The School of Public Health was founded as the DeLamar Institute of Public Health by the University Trustees in May 1921. Instruction began in September 1922 and the granting of the Master of Science in Public Health degree was authorized by the Columbia University Trustees in 1926. The Institute was renamed: School of Public Health (July 1, 1945), the School of Public Health and Administrative Medicine (July 1, 1955), the School of Public Health (circa 1973), and the Mailman School of Public Health (1998). Robert J. Weiss became the first full dean of the school in 1980; previously it had been directed by an associate dean of the medical faculty. After resigning in 1985, Allan Rosenfield served as long-running dean (1986-2008). Until Dean Weiss, heads of the school held the titles “Assistant Dean for Public Health” or “Director.”
Weiss was born in West New York, New Jersey on December 9, 1917. A psychiatrist and professor of psychiatry, professor of social medicine and Director of the Center for Community Health Systems, he received a BA degree from George Washington University (1947) and MD from the Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons (1951). He practiced psychiatry and returned to Columbia in 1975 as Professor of both Psychiatry and Social Medicine for the Community Health Systems.
Allan Rosenfield, born on April 28, 1933 in Boston, Massachusetts, was known as a global leader in the promotion of reproductive healthcare and the prevention of HIV/AIDS. He received a BA (1955) in biochemistry from Harvard, and MD (1959) from the Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. Starting in 1966, he spent several years living abroad, including one year in Lagos, Nigeria, teaching obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Lagos Medical School, and six years in Thailand as a representative of the Population Council and medical adviser to the Thai Ministry of Public Health on maternal and child health and family planning issues. He was intrinsically involved in the development and publication of The FIGO Manual of Human Reproduction, the family planning manual developed to assist in obstetrical and gynecological education. He returned to America in 1973 where he continued to work for the Population Council as the Director of the Child Health/Family Planning Program until 1975, when he joined Columbia University as Professor of Public Health and Obstetrics and Gynecology, was named Director of the Center for Population and Family Health in 1986, and appointed Dean that same year.