“Without Sam Bell there would be no COPH,” said Dr. Heather Stockwell, founding faculty member in epidemiology and biostatistics. “Before our college was formed, there were no schools of public health in Florida. It was through the vision and leadership of Sam Bell that our college was formed and its funding secured in its early years so that it could grow and develop into the College we are all so proud of today!”
“As a member of the Florida Legislature, I could see the results of public health problems – mental health issues, alcoholism, child abuse, heart attack and stroke brought on by lack of exercise and obesity, infant mortality, etc. – yet there was no focus to address these issues. In addition,” said Mr. Sam Bell III, “there was a shortage of trained public health workers as problems grew and population increased.”
Where to establish the college as a physical entity turned out to be fairly obvious. Logic dictated that the state’s first college of public health had to be part of a public university that had a medical school and was located in an urban area, and the University of South Florida was the only institution in the state that met all three requirements.
“There was no bill,” Mr. Bell said of the necessary legislative action that followed. “The college was first created by a line item in the state appropriation. Of course, we had to work the proposal through the Board of Regents and the USF administration.”
All of it moved with surprising quickness and ease, he said, underscoring an idea whose time had come. Naturally, it didn’t hurt that its biggest proponent was in prime position to do it the most good.
Story by David Brothers, USF College of Public Health. Photo courtesy of Florida Memory.