William F. Bridgers, M.D., the founding dean of the School of Public Health at UAB, died Aug. 24. He was 74. 

During his tenure at UAB, which began with his recruitment in 1968, Bridgers led the development of an interdepartmental program in neurosciences, a forerunner of a department and center. He also was director for Sponsored Programs at UAB and was special assistant to the vice president for Health Affairs.

But it was his appointment as chair of the department of Public Health in 1976 that would shape his career and his legacy at UAB when the department became an accredited school two years later. The John Sparkman Center for International Public Health Education and the Lister Hill Center for Health Policy, which he also directed until his retirement in 1992, were established during his tenure as dean, and he was instrumental in securing federal endowments for both. Through the Sparkman Center, he was instrumental in starting public health-education programs in Lima, Peru, and Chiang Mai, Thailand.

In 1999, Bridgers was honored as dean emeritus and university scholar emeritus by the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees, which also established the Bill and Judy Bridgers Endowed Scholarship Fund. In 2005, the UAB National Alumni Association selected him Honorary Alumnus of the Year.

Other highlights of his career include his election in 1982 as president of the U.S. Association of Schools of Public Health, with a principal responsibility for helping to shape a nationwide network of Prevention Research Centers. And, Bridgers’ book, Health Care Reform, is as relevant and persuasive today as it was when it was published in 1992. Shortly after his book was published, Bridgers become involved in health-care reform as head of the Eutaw Group, which advocated for the under-served. 

Bridgers also was a researcher in biochemistry at the National Institutes of Health and on the medical faculty at the University of Miami.

He is survived by his wife of 31 years, Judy, plus his four children and seven grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donation to the Bridgers scholarship or to the Salvation Army.