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Department History

The History of the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine

The history of the Emory Department of Family and Preventive Medicine (DFPM) is a true adventure with the contributions of many visionaries and well respected physician leaders.  The story reflects not only the birth of the DFPM, but also of the Emory Rollins School of Public Health and the Emory “Clifton Corridor” neighborhood of the home offices of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Cancer Society (ACS). The ACS eventually moved to a larger facility in downtown Atlanta.  Many of these leaders left a legacy that extended far beyond Emory University.

Laying the Bricks

In 1942 Dr. Paul B. Beeson, an infectious disease expert, was recruited to Emory by Dr.  Eugene Stead, the first full-time Chair of the Department of Medicine.  When Dr. Stead left Emory for a position as Chair of the Department of Medicine at Duke University and founding father of the first Physician Assistant Program in the United States, Dr. Beeson became Chairman of the Emory Department of Medicine until 1952, when he left to become the chairman of Yale’s Department of Medicine.

Paul Beeson Dr Eugene Stead

Dr. Paul B. Beeson                        Dr. Eugene Stead

The Department Foundation: Seeds of Public Health

  Charles A. LeMaistre, M.D., who served in the US Public Health Service Epidemic Intelligence Service, joined the Emory School of Medicine faculty in 1954 as the director of the first Clinical Infectious Diseases program, housed in the Emory Department of Medicine.   Given his public health background and interest in infectious disease prevention, he was well-positioned to become the first Chairman of the Emory Department of Preventive Medicine and Community Health.   He left Emory in 1959 to become associate dean of the UT Southwestern Medical School, and then President of MD Anderson Cancer Center in 1978. 

Dr. LamaistraDr. Charles A. LeMaistre,  First Chairman

Emory Department of Preventive Medicine and Community Health

The Department Home Builder

Dr. J. Willis Hurst, a cardiologist and good friend of Dr. Eugene Stead, became the Chairman of the Department of Medicine in 1957 serving until 1986.   Dr. Hurst was responsible for the creation of the predecessor of the Emory Physician Assistant Program, initially a hospital-based cardiology specialty program, located at Grady Memorial Hospital.  Dr Hurst chronicled the history of the Department of Medicine and creation of the Physician Assistant Program at Emory in his book, The Quest For Excellence: the History of the Department of Medicine.

Dr J.Willis HurstDr. J. Willis Hurst,

Founder of the Emory Physician Assistant Program

The Department Roofer

Dr. Thomas F. Sellers, son of Dr. Thomas Fort Sellers, Sr., a public health leader in Georgia for 42 years, who invented a tool for diagnosing rabies, trained under Dr. LaMeistre and became the next director of the Division of Infectious Diseases in the Department of Medicine as well as Chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine and Community Health at Emory in 1958.  Dr. William Marine, Dr. John Boring, Dr Edmund Farrar and Dr. Jonas Shulman were recruited to Emory’s Infectious Disease division while Dr. Sellers was division chief.  Dr. Sellers and Dr. Marine, created a master of community health program, housed in the Department of Preventive Medicine.   Dr. David Sencer, Director of the CDC at that time, chaired the Interdisciplinary Group in Community Health and Health Care Delivery, which was formally recognized by the School of Medicine. The members of this group consisted of Dr. Sellers and leaders from the Georgia Department of Human Resources, Georgia State, CDC, and Emory’s Business School and the Department of Sociology and Anthropology. In 1974 the Master of Community Health Program was approved by the Emory Board of Trustees Rollins School of Public Health and Office of Medical Education in the School of Medicine. Dr. Eugene Gangarosa, a world expert in waterborne diseases, joined Emory in 1982 to direct the community health program.  In 1990, the community health master’s program evolved to the new School of Public Health with Dr. James Curran as the Dean.

