Milton J. Rosenau, MD


Director, UNC Division of the Public Health 1936-1939
Dean, UNC School of Public Health 1939-1946

Dr. Milton Rosenau’s mandated retirement from Harvard in 1935 could not have been better timed for those dreaming of a new public health training center at the University of North Carolina.


Even at age 65, Rosenau’s energy was more than sufficient for the administrative, academic and political demands of leading the new division. “You can’t retire a man who isn’t tired,” he said.

As director of the U.S. Public Health and Marine Hospital Service Hygenic Laboratory (the forerunner of the National Institutes of Health), he had:


  • SERVED as first chair of the first department of preventive medicine in the U.S. at Harvard from 1909 – 1935
  • ESTABLISHED the first university-based public health training center
  • STUDIED diphtheria, tetanus, yellow fever, tuberculosis, smallpox and rabies, and ways to pasteurize milk
  • PUBLISHED the standard text in the field, the revised version of which is still used today (Preventive Medicine and Hygiene, 1913)


At UNC, his reputation and charm raised funds and attracted a dynamic faculty. It was his leadership that enabled the division to become a separate school.

“PREVENTIVE MEDICINE dreams of a time when there shall be enough for all, and every man shall bear his share of labor in accordance with his ability, and every man shall possess sufficient for the needs of health. These things he should have as a matter of justice and not of charity.”


Last modified: 01/19/21