancet, inspiring increased focus on mothers in the field of maternal and child health.
The School partners with the College of Physicians and Surgeons on a popular Complete Home Medical Guide.
It joins with the Department of Psychiatry at the medical school to develop an AIDS research center focusing on education.
The FDA approves a blood test to screen donations for AIDS.
Allan Rosenfield is appointed dean and embarks on an ambitious expansion campaign.
Photo: Allan Rosenfield
The Center for Population and Family Health helps organize a network of school-based clinics in Washington Heights and Inwood to reduce teen pregnancy and dropout rates.
Barbara Snell Dohrenwend, PhD '56, works on a groundbreaking study on the link between stressful life events and the development of mental illness.
Photo: Barbara Dohrenwend (CUIMC Health Sciences Library)
The Division of Geriatrics and Gerontology is established.
The Center for Population and Family Health receives funds from the Ford Foundation and Rockefeller Corporation to develop the National Center for the Study of Children in Poverty.
Population and Family Health faculty member Bruce Armstrong, DSW, founds the Young Men’s Clinic in Washington Heights, the first-of-its-kind adolescent clinic that today serves more than 3,000 each year.
The Center for Population and Family Health begins the Prevention of Maternal Mortality Program to save lives in West Africa and beyond.
The FDA approves AZT for treating AIDS and Prozac to treat depression; molecular biologist Yoshizumi Ishino, PhD, discovers the DNA sequence of CRISPR.
Center for Population and Family Health faculty member Neil Boothby, EdD, co-authors the book Unaccompanied Children: Care and Protection in Wars, Natural Disasters, and Refugee Movements; it serves as the basis of the U.N.’s refugee policies for children.
A disintegrating Soviet Union institutes perestroika reforms; NASA scientist James Hansen testifies before the U.S. Senate about global warming; the first World AIDS Day is observed.
With support from the Carnegie Corporation and the Ford Foundation, professor Judith Jones becomes founding director of the National Center for Children in Poverty, focusing on policy and research.
Hundreds of demonstrators are killed in China's Tiananmen Square; the Berlin Wall is brought down, beginning the reunification of Germany.
The Harlem Health Promotion Center, originally known as the Harlem Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, is founded to partner with local leaders and community members via research, education, advocacy, and services.
The Division of Health Policy and Management’s Executive MPH Program admits its first class, allowing health professionals to earn degrees while working full time.
Internet access becomes commercially available; the U.S. bans smoking on most domestic flights; the WHO removes homosexuality from its list of mental disorders; the Human Genome Project is founded.
Professor Ronald Bayer, PhD, coins the term “HIV exceptionalism” in his seminal New England Journal of Medicine paper, “Public Health Policy and the AIDS Epidemic—An End to HIV Exceptionalism?”
The first web browsers are introduced, followed soon after by the first websites; the Soviet Union officially dissolves.
Columbia's AIDS International Training and Research Program in South Africa, led by professor Stein, launches with funding from the NIH’s Fogarty International Center. More than 800 fellows were trained through the program.
The research group of Ruth Ottman, PhD, at the Sergievsky Center is the first to recognize the familial epilepsy syndrome autosomal dominant partial epilepsy with auditory features and, in 2002, to identify LGI1 as a major susceptibility gene for the disorder.
NIH researchers announce successful clinical trials of the first preventive treatment for sickle cell anemia; the FDA approves the first protease inhibitor to treat HIV/AIDS.
Biostatistics introduces a new MS track in Clinical Research Methods (followed by the Patient-Oriented Research track in 1999).
The Department of Environmental Health Sciences begins offering a PhD.
The Center for the Psychosocial Study of Health and Illness, directed by Karolynn Siegel, PhD, is established within Sociomedical Sciences.
Photo: Karolynn Siegel
Professor Wendy Chavkin, MD, MPH '81, of the Department of Population and Family Health, co-founds Finding Common Ground, a collaboration with Boston Medical Center focused on the impact of welfare reform policies on women and children.
Photo: Wendy Chavkin
European scientists announce the successful cloning of Dolly, a sheep; the Chemical Weapons Convention prohibits nearly all chemical weapons and precursors; the oldest person ever documented, Jeanne Calment of France, dies at age 122.
