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The Boston University School of Public Health was established in 1976 as a program in BU's School of Medicine and became an official school of the University in 1979 with five programs. It was the brainchild of Dr. Douglas K. Decker. He designed the admission criteria (successful healthcare managers and practitioners), the curriculum (practical, rather than theoretical), teaching approach (pairing academicians and accomplished practitioners in the field), and the type(classes taught at night to make it possible for working managers, nurses, and doctors to attend.) Bob Biblo, founding President of the Harvard Community Health Plan and national leader in the HMO field, simultaneously was a professor and graduate of BUSPH.
Dr. Norman A. Scotch, a noted and tenured professor in the School of Medicine, was made the first Dean of BUSPH. He brought academic credentials, knowledge of the University, and long established connections. He took the lead in guiding the school through the accreditation process. The vision, marketing and business skill of Dr. Decker, and the academic solidity, respected credentials, and academic administration skills of Dr. Scotch combined to create BUSPH. Without either, BUSPH is unlikely to exist today. (Source: Personal eyewitness of the conception and incarnation; former assistant professor) An annual Norman A. Scotch Award is given by the Boston University School of Public Health.
Three oral history tapes record interviews with Dr. Scotch of his reminiscences of his earlier days. These tapes were not fully transcribed, but notes were taken.
Norman Scotch was born in Boston in 1928. His mother was from Lithuania and his father from Russia. He had one brother and one sister. He went to art school at night during high school and has done painting, photography, and sculpting, as well as acting. He was the youngest in his class, failed a lot of his classes in high school, and adopted the role of class clown. His parents were not big on education, but his brother brought books into the home, and Scotch read the encyclopedia. Since retirement he has written screenplays. He graduated from high school in 1946 and went into the army, where he was an occupational counselor at the separation center for soldiers leaving the army after World War II. He had the GI Bill for college and went to Boston University and earned a B.A. in psychology and a master's in sociology. He then earned a Ph.D. in anthropology at Northwestern, where he lived in Anthro House and took cello lessons. He got a teaching job at Washington State. He wanted to do fieldwork in Africa and study hypertension among the Zulus but was turned down for a grant by the Ford Foundation. He was then sponsored by Jerry Stamler from the medical school at Northwestern, who was interested in diet and hypertension in Africans. Scotch received a grant from the U.S. Public Health Service and wrote what he considers to be the first serious paper on medical anthropology. He also discusses coining the word "ethnomedicine." Before going to Africa, Scotch went to study the Washoe Indians in Nevada to gain some fieldwork experience.
While at Northwestern, Scotch taught Sunday school in Glencoe, Illinois, where the rabbi was Edgar Siskin, who had done fieldwork with the Washoe in the late 1930s. Scotch remembers Dresslerville as being like a junkyard with wrecked cars behind every house. He met Hank Pete, Bill Jacobsen, and the James family. Bertha Holbrook was his paid informant at fifty cents an hour, and Scotch took everyone's blood pressure for an epidemiology study. His wife, Frieda, worked with him. They lived in a trailer at the Stewart Indian School. Frieda also did surveys on relocation for the B.I.A. After his fieldwork in Africa, Scotch published thirty papers on Zulu hypertension. At Washington State, Scotch taught anthropology and sociology and wrote his thesis. His hypothesis for the study among the Washoe concerned blood pressure as it relates to social tensions and integration into white society. His study among the Zulu had much better methodology. He was on the cutting edge of cross-cultural studies of hypertension. Scotch received the Russell Sage Fellowship to get a masters in public health at Harvard.
Scotch was offered a job at Harvard, became an assistant professor in public health, and lectured in anthropology. He was thrilled to be on the faculty at Harvard, where he had been turned down twice as a student. A study he did at Harvard resulted in the book Social Stress. At the same time, he taught night courses in anthropology and sociology at Brandeis University and took a course in painting. He then went to Baltimore to teach at Johns Hopkins as associate professor. With Sol Levine, he established a new department there. Scotch received a grant with the Framingham Heart Study to do longitudinal studies on stress and heart disease. Scotch achieved tenure and the rank of full professor at age thirty-eight. He was visiting professor at the University of California at San Diego and worked at the Salk Institute doing studies on alcoholism. He took a position in the medical school at Boston University in 1972 and started a new department, the School of Public Health, where he enjoyed being the administrator. He retired in 1992 but still works one day a week in a community substance-abuse program, Join Together, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. He discusses his view of anthropologists then and now.