HSPH celebrates 100 years

December 13, 2013
By

LMA—The Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) is celebrating its centennial this year with lectures, seminars, exhibitions and receptions.

Founded in September 1913, as the Harvard-MIT School of Health Officers, the school was the first professional training program of public health in America.

Currently located at 677 Huntington Ave., the HSPH was born in the Longwood Medical Area as part of the Harvard Medical School, which had already relocated to the area in 1906. Thanks to a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, the school was able to separate from MIT in 1922, and from the Harvard Medical School by 1946. It was the second of Harvard’s schools to award degrees to women, in 1936, after the Graduate School of Education.

Among accomplishments outlined on its website is the HSPH discovery that AIDS is caused by a retrovirus, HIV. A retrovirus is a virus that attacks the body’s defense mechanism, the immune system.

The HSPH also discovered that HIV could be transmitted through blood and its by-products given through transfusions, and identified which flags were most useful for blood-bank screening. It also provided the first evidence that HIV could be transmitted through heterosexual contact.

Less recently, the HSPC was also responsible for the invention of the iron lung, a massive 800-pound device that allows victims of polio to breathe despite severely weakened lungs, and the cardiac defibrillator, which can electrically shock hearts beating irregularly back into rhythm.

Most of the centennial events are closed to the public, but exhibitions are on public view in HSPH buildings. For more information, including full listings of lectures and other events, see hsph.harvard.edu/centennial.

Information for this article was taken from the institution’s website and from previous Gazette reporting.

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