The School receives a $33 million naming pledge in honor of businessman and philanthropist Joseph L. Mailman, at the time the largest single donation to a school of public health and naming gift to Columbia University. The School is renamed in his honor.
Annette B. Ramírez de Arellano, DrPH '86, publishes the first segment of a comprehensive history of the School, co-written with the late Samuel Wolfe, in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
Photo: Joseph L. Mailman
The Program on Forced Migration and Health is launched.
Professor Joseph Graziano, PhD, becomes the founding director of the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences Center for Environmental Health in Northern Manhattan.
Professor Perera becomes founding director of the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health.
Photo: National Archives
Contamination of the greater Sydney, Australia, water supply affects millions; the FDA approves Viagra; French surgeons carry out the world's first successful hand transplant.
The Department of Population and Family Health receives a $50 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to build the Averting Maternal Death and Disability Program under Deborah Maine and Allan Rosenfield.
The School partners in the launch of the Northern Manhattan Community Voices Collaborative. Supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, it strives to address growing barriers to care for the uninsured.
A mass shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, claims the lives of 13 victims.
The Columbia Mailman School becomes an independent body of its own in the University, with divisions reclassified as full departments.
The CDC funds the Center for Public Health Preparedness at the School.
The Columbia Superfund Basic Research Program is established under professor Graziano to investigate arsenic.
Photo: Joseph Graziano
The Harriet and Robert H. Heilbrunn Center for Population and Family Health is named after its benefactors for its 25th anniversary.
Scientists achieve initial sequencing of the human genome; the first resident crew arrives at the International Space Station.
Having long since outgrown its original space, the School moves primary operations to 722 W. 168th St.
Under W. Ian Lipkin, the Center for Infection and Immunity (CII) joins the School as the only Biosafety Level 3 laboratory at Columbia.
The Center for the History and Ethics of Public Health is established in Sociomedical Sciences.
The Region 2 Public Health Training Center is established in Sociomedical Sciences with professor Marita Murrman, EdD '93, as director.
Photo: Marita Murrman
Physicians successfully implant the world's first self-contained artificial heart; nearly 3,000 people are killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Photo: Library of Congress
Following anthrax mailings in the wake of 9/11, the Center for Public Health Preparedness develops a program educating clinicians about handling similar threats.
The School is one of five partner institutions to establish the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) under the NIH-funded Comprehensive International Program of Research on AIDS.
Sandro Galea, DrPH '03, of the Department of Epidemiology publishes the first study in his extensive research on mental health consequences of 9/11.
A SARS epidemic begins in China; clozapine becomes the first FDA-approved medication for reducing risk of suicide.
The School's research program becomes second largest in the university, behind only the medical school.
Having watched AIDS spread in Upper Manhattan, professor Wafaa El-Sadr, MD, MPH '91, MPA, founds the International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs, now known as ICAP.
Professor Irwin Redlener, MD, becomes founding director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness, a research hub.
Professors Jeanne Stellman and Steven Stellman, PhD, MPH '92, publish a groundbreaking Nature story demonstrating that previous studies had vastly underestimated Vietnam veterans’ exposure to Agent Orange.
A U.S.-led coalition invades Iraq; New York City bans smoking in bars and restaurants; by this point, more than 20 million people around the world have perished from AIDS.
The CPC (Child Protection in Crisis) Learning Network is founded as part of the Program on Forced Migration and Health as “the first ever interagency learning network for the care and protection of children in emergencies.” Lindsay Stark, DrPH '10, then an associate professor of Population and Family Health, becomes the network's principal investigator and executive director.
Hurricane Katrina devastates the Gulf Coast; researchers reconstruct the genome of the 1918 Spanish Flu virus, finding it very similar to modern avian influenzas.
Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger announces that 722 W. 168th St. will henceforth be known as the Allan Rosenfield Building.
The Bank of America Charitable Foundation announces a $750,000 gift to the School's Northern Manhattan Start Right Coalition, a childhood immunization program.
Associate professor of Population and Family Health Rachel Moresky, MD, MPH, founds the Columbia University Global Emergency Medicine Fellowship to mentor emergency physicians.
