University founded as the
Medical College of Louisiana
Formal Instruction in hygiene
offered for the first time
Samuel Zemurray donates
$25,000 to found the first School
of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
in the country
The School of Hygiene and
Tropical Medicine merges with the
College of Medicine
Master of public health (MPH) and
master of public health and tropical
medicine (MPH&TM) degree programs
Doctoral training in
public health sciences begins
The School of Public Health
and Tropical Medicine established as
a separate academic unit within
Tulane University, and Grace A.
Goldsmith becomes first dean of the
newly re-emerged school
The first undergraduate class of
public health students graduates,
earning BSPH degrees
Tulane University School of
Public Health and Tropical
Medicine celebrated its 100th
anniversary in 2012. View photo
galleries and more >>
The study of public health in Louisiana began in the early 1800s, when New Orleans suffered from endemic malaria and almost yearly epidemics of cholera and yellow fever. Attempts to control tropical diseases led to the establishment of the Medical College of Louisiana in 1834, founded by a group of young practicing physicians. The founders issued a prospectus that emphasized the lack of knowledge of these diseases and the necessity to study them in the environment in which they occurred. In 1881, formal instruction in hygiene was offered for the first time.
The medical college became a department of the public University of Louisiana in 1847 when a law department was added. Less than twenty years later, the university was incorporated as a private institution, named in honor of benefactor Paul Tulane, who donated more than $1 million to endow the university.
Tulane medical / public
health night class in 1942
Another gift to Tulane, this time $25,000 from businessman Samuel Zemurray, instituted the country's first School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in 1912, laying the groundwork for today's School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. Although the school later merged with the College of Medicine in 1919, the school's launch in 1912 was significant, and joined the movement to establish similar institutions around the world. It was hailed by academicians nationally and internationally as the first such school in the United States, where tropical diseases had had devastating effects, particularly in the South.
In 1947, the departments of tropical medicine and preventive medicine merged to establish the department of tropical medicine and public health within the medical school. Instruction at the graduate level expanded to a full academic year, with programs leading to the degrees of master of public health and master of public health and tropical medicine.
A doctoral program was approved in 1950, and the first doctorates in public health were awarded in 1953.
With public health and tropical medicine rapidly expanding, an administrative division of graduate public health was created in 1958, later re-designated as the Division of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in 1961. Programs leading to the degrees of master of science and doctor of science in hygiene were added, providing preparation for a wide range of public health careers.
Grace A. Goldsmith
In 1967, the Division of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine officially became the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, under the leadership of Grace A. Goldsmith, the first female dean of a school of public health.
The school is now organized into six departments: global biostatistics and data science, global community and behavioral health sciences, global environmental health sciences, epidemiology, global health systems development, and tropical medicine. Students enroll from nearly 40 different countries, and the school remains in the top tier of accredited schools of public health across the country.
The school celebrated its centennial anniversary in November, 2012 with a weekend of alumni events, scientific panels and symposia, and a gala birthday party to mark the milestone. The centennial was also a great opportunity to raise funds for the endowed scholarships that will help defray tuition costs for the next 100 years of SPHTM students.