Waller S. Leathers

(1874-1946)

Waller Leathers

Waller Leathers

Waller Leathers

Waller Leathers, a native of Virginia, graduated from the University of Virginia, receiving his M.D. degree in 1875. After graduation he made the decision to pursue an academic career. His first teaching position was at the Miller School of Virginia where he taught chemistry. He then moved to the University of South Carolina where he taught biology. In 1899, he accepted a position at the University of Mississippi as chair of zoology. In 1904 he became the first Dean of the University of Mississippi Medical School, which was a two-year school.*

In 1910. Dr. Leather's career took a turn in a new direction when he became Director of Public Health for the state of Mississippi. He obtained funds from the Rockefeller Foundation for the eradication of hookworm in Mississippi. He established public health offices on the county level. "Under his leadership public health work in Mississippi...came from obscurity to the point that it attracted attention nationally and internationally."

In 1924, Waller Leathers was recruited by Dean G. Canby Robinson to head the Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health at Vanderbilt. Dr. Leathers succeeded Dr. Robinson as Dean in 1928 and served in this position until his retirement in 1945.

Dr. Leather's great contribution at Vanderbilt was his ability to obtain funding for medical research. He served on the advisory boards of the Commonwealth Fund, the Rockefeller Foundation, the American Red Cross, and the U.S. Public Health Service.

Waller Leathers was beloved by Vanderbilt students and faculty alike. His years at Vanderbilt represent the first golden era of medical research at Vanderbilt Medical Center.

*Journal of the Tennessee Medical Association, v.38, no.7, July 1945, pp.226-227.