Photo: Rachel Moresky
The School becomes home to the nation’s first multidisciplinary doctoral training program in gender, sexuality, and health.
The School's RAISE (Reproductive Health Access, Information, and Services in Emergencies) Initiative is founded, pioneering access to reproductive health services in neglected crisis sites.
Professor Ron Waldman, MD, MPH, testifies before Congress regarding estimates of the number of displaced children who died in northern Uganda.
Researchers announce the first successful transplants of lab-grown organs.
Steven Stellman becomes research director of of the World Trade Center Health Registry, a study of more than 71,000. It is the largest registry in U.S. history to monitor the health effects of a disaster.
Linda P. Fried, MD, MPH, becomes dean of the School. She is the first woman in the position and a national leader in the field of geriatric health and epidemiology.
Photo: Dean Linda Fried
Bruce P. Dohrenwend, PhD, and colleagues publish the landmark study "War-Related Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Black, Hispanic, and Majority White Vietnam Veterans: The Roles of Exposure and Vulnerability."
The Biostatistics Epidemiology Summer Training program begins, helping increase the number of students from underrepresented backgrounds in public health.
Researchers create a functional heart in the laboratory; a financial crisis sweeps the globe; Barack Obama is elected first Black U.S. president.
The National Endowment for the Humanities awards the Center for the History and Ethics of Public Health a challenge grant, making the School the first school of public health, and the first school within Columbia University, to receive such a grant.
A team of researchers led by professor Graziano publish their findings from the Health Effects of Arsenic Longitudinal Study (HEALS) in The Lancet, including the fact that one in five deaths in Bangladesh can be linked to arsenic in the drinking water.
Professors Quarraisha Abdool Karim, MS '88, and Salim Abdool Karim, MS '88, provide proof of concept for antiretroviral microbicides in the prevention of HIV and herpes simplex virus type 2 in women.
Photo: Quarraisha Abdool Karim (left) and Salim Abdool Karim (right)
An earthquake in Haiti kills over 300,000; the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is signed into law; after 19 months, the WHO declares the H1N1 influenza pandemic officially over.
The School establishes the Climate and Health Program to foster cross-disciplinary, translational scholarship on the human health dimensions of climate change.
The Arab Spring brings topples governments; Occupy Wall Street protestors take over Zuccotti Park; the global population hits 7 billion.
The redesigned MPH Core Curriculum is launched, becoming a model for schools across the country.
Under the direction of professors Jeffrey Shaman, MA '00, PhD '03, and Patrick Kinney, ScD, the School introduces the first doctoral program in Climate and Health.
The Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention, a CDC-funded Injury Control Research Center, is founded with professor Guohua Li, DrPH, MD, as director.
The Center for the History and Ethics of Public Health becomes a WHO Collaborating Center for Bioethics.
Superstorm Sandy's swath of destruction includes flooding in New York City; Washington state becomes the first modern jurisdiction to legalize cannabis; 26 children and staff members are killed by a mass shooter at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
The Robert N. Butler Columbia Aging Center, a universitywide, interdisciplinary center, is housed within the Columbia Mailman School.
An interdisciplinary group of faculty establishes the Obesity Prevention Initiative.
Photo: Robert Butler
New York state bans high-capacity magazines and requires background checks for most gun purchases; a bombing at the Boston Marathon kills three and injures hundreds; the U.S. Supreme Court rules that naturally evolving human genes cannot be patented.
Longtime benefactors Sidney and Helaine Lerner establish the Lerner Center for Public Health Promotion and a corresponding endowed professorship.
The Incarceration and Public Health Action Network is developed to examine mass incarceration through a public health lens and incorporate criminal justice reforms into public health education.
Ebola virus in West Africa kills over 10,000; most provisions of the ACA come into effect; the city of Flint, Michigan, exposes tens of thousands to lead-contaminated water.
An interdisciplinary group of faculty creates the Child Health Initiative for Learning and Development, focused on populations facing adversity.
CII researchers report robust evidence that myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome is a physical illness, rather than a psychological disorder.
