Purdue University School of Health Sciences: A Brief History

Written By: Rebecca Hoffa, rhoffa@purdue.edu

The School of Health Sciences began with a few particles in a Purdue University lab and has since expanded into a leader in cutting-edge health research. In 1942, Professor John Christian discovered the first applications of radioactive isotopes in the pharmaceutical sciences through his pioneering research testing enteric tablet coatings using sodium-24 as a radioactive label. Christian went on to teach courses about the basic principles of radioactive isotope applications in the School of Pharmacy. In 1955, Purdue formed the Department of Radiological Control, making it responsible for the campus-wide radiation safety program and naming Christian as department head.

Later, in 1959, Purdue established the Bionucleonics Department within the School of Pharmacy, which included the functions of the Department of Radiological Control in addition to classes and research related to radioisotopes. The department quickly grew to include undergraduate and graduate environmental health programs as well as an industrial hygiene program.

The School of Health Sciences was formed in 1979 with Christian as the school’s head, encompassing the radiological health, industrial hygiene and environmental health programs from the Bionucleonics Department in addition to the medical technology program and the pre-pharmacy program in the School of Science.

Throughout the years, the school’s programs and enrollment grew to offer more opportunities for students pursuing both graduate and undergraduate degrees. In 2010, the School of Health Sciences moved out of the College of Pharmacy, Nursing and Health Sciences and into the newly formed College of Health and Human Sciences. During that time, the successful undergraduate general Health Sciences program was re-named as a Pre-Professional program to suit students preparing for advanced graduate and professional training in the medical and health fields.

Health Sciences currently focuses on research in public health sciences (environmental toxicology, occupational health and epidemiology) and radiological health sciences (medical imaging, radiotherapy and health physics) to place the school at the forefront in confronting global health challenges.