final-cornely.jpg Paul B. Cornely, M.D., Dr.P.H.
Courtesy of Bentley Historical Library

History of the Paul B. Cornely Postdoctoral Program for Minority Scholars

Following campus unrest by Black students’ protesting the lack of African-American faculty at the University of Michigan, much attention was focused on racial diversity in the recruitment and retention of faculty.  Students argued that there were not enough minority PhD’s being trained to fill available academic positions, particularly in the School of Public Health.  In response to this criticism, Drs. Harold W. Neighbors and Marshall Becker established, in 1988, in conjunction with the Office of Minority Affairs (OMA), the “Paul B. Cornely Postdoctoral Program for Minority Scholars” in honor of Dr. Cornely.  The Paul B. Cornely Postdoctoral Program for Minority Scholars is one of the longest-running diversity postdoctoral programs housed in a School of Public Health in the United States. 

The Cornely Postdoctoral Program
This two-year program is designed for PhD level scholars who are conducting research on the clarification, reduction, and elimination of racial and ethnic health disparities. The program also seeks to increase the number of scholars from underrepresented groups in academic public health. Today's racial groups considered to be underrepresented in public health at the University of Michigan include African American (Black), Native American, Hispanics/Latinos/Latinas,and Asian Americans in fields where they have been historically underrepresented.  However, all candidates who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents and are dedicated to research on the description, explanation, and reduction of racial and ethnic health disparities are welcome to apply.  This program is intended to facilitate acquisition or enhancement of research skills that can be directed to addressing racial and ethnic health disparities. The Cornely Fellow spends the majority of his/her time preparing manuscripts for publication, and works closely with a UM SPH faculty member who shares his/her interests.

Dr. Cornely received his A.B. in 1928, his M.D. in 1931 and his Dr.P.H. in 1934, all from the University of Michigan.  His Department of Specialization was Hygiene and Public Health.  Dr. Cornely's dissertation  title was "A Survey of Postgraduate Medical Education in the United States and an Inquiry into the Educational Needs of the General Practitioner."  On August 4, 1968 the University of Michigan Board of Regents conferred on this alumnus and medical statesman the honorary degree of Doctor of Science.

Dr. Cornely began his career in a manner admired by academicians, compiling an enviable record in three different schools of the University. As a specialist in preventive medicine, he attained a commanding professional authority culminating his nomination to the presidency of the prestigious American Public Health Association.  As a responsible public-health physician, anxious that health care be made more widely efficacious, he has subsumed his technical insight into a social vision.  His studies of the health status of the Negro in our nation's capital demonstrated the need for a new, vigorous approach to our previously unrecognized problems.  Belying personal modesty, he was forthright in affirming the right of the disinherited to an optimal physical well-being.  

His major professional activities have been in medical education, health services administration, consultant to Federal and voluntary organization, both domestic and international and research in the health problems of the disadvantaged.  Dr. Cornely retired in 1973 as Professor Emeritus in the Department of Community Health and Family Practice of Howard University College of Medicine.  

His contributions in the field of health services administration have been significant.  He was director of the Howard University Hospital for a period of eleven years and President of the Community Group Health Foundation, which administered the Office of Economic Opportunity serving a population of 50,000 persons.  He pioneered in the use of neighborhood health workers as early as 1958-60.  He founded the District of Columbia Public Health Association and was its first President in 1962-64.  Dr. Cornely was President of the American Public Health Association in 1970.

Dr. Cornely conducted research studies in tuberculosis, venereal diseases and scarlet fever; utilization of physicians' extenders and its effect on the cost and quality of health care; and the effects of social and cultural factors on health and health care utilization.  He published over 100 scientific and popular articles.  Dr. Cornely passed away on February 9, 2002. 


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Center for Research, Ethnicity, Culture, and Health
School of Public Health - University of Michigan
1415 Washington Heights, 2858 SPH I
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-2029
Phone: 734-647-6665 Fax: 734-763-9265

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