The U.S. Supreme Court upholds federal subsidies for the ACA and guarantees the right to same-sex marriage; the WHO reports a link between cancer and consumption of processed meats.
The Columbia Population Health Partnership is established to foster collaboration with like-minded corporate partners.
The School launches its Office of Diversity, Culture, and Inclusion.
Dean Linda P. Fried leads the landmark Columbia-Fudan Global Summit on Aging and Health in partnership with Fudan University in Shanghai.
Zika virus spreads throughout the Americas and into Southeast Asia; the United Kingdom votes to "Brexit" the European Union; fentanyl fatalities in the United States increase over fivefold from 2015.
The Global Consortium on Climate and Health Education, a network of health professions schools and programs, launches to advance global health and educate professionals on the health impacts of climate change.
The U.N. declares a widespread famine across East Africa and Yemen, the greatest humanitarian crisis since World War II; Hurricane Harvey devastates Texas; a Las Vegas gunman kills 61 and injures hundreds more.
David Rosner, MPH, PhD, and Gerald Markowitz, PhD, provide expert testimony in a landmark case in which three paint manufacturers are found responsible for lead contamination in thousands of California homes.
Hawaii bans the pesticide chlorpyrifos, thanks in part to testimony by professor Virginia Rauh, ScD.
The American Journal of Public Health publishes "Agent Orange During the Vietnam War: The Lingering Issue of Its Civilian and Military Health Impact," a landmark research study by professor Stellman.
The Center for the History and Ethics of Public Health cofounds Toxic Docs, a public repository of discovery documents related to lawsuits about toxic exposures.
The School launches its program in Global Health Justice and Governance.
Human eggs are grown in the lab for the first time; researchers report previously unknown dangers of e-cigarettes.
Recognizing that food is at the center of many public health issues, the School launches the Program in Food Systems and Public Health.
ICAP is awarded a $50 million CDC grant to conduct an extensive population survey across countries and communities hardest hit by HIV.
Another Ebola outbreak spreads in Africa; the first cases of COVID-19 are reported in Wuhan, China.
COVID-19 rages. Experts from across the school pioneer testing techniques and therapies, conduct infectious disease modeling, and offer technical assistance to New York, the U.S., and other nations. Faculty and students support community awareness and vaccine programs.
After over two decades of research and advocacy from the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health, all-electric city buses come into service in Harlem to reduce air pollution.
The killing of George Floyd sparks a resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement; experimental vaccines for COVID-19 are announced earlier than expected.
Entering its second century, the Columbia Mailman School continues building a healthy and just world, announcing a new Health Policy and Management course focused on health leaders of color who are largely absent from history books.
COVID-19 variants complicate reopening efforts; nations cautiously reopen as more and more are vaccinated.
A Century of Building a Healthy and Just World
A century ago, Columbia University made a bold commitment to help shape the study and practice of public health. In 1922, we began with a single student, in a single room on West 59th Street. Since then, the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health has educated generations of leaders, led groundbreaking scientific discovery, and delivered solutions to protect and improve the health and wellbeing of people everywhere. Narrated by Columbia Mailman School graduate Brian Lehrer, MPH ‘96, host of WNYC’s award-winning “The Brian Lehrer Show.”
Columbia Mailman Timeline
Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health has been building a healthy and just world since 1922. Narrated by Columbia Mailman School graduate Brian Lehrer, MPH ‘96, host of WNYC’s award-winning “The Brian Lehrer Show.”
Celebrating the Centennial
For 100 years, the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health has been a global leader in advancing education, research, and practice to prevent disease and disability and improve the health of entire populations. Narrated by Columbia Mailman School graduate Brian Lehrer, MPH ‘96, host of WNYC’s award-winning “The Brian Lehrer Show.”
The Centennial events focus on the ways we meet the challenges of today and tomorrow, including climate change and food security, equitable health systems, healthy longevity and more.
Centennial Celebrations Begin
Celebrations kicked off to highlight the numerous ways the School has achieved progress on the world’s most pressing health challenges over the last 100 years.
A Century of Impact
The Columbia Mailman School of Public Health has been a champion of public health—and the public good—since it helped create the discipline in 1922.