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Minnesota Public Health Association

Since 1907, MPHA has been dedicated to creating a healthier Minnesota through effective public health practice and engaged citizens. 

Our History


MPHA traces its roots back to 1907 when the health officers around the state were organized as the Minnesota State Sanitary Conference, holding an annual spring meeting. The conference was in response to a state law that required the Executive Officer of the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) to call a meeting of health officers at least annually. The demands of public health were broadening in the 1930s and 1940s.

In 1947, the Sanitary Conference opened the door of membership to anyone who was engaged in public health work in the state, changing its name to the Minnesota Public Health Conference to reflect public health values and mission. The American Public Health Association (APHA) officially recognized the Minnesota Public Health Conference as its affiliate in 1948. In 1956, MPHA assumed the name as it now stands and continues to be linked to APHA.

Throughout its history, MPHA has maintained a broad membership to represent and reflect the public health challenges and opportunities of its time. MPHA is fortunate to have a rich tradition and stellar reputation for its influence on public health policies, services, and systems.

Major Eras

MPHA has gone through periods of low and high visibility, slow and rapid growth in membership and the ebb and flow of active participation. When questions were raised about its relevance of goals, capacity, and priorities, these were turned into opportunities for renewing purpose, strengthening governing and membership structure, mobilizing resources, and sustaining momentum. These initiatives were known in each decade as follows: Revitalization in 1970s; Future Directions in 1980s; Strategic Planning in 1990s; Capacity-Building in 2000s; federal Affordable Care Act implementation (community health, health equity, health in all policies, intersections with medical care providers) in 2010s.

Voice for Public Health in Minnesota

MPHA is the place where public health workers from multiple disciplines, sectors, and communities come together around shared values, goals, and priorities. The MPHA missionis “to engage and develop its members to mobilize the community to protect and improve the public’s health.” The diversity of MPHA contributes to its vision of being an “active, credible and independent voice for public health in Minnesota.”

MPHA has the liberty to frame the policy issues, present science-based information and data, and recommend solutions. Fueled by individual and collective passion, energy, and talents, MPHA works in several ways: offers public and professional education opportunities; links with and mentors new public health professionals; consults with MDH, U of M School of Public Health (SPH), and other public, private and non-profit agencies; forms or joins coalitions and partnerships; and develops and advocates for policy positions at local, state and national levels.

MPHA has, and continues to undertake, important leadership roles to advance public health policy and program initiatives. These roles include: raising awareness, engaging in discussions to inform about issues, forging consensus and strategy, and advocating for a policy positions such as, Minor’s Consent to Access Health Services (1968-1971); Community Health Services Act, known today as Local Public Health Act (1974-1977); Health Care Reform focusing on Minnesota Care (1990-1993); Community-Based Long Term Care (1994-1996).

Revised May 2015

Past Presidents

The year listed is the start of a President’s term. The actual term of office may have been extended into another year, depending on the designated fiscal year at that time.

1947 - Floyd M. Feldman, MD

1947 - J. Lawrence McLeod, MD

1948 - S.P. Kingston

1949 - F.W. Bechmier, MD

1950 - V.O. (Victor) Wilson MD

1951 - Irene Donovan

1952 - Allan Stone

1953 - Allan Stone

1954 - S.A. Whitman, MD

1955 - Myhren C. Peterson

1956 - Clare Gates, Dr. PH

1957 - Clare Gates, Dr. PH

1958 - Robert D. Ragsdale

1959 - A.B. Rosenfeld, MD

1960 - Robert K. Anderson, DVM

1961 - Henry Bauer, MD

1962 - Karl R. Lundeberg, MD

1963 - Vivian Harriman, PHN

1964 - Robert J. Hohman

1965 - Earl Rubie

1966 - William Jordan, D.D.S.

1967 - Ruth Stief

1968 - Robert W. Schwanke

1969 - Charles Schneider

1970 - C.A. Smith, MD

1971 - Arvid Houglum, MD

1972 - Thomas P Webber

1973 - Ellen Z. Fifer (Green), MD

1974 - Paul Schuster

1975 - Kenneth J. Taylor

1976 - Harold Leppink, MD

1977 - Donna Anderson

1978 - Ellen Alkon, MD

1979 - Margaret Sandberg

1980 - John C. Cushing, Jr

1981 - Frances A. Decker

1982 - K.C. Spensley (Bretzke)

1983 - Esther Tatley

1984 - Esther Tatley

1985 - Deborah Plumb

1986 - Ed Ehlinger, MD

1987 - Terry Hill

1988 - Gayle Hallin

1989 - Malcolm Mitchell

1990 - Charles Oberg

1991 - Stanton Shanedling

1992 - Mary Sheehan

1993 - Ellen Benavides

1994 - Deborah Hendricks

1995 - Paul Terry

1996 - John Oswald

1997 - Larry Sundberg

1998 - Mary Sheehan

1999 - Marshall Shragg

2000 - Tricia Todd

2001 - Ellie Garrett

2002 - Janny Brust

2003 - Jamie Martinez

2003 - Debra Burns & Chris Follett

2004 - Michelle Hanson (Ferrari)

