Photo of Dr. John Christian

Dr. John Christian

The first applications of radioactive isotopes in the pharmaceutical sciences had their beginning quietly and unobtrusively in the laboratories of Purdue University, where a method of testing enteric tablet coatings using sodium-24 as a radioactive label was reported in 1942. This pioneering research by John Christian made use of short-lived radioisotopes produced in Purdue's cyclotron (one of the first in the United States, 1936) as well as radioisotopes obtained via early shipments from the first cyclotron operating at the University of California.  Subsequently, in 1947, Professor Christian received one of the first shipments of a radioisotope produced in a nuclear reactor when reactor-by-product materials were released after the Second World War from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The first formal lecture and laboratory courses in the United States for teaching basic principles of radioactive isotope applications, including the use of tracer methodology in research, were developed and taught by Professor Christian in the School of Pharmacy starting in 1947. These courses included fundamental nuclear physics, health physics, pharmaceutical and medicinal research, and industrial applications.  In 1948, Professor Christian was designated as the "Coordinator of Bionucleonics Research" by President Hovde of the University.

Formation of Radiological Control Department

In 1955, the Department of Radiological Control was formed with Professor Christian as Head. This department was responsible for the campus-wide radiation safety program, and was the forerunner of what is now called REM, Radiological and Environmental Management.

Establishment of Bionucleonics Department

In July, 1959, the Bionucleonics Department was established as part of the School of Pharmacy. John Christian served as Head of the Department. The Department included both the control functions of the Department of Radiological Control as well as the teaching and research functions associated with the use radioisotopes. In the 1960's and early 1970's, the Bionucleonics program expanded to include environmental health programs at both undergraduate and graduate levels. In the late 1970's industrial hygiene was added to the program.

Formation of School of Health Sciences

The School of Health Sciences, formed in 1979, evolved from several interdisciplinary activities relating to public and occupational health and to the control of environmental hazards.  This included the radiological health, industrial hygiene, and environmental health activities in the Bionucleonics Department, the medical technology program in the School of Science, and the pre-pharmacy program in the School of Science. Professor Christian was appointed as Head of the new School.

Transition Years

Photo of Dr. Paul L. Ziemer

Dr. Paul L. Ziemer

In 1983, when Professor Christian stepped down as Head of the School, an administrative decision was made to place the management of the Health Sciences graduate program under the School of Pharmacy through the Department of Medicinal Chemistry.  Toxicology was built into the School's faculty specialty.  Through this period (until 1995), all of the Health Sciences faculty members held joint appointments in Health Sciences and Pharmacy, and all Health Sciences graduate students with a thesis option were enrolled as Medicinal Chemistry students.  In 1996, the graduate program in Health Sciences became independent.

Photo of Dr. Stanley M. Shaw

Dr. Stanley M. Shaw

Also, in 1983, the Radiological Control Program, which had continued under the School of Health Sciences, was administratively transferred from the academic side of the university to the business side, operating under the jurisdiction of the Physical Plant Department.  Responsibilities were expanded to include industrial hygiene, toxic waste management, and related environmental matters.  This operation became what is now called REM.

From 1983 to 1990, and then from 1993 to 2000, Professor Paul Ziemer served as Head of the School of Health Sciences.  During the period 1990 to 1993, when Professor Ziemer was on leave of absence to fill a position in the Bush administration in Washington, Professor Stanley Shaw served as Acting Head of the School.

New Millennium

Photo of Dr. George Sandison

Dr. George Sandison

From 2000-2008, Professor George Sandison served as Head of the School of Health Sciences. The Medical Physics graduate program, established by Paul Ziemer and George Sandison in the mid 1990s, grew steadfast in both faculty line and student enrollment. From 2008-2017, Professor Wei Zheng served as Head of the School.  In 2010, the School of Health Sciences moved from the original College of Pharmacy, Nursing and Health Sciences to the newly formed College of Health and Human Sciences. The successful undergraduate General Health Sciences program was re-named as Pre-Professional Program in 2010 to suit students preparing for advanced graduate and professional training in the medical and health fields. The Medical Physics Graduate Program received the CAMPEP accreditation in 2012. The Health Physics program also obtained the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Training Grant and Faculty Development Grant in 2012. In 2013, the School established a new accelerated 3+2 BS/MBA in Health Management with the Krannert School of Management. 

Dr. Wei Zheng

Dr. Wei Zheng

Another new undergraduate exchange program in environmental health sciences with Dublin Institute of Technology was also established in the same year.  In July of 2017, Dr. Zheng stepped down as Head, after growing the extramural research program of the School to $13 million in 2016, to focus on his own thriving research program. Dr. Charles Santerre served as Interim Head from 2017-2018 until he stepped down to become a senior policy adviser in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Dr. Jason Harris served as Interim Head beginning March 2018.   

 Current State

Dr. Aaron B. Bowman, Ph.D. was recruited from the Departments of Pediatrics, Neurology and Biochemistry at Vanderbilt University to be Head of the School of Health Sciences in August 2018. The Health Sciences has two pillars of research strengths, one in environmental and occupational toxicology and the other in radiological health sciences. The interdisciplinary research enterprises expend from animal models to human populations and from genetic molecular approaches to advanced clinical molecular imaging. The signature research areas include metal toxicology, neuronal and neurodevelopmental toxicology, medical imaging (MRI/MRS, DCE-CT, PET), exposure assessment and control of environmental, occupational and radiological agents, and development and application of novel technologies (KXRF, NAA) for translational human studies.

Photo of Dr. Aaron Bowman

Dr. Aaron B. Bowman

Currently, the School has 16 full-time professors, 2 lecturers, 7 courtesy professors, 13 adjunct faculty members, 7 staff scientists and postdoctoral research fellows, 8 emeritus professors, 5 academic professional staff in student advising and business management, and 5 clerical and technical supporting staff in IT, secretarial, mailing and building deputy. Over the few years, total undergraduate students enrolled in the School of Health Sciences has grown from 418 in 2014 to 615 in 2018. The graduate students are between 42-49; with about 60% of them are in doctoral graduate programs.

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