Department History

The history of some of our School’s departments and interdisciplinary programs started long before the School of Public Health and Community Medicine was founded in 1970, while others formed after the School’s establishment. Here is how each department was formed, or view the major milestones by department and interdisciplinary program. 

Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences

The Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences (DEOHS) began in 1947 as a small program to train undergraduate students in sanitary science. The program, initially part of the UW School of Medicine, became one of four departments in the new UW School of Public Health and Community Medicine in 1970.

Today, the department’s vision reflects its broad scope: to create sustainable communities where everyone has access to clean air, clean water, safe food and safe workplaces.

With more than 1,100 graduates over the past 70 years, DEOHS is creating a skilled workforce of health and safety professionals and researchers who are leaders in government, academia, nonprofits and the corporate sector.

DEOHS Milestones


Health Systems and Population Health

The Department of Health Services was established in the UW School of Medicine in 1969 by founding Chair, Robert Day, and in the following year, the department became a part of the UW School of Public Health and Community Medicine. In 2021, the department name changed to Health Systems and Population Health.

With nine academic degree programs and several certificate programs, today’s students are trained for influential careers in health systems and information management, education, program design and evaluation, health promotion, public health practice, research, advocacy and policy analysis. The Department of Health Systems and Population Health is committed to working with partners in public health and health care to prepare leaders, design solutions, and conduct innovative research that is translated into practice and policy.

HSPop Milestones



In 1960, J. Thomas Grayston, chair of preventive medicine in the UW School of Medicine, identified the need for an expanded Biostatistics Division. This expansion helped form a Biomathematics Group in 1963 that included faculty from Biophysics, Chemistry, Fisheries, Genetics, Mathematics, Medicine, Preventive Medicine and Zoology. This group created an interdisciplinary program administered by the Graduate School that began offering degrees in biostatistics in 1965.

Biostatistics became an official department in 1970 when Preventive Medicine separated from the SOM to become the School of Public Health and Community Medicine.

Over the years, advances in technology and computing power have generated vast amounts of data, which has pushed the field of biostatistics to continually invent new sophisticated and computationally intensive statistical methods to interpret complex data and help improve public and community health.

Today, the Department of Biostatistics serves as a source of expertise and a focus for training and research in the quantitative aspects of public health and medicine, and promotes the use of rigorous quantitative methods in the biomedical and public health sciences.

Biostatistics Milestones



The Department of Epidemiology originated in the Department of Preventive Medicine in the School of Medicine. When the UW School of Public Health and Community Medicine was established in 1970, the Department of Epidemiology and International Health (which later became the Department of Epidemiology) was one of the initial four departments within the School.

The Department of Epidemiology aims to provide rigorous training in the fundamentals and practice of epidemiology, contribute to the understanding of the etiology and prevention of disease, and to improve public health through excellence in research and practice. Through three graduate degree programs (Master of Public Health, Master of Science, and Doctor of Philosophy), and nearly a dozen undergraduate courses, we train future leaders in the field of epidemiology. The department now has nearly 1,600 alumni who are working to improve the health and well-being of communities both locally and globally.

Epidemiology Milestones


Global Health

Through a generous gift and endowment from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and complementary Washington State resources, the Department of Global Health (DGH) was established in 2007, bridging the schools of Medicine and Public Health, with a mandate to harness the expertise and interdisciplinary power of all 16 UW schools and colleges.

DGH has grown explosively from a small program with three faculty and a half dozen staff to a robust department of 427 faculty and more than 2450 staff – most of whom are based in low- and middle-income countries. Approximately 430 students are trained annually. Faculty, students and staff work closely with partners in 145 countries around the world.

Today, DGH prepares the next generation of leaders in the most pressing global health challenges of the day. The DGH vision is to achieve sustainable, high-quality health globally and to reduce health inequities.

Global Health Milestones


Learn about SPH Department Milestones