College of Health Professions Celebrates 50th Anniversary

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The College of Health Professions at UTHSC includes the Departments of Audiology and Speech Pathology, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, and Diagnostic and Health Sciences, as well as the Division of Regenerative and Rehabilitative Sciences.

What today is the College of Health Professions at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center started small and has grown over the last half century to encompass four departments and one division across a wide spectrum of health care professions. The college celebrates its 50th anniversary today, November 18, with celebrations in Memphis.

The college includes the departments of Audiology and Speech Pathology, Diagnostic and Health Sciences, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, and the Division of Regenerative and Rehabilitative Sciences. It has campuses in Memphis and Knoxville, where students and faculty participate in training, clinical practice, and research designed to help the citizens of Tennessee have better lives.

Four of the programs are ranked by U.S. News & World Report in the Top 50 nationally among like programs. This includes the doctoral program in Audiology (26), the master’s program in Speech and Language Pathology (38), the master’s program in Occupational Therapy (42), and the doctoral program in Physical Therapy (49).

A Look at 50 Years of Progress 

1922 The School of Medical Technology is founded at the Memphis General Hospital by Dr. Harry Schmeisser, chair of the UT Memphis Department of Pathology. Registered Nurse Mabel Ward is the instructor of the female-only program. Florence Frost and Ethel Holmes are the first students.   

1926 The Dental Hygiene Program is founded in the UT Memphis College of Dentistry.  

1936 John Gaston Hospital opens, replacing Memphis General Hospital. The new facility allows for expansion of the medical technology curriculum.  

1946 The School of Medical Technology becomes formally affiliated with UT Memphis, and students begin receiving a certificate of completion from UT Memphis.   

1951 The Cytotechnology Program is founded in the UT Memphis College of Medicine Department of Pathology, as a source of trained personnel for the U.S. Public Health Service pilot mass-screening for cervical cancer.  

1953 The Radiologic Technology Program is founded in the UT Memphis College of Medicine Department of Radiology.  

1954 The Medical Record Administration Program is founded at Baptist Memorial Hospital in Memphis.  

1962 The Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology is established at UT Knoxville with Dr. Freeman McConnell as the department head. 

1965 The UT Memphis Physical Therapy Program is founded in the College of Medicine Department of Medicine.  

1966 The Allied Health Professions Personnel Training Act is passed, its purpose is “to increase the opportunities for the training of medical technologists and personnel in other allied health professions, and to improve the educational quality of the schools training such personnel.”  

1969 The proposal to form a College of Allied Health Professions at UTHSC is submitted to the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees.  

1972 The college is founded as the College of Community and Allied Health Professions with four departments: Clinical Laboratory Sciences, Physical Therapy, Radiologic Technology (all formerly part of the College of Medicine); and Dental Hygiene (formerly in the College of Dentistry). Dr. Lee Holder is appointed dean.  

1973 The Baptist Memorial Hospital Medical Record Administration program is transferred to the College of Community and Allied Health Professions.  

1985 The college name is changed to the College of Allied Health Sciences.  

1988 The new Occupational Therapy Program admits its first class of five students in 1988.  

1993 Medical Records Administration is renamed Health Information Management.  

2008 Health Information Management becomes Health Informatics and Information Management.  

2009 The UT Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology becomes affiliated with the College of Allied Health Sciences.   

2010 Dr. Noma Anderson is appointed dean of the college, becoming the first African American to serve as a dean at UTHSC.  

2012 The Physician Assistant Studies Program is added to the college. It is moved to the College of Medicine in 2016.  

2014 The college name is changed to the College of Health Professions.  

2016 The Rachel Kay Stevens Therapy Center is opened, serving as a student-run, pro bono pediatric OT clinic for the Memphis community.  

2019 The Division of Rehabilitation Sciences is created to foster research within the college.  

2020 The Departments of Clinical Laboratory Sciences and Health Informatics and Information Management are merged to become the Department of Diagnostic and Health Sciences.  

2021 The Division of Rehabilitation Sciences becomes the Division of Regenerative and Rehabilitation Sciences. 

The College of Health Professions celebrates today from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. CST at two locations in Memphis. The Diagnostic and Health Sciences reunion and the Medical Laboratory Science program’s reunion are at Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous, 52 S. 2nd St. The Occupational Therapy and Audiology/Speech Pathology reunions, as well as the Physical Therapy reunion, are at Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum, 191 Beale St. 

To read more about the College of Health Professions, please see the college’s Spring 2022 magazine.