Leathers, Waller S. (1874-1946)
- 1921 - 1946
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Historical or Biographical Note
Waller Leathers, a native of Virginia, graduated from the University of Virginia, receiving his M.D. degree in 1875. After graduation he made the decision to pursue an academic career. His first teaching position was at the Miller School of Virginia, where he taught chemistry. Leathers then moved to the University of South Carolina to teach biology. In 1899, he accepted a position at the University of Mississippi as Chair of Zoology, he became the first Dean of the University of Mississippi Medical School in 1904.
Dr. Leathers career took a turn in a new direction when he became Director of Public Health for Mississippi in 1910. He obtained funds from the Rockefeller Foundation for the eradication of hookworm in that state. Leathers also established public health offices on the country level. Under his leadership, public health work in Mississippi rose from obscurity to the point that is attracted attention both nationally and internationally.
In 1924, Waller Leathers was recruited by Dean G. Canby Robinson to head the Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. Dr. Leathers then succeeded Dr. Robinson as Dean in 1928 and served in this position until retirement in 1945. Dr. Leathers greatest contribution at Vanderbilt was his ability to obtain funding for medical research. He served on the advisory boards of the Commonwealth Fund, the Rockefeller Foundation, the American Red Cross, and the U.S. Public Health Service. Leathers' years at the university represent the first golden era of medical research at Vanderbilt Medical Center.
*Adapted from the Journal of the Tennessee Medical Association, v38, no.7, July 1945, pp. 226-227.
Language of Materials
Biographical file includes photographs, correspondence, news clippings, articles, a booklet on Leathers' involvement with the Rockefeller Foundation, and other biographical information.
Part of the VUMC Historical Images and Biographies Repository
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