Known as the “father of Community-Based Public Health,” Bruce is a physician, educator and philanthropist who has spent most of his professional career promoting access and quality healthcare to underserved populations.
Bruce and nine others were honored for their efforts toward equality in healthcare during a public ceremony in Little Rock on Friday, October 24, 2014. Learn more at the 2014 Arkansas Civil Rights Heritage Trail Commemoration.
Dr. Thomas Allen Bruce is a native of Mountain Home, Arkansas. He graduated in 1955 from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences then the University of Arkansas Medical Center, and has led a career that earned him the title of “the father of Community-Based Public Health.” As a physician, educator and philanthropist, Bruce has spent most of his professional career promoting access and quality health care to underserved and rural populations.
He served as a professor at Wayne State University in Detroit and as head of the Cardiovascular Section of the Department of Medicine at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine.
He returned to UAMS in 1974 to serve as the dean. In this role, Bruce worked to enhance medical education as well as the distribution of physicians in Arkansas. He implemented a plan to restructure the governance of the school, and new programs along with new divisions were established in a number of medical facilities. Bruce helped create several faculty councils and oversaw the recruitment of department chairs and doubled the number of full-time faculty.
He also expressed the need for the institution to address the issue of the absence of physicians in many rural areas of the state. With the aid of the Rockefeller Foundation and other state agencies, in 10 years time, Bruce helped develop a network known as the Area Health Education Centers which provided physicians in less-populated areas of the state. Because of the increase in faculty that Bruce initiated at UAMS, primary care programs were expanded in order to increase students’ knowledge in rural practices which strengthened the residency programs within the school once the AHEC course options began to grow.
Bruce became program director for W.K. Kellogg Foundation in 1985 and served the organization until 1997. During his tenure, he planned new initiatives, reviewed proposals, and monitored projects in health, leadership, and rural development. He provided direction for the national Community-Based Public Health Initiative beginning in 1990. Because of his commitment to public health initiatives, many of Bruce’s colleagues began to refer to him as the “Father of CBPH.” After spending years in Michigan, he returned to Arkansas to take care of his aging parents.
Bruce retired in 1997 but came out of retirement in 2001 to head the new College of Public Health at UAMS after the Arkansas Coordinating Board of Higher Education approved the establishment of the college thanks to Arkansas voters who approved the Tobacco Settlement Proceeds Act. In 2004, he became the inaugural dean of the Clinton School of Public Service.
He has volunteered with the Arkansas Community Foundation and Heifer Project International and has established a family foundation to benefit UAMS and its students. Bruce has received a number of honors such as the Governor’s Certificate of Merit for Outstanding Citizenship in Arkansas, an honorary doctorate in medicine from UAMS, and a Special Appreciation from Kaohsiung Medical College from the Republic of China.
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