Very few disciplines have as much real-world immediate impact as public health, and the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health has increased its reach and impact in each of its 40 years, going from seven faculty members and 34 students in 1975 to more than 2,500 students and 137 faculty who last year garnered $36 million in research dollars.
In 40 years, the Arnold School has graduated more than 10,000 people working in communication sciences and disorders; environmental health sciences; epidemiology and biostatistics; exercise science; health promotion, education and behavior; and health services policy and management.
Winona Vernberg, who served as dean for 18 years, is credited with the school’s early success, making significant faculty hires and creating the foundation for the school’s research enterprise.
“Quality students, quality faculty and impactful research of importance to societal needs — those are my school’s greatest accomplishments,” says Thomas Chandler, who has been dean of the Arnold School since 2007.
Much of the school’s impact comes through its many centers and institutes, the newest of which is the Gerry Sue and Norman J. Arnold Institute for Aging, which will be endowed at $7 million over the next several years.
“It will be a unique ‘umbrella institute’ in that it has a vision and charge to seed and support large nationally competitive multimillion-dollar grants focused on health issues related to human aging – and not just the usual health changes that we all experience with age as we become seniors – but also the challenges presented today to our youth around obesity, fitness and good mental health,” Chandler says.
The school’s expertise in stroke recovery, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer prevention and childhood obesity will all contribute to areas of study in the new center. The focus on disease prevention is the future for public health and medicine.
“Many people focus on technological or therapeutic breakthroughs that grab a lot of headlines,” says university President Harris Pastides, who was one of Chandler’s predecessors as dean of the Arnold School. “However, the biggest advancements have been in prevention. I would point to laws requiring seatbelt use in S.C. and the U.S. That action is likely to have saved as many lives as all of the therapeutic medical breakthroughs over that same period.”
Pastides says the growth in quality and quantity of faculty during his time at Carolina is one of his proudest accomplishments.
“The Arnold School of Public Health is already one of the highest performing colleges at USC and I anticipate continued excellence,” Pastides says. “It is a school that practices what it preaches, pursuing global scholarship while being extremely relevant in our home state.”