Florida Public Health Oral History Project

Interviewee

Wilson T. Sowder

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Interviewer

Prather, E. Charlton

Publication Date

6-9-2015

Date

1997-06-24

Abstract

Dr. Wilson T. Sowder (1910 – 2007) received his MD from the University of Virginia in 1932 and his master’s degree in public health from Johns Hopkins University in 1934. In 1940, he was assigned by the US secretary of the Navy to serve as a venereal control officer in Pensacola, Florida. At only 35 years of age, he was chosen to serve as state health officer of Florida, a position he held until 1974. During this oral history interview, Dr. Sowder reminisces about the early days of public health in Florida. He recalls working with the military and madams to combat sexually transmitted disease in Florida and outlines his role in creating and consolidating county health departments throughout the state. He talks about the importance of diplomacy, keeping public health out of politics, and reveals his tactics for approaching the legislature. He describes several political challenges he encountered, including conflicts with naturopathy over narcotics prescription privileges and the Department of Agriculture’s attempt to take over dairy inspections. He also talks about public health’s dwindling jurisdiction, including its loss of narcotics oversight and mental health. Finally, Dr. Sowder gives his thoughts on the importance of teaching the public to take responsibility for their healthcare.

Keywords

Florida. State Board of Health, Health services administrators, Public health, Sowder, Wilson T., 1910-, University of South Florida

Holding Location

University of South Florida

Language

English

Media Type

Oral histories, Online audio

Format

Audio

Identifier

C53-00033

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Rights Statement

In Copyright