In November 2000 the voters of Arkansas approved the Tobacco Settlement Proceeds Act that created the new Arkansas College of Public Health. In their meeting on February 2, 2001, the Arkansas Coordinating Board of Higher Education approved the establishment of the College of Public Health at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, effective July 1, 2001. Thomas A. Bruce, MD, was appointed Dean Pro Tem of the College on July 17, 2001, to serve until the Founding Dean could be hired.
An Inaugural Faculty meeting was held on July 20, 2001, to approve for forwarding to the Board of Trustees and the ADHE the admission requirements, curriculum, departmental structure and governance for the new College. The first academic programs were approved by the Arkansas Coordinating Board of Higher Education in October 2001. The College held its first day of classes in January 2002.
The Founding Dean, James M. Raczynski, PhD, was hired in spring 2002 and moved into a full-time appointment in September 2002. The College now has over 40 full-time faculty, over 200 students, and offers post-baccalaureate certificate, MPH, and DrPH programs. The College also offers a Master of Health Administration degree and three PhD degrees – one each in Epidemiology, Health Services and Systems Research, and Health Promotion and Prevention Research.
The College was renamed the Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health in 2005 to honor the late Fay W. Boozman, MD, MPH, who led the Arkansas Department of Health from 1998 until his death in 2005. As director of the Department, Boozman championed public health efforts that seek to change attitudes and promote healthier lifestyles statewide. The UAMS alumnus also played a key role in steering millions of dollars from the 1998 tobacco industry legal settlement to health-related causes, including the COPH. In addition, he helped create the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement, a partnership between UAMS, the Arkansas Department of Health, and Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield that serves as a resource for improving the health of Arkansans.
During the college’s 2002 construction, Boozman said it symbolized a “growing commitment to the citizens of Arkansas that we’re no longer going to accept the fact that we’re one of the unhealthiest states.” The 120,000 square-foot building was paid for primarily with $15 million from the state’s tobacco settlement money.
Dr. Boozman’s untimely death in march 2005 moved the Arkansas Legislature to approve a resolution calling for the College of Public Health to be named in his honor. The UA System Board of Trustees adopted a resolution naming the college for Boozman. The naming ceremony was held on August 10, 2005.
The mission of the Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health is to “improve health and promote well-being of individuals, families and communities in Arkansas through education, research, and service.” Community-based public health education is the College’s foremost tool in securing its long-term vision – “optimal health for all Arkansans.” The curriculum for the College is designed to maximize efficiency and avoid duplication while providing students with flexibility in course selection. The COPH academic program is in partnership with all college and universities in Arkansas offering graduate level coursework appropriate for a public health education.