Accessibility Skip to Global Navigation Skip to Local Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Site Map Menu

History of the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine

Overview

This Department of Preventive and Social Medicine began when the University of Otago first offered a full degree course in medicine, and a Lecturer in Medical Jurisprudence and Public Health was appointed in 1886. The Department has taught the Postgraduate Diploma in Public Health since 1914—the very first postgraduate diploma to be offered at a New Zealand university. The diploma is still offered as one of a suite of postgraduate degrees and diplomas in various aspects of public health.

The Department has taught the Postgraduate Diploma in Public Health since 1914—the very first postgraduate diploma to be offered at a New Zealand university.

We are very proud of the Department's contribution to developing health in New Zealand and overseas for more than 125 years, by equipping the public health workforce to meet major health challenges and by undertaking research to inform effective strategies and policies that benefit the health of all New Zealanders.

Notable and long-serving leaders include Professor Sir Charles Hercus (1922–58), Professor Cyril Dixon (1959–76) and Professor Sir David Skegg (1980–2004).

In earlier times, staff in this Department played a crucial role in the prevention and control of goitre and hydatids in New Zealand and in the global eradication of smallpox.

Our Pacific and international outreach led to a solid programme of public health research in Pacific islands that have close links with New Zealand. Public health graduates from the Pacific include Ministers of Health, Prime Ministers and a Governor-General. We have trained every medically qualified Director-General of Health—New Zealand’s top health official—since 1930.

We have trained every medically qualified Director-General of Health—New Zealand's top health official—since 1930.

The Department was responsible for setting up the University's School of Physical Education and the first student health service in a New Zealand university. The Department pioneered health services research in New Zealand.

That pioneering tradition of excellent research and community service is still very much in evidence in the work of the Department's 11 research units and two national service units.

The Department constitutes one of the strongest centres of public health research in Australasia. The Department has expanded greatly over the last 20 years, and with more than 130 staff, is now the largest in the University. The work of the major research groups within the Department is well known and respected internationally.

^ Top of Page

The Medicine of the Future: A History of the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine 1886–2011

The Medicine of the Future book coverAuthor Dr Warwick Brunton

The Department of Preventive and Social Medicine is a survivor of the pioneering era of public health in New Zealand. From tiny beginnings in 1886, the Department is now the largest in the University of Otago. This well-illustrated history pays tribute to all those leaders and staff who have helped the Department to tackle the health challenges of yesteryear and today.

The story is set amid the shifting ideas and issues of public health as they have been understood, studied and taught by staff of the Department over 125 years.

The story is one of timely influence upon generations of future doctors and public health workers, teachers of medicine, health researchers, University decision-makers, leading policymakers and administrators in New Zealand's public health system, and international health organisations. Expertise, influence and networks have steadily stretched from local to national, then to Pacific and international horizons.

To order a copy of The Medicine of the Future, please contact Nicola Wilson:

Email nicola.wilson@otago.ac.nz

^ Top of Page