Dr. James Curran and Dr. David SencerDr. James Curran

Dean of the Rollins School of Public Health

  with CDC Director Dr. David Sencer in 1990

Department Home Additions

In 1960 Dr Sellers assumed responsibility as Chairman of the Department of Preventive Medicine and Community Health (DPMCH).   In 1967 Dr. Sellers became involved in the development of Grady Memorial Hospital’s community-based satellite clinics to improve access to Grady’s medically underserved populations.   Concurrently, Dr. J. Willis Hurst, created a Medical Cardiology Specialist Program in 1967 at Grady Memorial Hospital for Medics returning from the Vietnam war.  This program was moved to the Emory campus and became the Emory Physician Assistant (PA) Program.

In 1966, the Woodruff Health Sciences Center (WHSC) was developed. Today the WHSC includes the School of Medicine, School of Public Health, School of Nursing, Winship Cancer Institute, Yerkes National Primate Center, and the Emory Healthcare System of Hospitals and Clinics.  Also in 1966, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control opened on Clifton Road on land next to Emory donated to Emory by the Woodruff family, The presence of the CDC was one reason why the American Cancer Society moved its headquarters to Atlanta and set up shop across the street.

Dr James Glenn, new Dean of the Emory School of Medicine and Dr Sellers decided to house the PA program, the emergency clinic residency and the chaplaincy program in the DPMCH.     With the addition of the Grady satellite clinics, the Physician Assistant program, the community health master program, and the Southeast AIDS Training and Education Center in 1988, the Department of Preventive Medicine and Community Health began to take on a focus of primary care, infectious disease research, health professions education,  and community based care for medically underserved populations.  Dr Sellers chronicled his experiences at Emory in his delightful book, What’s Up, Doc?: A Lifetime in Medicine, 1946-1990.

Dr. Thomas SellersDr Thomas Sellers(middle)

  When Dr. Sellers stepped down in 1990, Dr. Robert Curry, a Pediatrician, served as the Department’s Chairman until 1993.  The Department at that time was located in the Steiner building across from Grady Hospital, which also housed the Department of Emergency Medicine.

Preparing for the Future of Emory Family and Preventive Medicine

Dr. Jeffery Houpt, Dean of the School of Medicine from 1988 until 1996 understood the need for training primary care physicians and continuing supporting public health education and research. In 1993 he recruited Dr. Lawrence Lutz from the University of  Colorado, where he served as the Director of  ASPN, a multi-national, clinic-based research network to develop a Family Medicine Residency program.  Dr Lutz was a Robert Wood Johnson fellow at the University of Utah, where he completed his Preventive Medicine and was the Director of the Family Practice Residency Program, Division Chief, and Fellowship Director.  The Department of Community and Preventive Medicine until then did not have any clinical services other than through the Grady Hospital Neighborhood Health Centers.    Dr. Lutz established both the Family Medicine and Preventive Medicine Residency Programs, and in 1994 became the Chair of the newly named Department of Family and Preventive Medicine.  

Dr. Lawrence Lutz               Dr Lawrence Lutz 2007

      Dr. Lawrence J. Lutz, MD, MSPH in 1993 and in 2007 

The Emory Family Medicine Residency program and clinical practice was initially housed at Crawford W. Long Hospital (now Emory Hospital at Midtown) and the Family Medicine Center at South DeKalb.   In 1998 the Emory Family Medicine Clinic and hospital practice at Crawford Long Hospital moved to the newly formed Emory/HCA, LLC in the Dunwoody community.    After the Dunwoody HCA/Emory hospital closed in 1998, the inpatient services were housed at Emory/HCA Hospital at Johns Creek and eventually came home to the Emory University Hospital at Midtown.   In 2010, the Emory Family Medicine Clinic in Dunwoody moved within a block of the previous Dunwoody clinic to a new state of the art facility, designed to function as a patient centered medical home model for healthcare delivery, and an ideal site for Family Medicine residency training and community based primary care practice.   In 2011, Dr. Lutz stepped down as Chair and Dr. Katherine Heilpern, MD, Chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Emory became the Interim Chair of the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine.

Dr. Katherine HeilpernKatherine L. Heilpern M.D.


Ada Lee and Pete Correll Professor and Interim Chair  

The Department Family

Today, the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine consist of an inter-disciplinary and inter-professional family of 34 faculty and 25 staff members, who enjoy their work as educators, clinicians, researchers, and community service contributors.