2005 - David Johnson

2006 - Jan Malcolm

2007 - Marie Dotseth

2008 - James (Jim) Hart, MD

2009 - James (Jim) Hart, MD

2010 - Kenneth Bence

2011 - Ann Bajari

2012 - Dave Golden

2013 - Carol Berg

2014 - Kristen Godfrey Walters

2015 - Aggie Leitheiser Cook

2016 - Lindsey Fabian

2017 - Becky Sechrist

2018 - Matthew Flory

2019 - Nancy Franke Wilson

2020 - Kathleen Norlien

2021 - Elizabeth Moe

2022 - Ellen Saliares

2023 - Antonia Apolinário-Wilcoxon

Explore Our Legacy: The MPHA Records Collection

Read the April 2021 funding announcement of the $10K grant to the records collection owner, the University of Minnesota Social Welfare History Archives, of the Legacy Amendment grant from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the Minnesota Historical Society for the digital preservation and access project Public Health in Minnesota: Digitizing Recordings of “A Public Health Journal” TV program.

This work would not be possible without the dedicated leadership of many volunteers over the years!

How to Access and Use the Records Collection

The Minnesota Public Health Association records collection holds a treasure trove of various print and visual materials, covering a 70+ year period. This collection helps us to connect the long history of our multi-disciplinary association, grounded in social justice and health equity pathways, to current and future policies, programs and practices. It is a rich resource that documents historical perspectives to tell a story.

What kind of materials will you find in this collection?

    • governance papers
    • annual meetings and reports
    • newsletters
    • policy and advocacy positions and partnerships
    • media items (e.g. photographs, posters, audio and visual tapes), including an extensive series of A Public Health Journal cable television program tapes from 1985

What topics and challenges are addressed across time?

  • tobacco and substance use
  • confidential health services
  • water quality
  • vaccine preventable diseases
  • nutrition and physical activity
  • lead exposure
  • organization of public health services
  • immigrant and refugee health
  • health care reform
  • and more!

An online inventory to guide users is currently being updated.

Where is the MPHA records collection located?

MPHA archived its records collection at the Social Welfare History Archives (SWHA) in March 2017. SWHA is part of the Archives and Special Collections Department of the University of Minnesota Libraries and is located in the Elmer L Andersen Library on the west bank campus in March 2017. Public health is an important addition to SWHA’s historical sources on social welfare organizations, reflecting the impact of poverty, race and housing on health and well-being, since the late 19th century. SWHA provides a permanent home for the MPHA records. The records are stored in archival quality folders and boxes in a secure underground climate-controlled facility. Library conservation staff will handle any materials needing conservation or repair.

Who can access the MPHA records collection?

The MPHA records are a valuable historical resource and are meant to be used to better understand the history of public health in Minnesota and nationally. Members are welcome to make an appointment to use the records. They are also available to students, teachers, health professionals, faculty, researchers, and citizens. These historical records are raw materials to create new knowledge. Research purposes may involve documenting historical context and intersections; reflecting about health trends, changes or impact; or evaluating the effectiveness of a campaign, legislation, or program addressing a specific health challenge. Records can be used for a range of outcomes, such as: to produce a public or class presentation, an article or book for publication, papers or dissertations for degree programs, exhibits or displays, podcasts or documentaries, artistic works or performances, and related print and digital projects.

How do I search the collection?

  • Go to Minnesota Public Health Association records collection guide
    • The guide is a work in progress and SWHA is currently working in the background to add more detail. Please check back in again in the future!
  • To get more information on an item in your search results, click the blue heading for that item.
    • You will see the item heading and date
    • The box and folder numbers are in green
    • The box and folder numbers are in green
    • The text in the gray bar shows the archives, the collection title, and the series of folders in that collection where the items is located.
    • For help using the online guide, contact the archives at

  • To request the item, give the collection title, item title, box and folder information to the archives staff by emailing or

How do I get the materials?

1. Request appointment from Social Welfare History Archives Library by emailing

Include the collection title, item title, box and folder information, so materials can be pulled ahead of time for you.

2. Visit the Social Welfare History Archives, located in the Elmer L. Andersen Library at the University of Minnesota

Pay parking is available in a surface lot or nearby ramps. The library can also be reached by light rail.

3. Check in at the reception desk in the Maxine Houghton Wallin Special Collections Research Center on the lower level near Room 15.

MPHA's 110th Anniversary Video

In spring 2017, MPHA celebrated the milestone of the organization's 110th anniversary. Watch this special video created to commemorate MPHA's history, and learn about our future plans!

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