SPH celebrates 20-year anniversary in 2019-2020

Sph 20 Anniversary LogoPublic health is concerned with improving the legal, social, environmental and economic conditions of communities that support and protect the health of people. According to the American Public Health Association, “Public health saves money, improves the quality of life, helps children thrive and reduces human suffering.”  

Twenty years ago, a group of forward-thinking North Texas community leaders joined with UNT Health Science Center to bring the School of Public Health to Fort Worth. Since then, students, faculty and alumni have gone on to impact lives and build healthier communities through research, action and service.

In this anniversary year, we look back at important public health milestones and history, the work our researchers are doing today to continue that journey, and some of the key accomplishments of the UNTHSC School of Public Health over the years.

Graduation Group
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the top public health achievements of the 20th century have impacted:

  • Vaccinations
  • Motor vehicle safety, safer roadways, seat belt and helmet laws, programs to reduce drinking and driving
  • Occupational safety, safer workplaces
  • Recognition of tobacco as a serious health risk
  • Healthier moms and babies
  • Decline in deaths from heart disease and stroke
  • Cancer screening and prevention
  • Prevention and control of infectious diseases
  • Clean water, sanitation
  • A safer, healthier food supply
  • Fluoridated drinking water
  • Emergency preparedness and response

Today UNTHSC School of Public Health researchers are addressing these critical public health issues:

The opioid crisisScott Walters, PhD, is Steering Committee Chair for an aggressive, National Institutes of Health (NIH) effort to speed scientific solutions to the nation’s opioid crisis. More than $350 million is supporting this multi-year study to reduce opioid deaths by at least 40% over a three-year period in nearly 70 communities hard hit by the opioid crisis across Kentucky, Massachusetts, New York and Ohio.

Alcohol use among teens and young adultsMelissa A. Lewis, PhD, and Dana M. Litt, PhD, are involved in two studies addressing risky alcohol use and behaviors among teens, young adults and college freshmen in age groups 15-25. The research team hopes to better understand motivations and influences for drinking, to develop prevention and intervention recommendations to reach these groups when they are most apt to make risky drinking decisions.

Tuberculosis preventionThad Miller, DrPH, and colleagues are focused on eliminating tuberculosis. Dr. Miller is leader of the CDC’s Tuberculosis Epidemiologic Studies Consortium (TBESC) site at UNTHSC – one of 10 funded TBESC sites across the country – and the North Texas TB Trials Consortium.

Vaping, e-cigarettesTracey Barnett, PhD, is concerned about the dramatic rise in high school and college students, even middle schoolers, who have tried or might try vapes or electronic cigarettes, which have been cleverly marketed to youth by tobacco and e-cig companies eager to lock in a new generation of consumers. She’s doing all she can to educate and inform the community about the dangers.

Interpersonal violence – Every year, more than 10 million people in the U.S. become victims of interpersonal violence. TESSA (Technology Enhanced Screening and Supportive Assistance) is a program led by Emily Spence, PhD, and colleagues, supported by the State of Texas, Office of the Governor, Criminal Justice Division, that collaborates with healthcare providers and community resources to give a voice to victims and help them connect with the care they need and feel physically and emotionally safe, noticed and listened to.

Mosquito monitoring and other insect-borne infectious diseases – Joon Lee, PhD, leads a team that partners with the City of Fort Worth and Tarrant County Public Health on West Nile virus surveillance and response to protect local citizens.

Vaccines, immunizationsErika Thompson, PhD, is involved in research and advocacy for the HPV vaccine and others, and is active with the Immunization Collaboration of Tarrant County.


Our History
From the beginning, the UNTHSC School of Public Health has been committed to public health education, research, service and community partnerships.

The idea of developing a public health program in Fort Worth started with collaboration between UNTHSC, North Texas community leaders and public health officials. Their hard work culminated in July 1995, when the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board approved the institution’s request to offer a Master of Public Health Degree (MPH) in collaboration with the University of North Texas, Denton.

After several years of offering this degree, the Board of Regents authorized UNTHSC to submit a proposal to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to create a School of Public Health and to request funds from the Texas Legislature to fund the School and its corresponding programs.

On December 1, 1997, the Association of Schools of Public Health (now the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health – ASPPH) accepted UNTHSC’s Public Health Program as an affiliate member.

Five years later, in June 2002, the UNTHSC School of Public Health was accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH).

Campus Picture

SPH Historical Timeline

Following are some of the top milestones in the history of the UNTHSC School of Public Health:

1989 – The Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine was established within the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine (TCOM) in Fort Worth, Texas.

1992 – The Declaration of Purpose and Support for the Proposed College of Public Health and Public Health Policy, as envisioned by TCOM, was signed by Fort Worth and Dallas community leaders on July 1.

1993 – TCOM was officially re-designated and expanded by the State of Texas as the University of North Texas Health Science Center.

1995 – The UNTHSC Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences began to offer the Master of Public Health (MPH) degree.

1996 – Fernando Trevino, PhD, was named Dean.

1997 – The first MPH degree was conferred (Spring Semester).

1999 – The UNTHSC School of Public Health was founded.

2001 – The UNTHSC School of Public Health was structured into five Departments: Biostatistics, Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, Epidemiology, Health Management and Policy, and Social and Behavioral Sciences, as of September 1.

2003 – The first DrPH degree was conferred (Fall Semester).

2007 – The UNTHSC School of Public Health was accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health for a maximum term of seven years.

2007Richard Kurz, PhD, was named Dean.

2008 – The Master of Health Administration (MHA) program was established.

2010 – The first MHA degree was conferred (Spring Semester).

2012 – The first PhD degree was conferred (Spring Semester).

2012 – Online courses were introduced.

2012 – All public health faculty members were relocated to the University’s Carl E. Everett Education and Administration (EAD) Building at 3500 Camp Bowie Boulevard.

2012 – The name of the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences was changed to the Department of Behavioral and Community Health.

2013 – The Master of Health Administration (MHA) program was accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME).

2014 – The Office of Research Services was established within the School of Public Health.

2015 –The School of Public Health was re-accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) for a maximum term of seven years.

2016Dennis L. Thombs, PhD, FAAHB, was named Dean.

2017 – The number of Departments in the School of Public Health was reduced to two: Biostatistics and Epidemiology and Health Behavior and Health Systems, January 1.

2017 – The Master of Science in Public Health Sciences program was established.

2017 – The Master of Health Administration (MHA) program was re-accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME).

2019 – The School’s MPH Online program reaches a milestone at May commencement ceremonies, having graduated more than 100 students since its inception in 2012.

2019 – At Spring commencement, Thad Miller, DrPH, MPH, School of Public Health Associate Professor of Health Behavior and Health Systems, is honored with the UNTHSC Faculty Achievement Award; graduating DrPH student Carolyn Bradley-Guidry receives the UNTHSC President’s Award for Scholarly Excellence in Academics; and SPH alumnus Patrick K. Moonan, DrPH, MPH, receives the UNTHSC President’s Alumni Award for Distinguished Service, in recognition of his work in combating the Ebola virus in West Africa and other career achievements.

This page was last modified on February 23, 2021