School of Public Health, 1981-


Predecessor(s): Department of Public Health, 1977-1981

Successors(s): NA

Reporting Hierarchy:

1981-1995:      School of Public Health, Vice President for Health Affairs, President

1995- : School of Public Health, Provost, President


William F. Bridgers, 1981-1989
Acting) Juan M. Navia, 1989-1990
Juan M. Navia, 1990-1991
(Acting) Eli Capilouto, 1994-1996
Eli Capilouto, 1996-2001
Max Michael, III, 2001-


The School of Public Health was formed in 1981 from the Department of Public Health, a department jointly administered by the School of Medicine and the School of Public and Allied Health.  The public health department has its origins in the original Dept. of Preventive Medicine and Public Health, established in 1945 when the Medical College of Alabama transferred from the Tuscaloosa campus to the city of Birmingham.

Although it had undergone numerous names changes over the decades, the Dept. of Public Health was accredited in 1978 as the nation's twentieth fully accredited schoolof Public Health.  Although accredited as a public health school, the department continued to function for a time as a joint department of the medical and the public and allied health schools.  On May 28, 1981, the Board of Trustees of The University of Alabama System approved a change in status of the public health department.  It officially became the University of Alabama in Birmingham School of Public Health.  The following day, Dr. William F. Bridgers, who had served as departmental chair since 1976, was named first dean of the new school.

The new school contained four departments, corresponding to the divisions of the former public health department.  They were the Departments of Environmental Health Sciences, International Programs, Epidemiology, and Health Care Organization and Policy.  Also reporting to the new dean were the directors of the Occupational Health and SafetyTrainingCenter and the SparkmanCenter for International Public Health Education.  The new school offered programs leading to the MPH, MSPH, and Dr.PH degrees.  In the mid 1980s, a Ph.D. program was also established in the school.

During the 1980s, Bridgers made several changes in the school's organization, creating new departments, merging and renaming existing departments, and reorganizing the school's administrative offices.  By 1995, the school included seven departments:  Biostatistics;  Epidemiology; Health Care Organization & Policy; Environmental Health Sciences; Health Behavior; International Health; and Maternal & Child Health.  In addition to the Sparkman and OccupationalHealthCenters, the school also contained three other centers, the CommunityHealthResourceDevelopmentCenter, the ListerHillCenter for Health Policy; and the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention.

In 1989 Bridgers assumed full-time responsibility for the ListerHillCenter for Health Policy and Dr. Juan M. Navia was appointed acting dean of the school.  He served as the second dean from 1990 until his retirement in 1991 and was succeeded by Dr. O. Dale Williams.  When Williams retired in 1994, Dr. Eli Capilouto was named interim dean effective November 4, 1994, and in 1996 was named fourth dean of the school.  At the time, the school contained seven academic departments and five centers and had over $14 million in extramural funding.

The School of Public Health had always been hampered by lack of space, with its programs and departments scattered among available facilities throughout the Academic Health Center. For the early decades of its existence, the main home for the school was UAB’s Tidwell Hall. Tidwell, located across South 20th Street from the current UAB Administration Building, was the former extension center building which had been constructed in 1954.

In 1994 ground was broken for the first facility to be planned and constructed solely for the school. The Frank and Kathleen Ellis Ryals School of Public Health Building, made possible by the generosity of Dr. Jarvis D. Ryals, a University of Alabama School of Medicine alumnus, was dedicated October 29, 1996, along UAB’s University Boulevard, giving the school a prime location and prime visibility in the heart of campus. Following the move to the Ryals Building, Tidwell Hall was demolished in 1998 in order to construct the Kaul Building.

In 2001, Dr. Capilouto announced plans to step down as dean once a successor had been selected.  Following a national search, Dr. Max Michael, III, of Birmingham was chosen as the next dean.  Dr. Michael completed a residency at UABUniversityHospital in 1974 and had previously served as CEO and Medical Director of CooperGreenHospital, the county’s indigent-care facility.  He became the fifth dean of the School of Public Health on August 15, 2001.

In October 2012 the fourth floor of the Lister Hill Library of the Health Sciences, formerly unused shell space, was dedicated as the university’s Edge of Chaos, an interdisciplinary space created by the School of Public Health and Dean Michael. The new space provides some office space for the epidemiology department, but it is comprised chiefly of office and meeting space available to various campus and community groups with the aim to allow collaboration. Dean Michael’s vision for the space was based on the work of author Steven Johnston, who wrote that “collaborative solutions to wicked problems occur in an environment that runs a fine line between order and chaos,” or as stated by the school, “innovation happens at the edge of chaos."

The school has experienced dramatic growth during the tenure of Dean Michael, the longest tenure in the history of the school. Extramural research funding has increased and for the 2013 fiscal year the school’s funding was over $28.5 million. As of 2014, the School is comprised of five academic departments: Biostatistics; Environmental Health Sciences; Epidemiology; Health Behavior; and Health Care Organization & Policy. The school also includes five research centers: the Sparkman Center for Global Health; UAB Center for the Study of Community Health; Deep South Center for Occupational Health and Safety; Lister Hill Center for Health Policy; and South Central Preparedness & Emergency Response Learning Center. Additionally, the School of Public Health coordinates the Alabama Public Health Training Center, a “local performance site within the Region IV Public Health Training Center network” as defined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

As of the fall 2014 term, the UAB School of Public Health had 84 full-time faculty members and a total student enrollment of 481 students. Of these, 127 were undergraduates, 248 were graduate students, and 106 were doctoral students. An additional nine advanced professionals (i.e. postdoctoral fellows) worked in the school. The undergraduate bachelor’s degree program in public health was initiated in 2013 to join the school’s master’s and doctoral degree programs.


This page created 2005 and last updated by Tim L. Pennycuff on 27 January 2015.

Copyright:  The University of Alabama Board of Trustees.