District of Columbia

District of Columbia


MWPHA is the leading public health membership association in the Metropolitan Washington region that brings together diverse sectors and constituencies to create equitable opportunities for the health of the region.


MWPHA is an American Public Health Association (APHA) affiliate and a regional association of individuals and organizations working to improve the health of the Metropolitan Washington region. We educate members, other professionals and the public in our region about scientific and professional public health standards, practices and policies to enable them to advocate for social justice and enhance their own public health practice, addressing the conditions necessary for healthy communities.


The core values of MWPHA are social justice, collaboration, social and cultural competence, empowerment, health care as a right, member satisfaction, responsiveness, flexibility to capitalize on opportunities and respect for diversity of opinion.


The Metropolitan Washington Public Health Association (MWPHA) is dedicated to protecting personal, public, and environmental health in the Metropolitan Washington area. The Association is committed to:

  • protect and promote personal, public and environmental health,
  • study and attempt to resolve health problems,
  • meet and share knowledge and experience in order to achieve the organization’s goal,
  • provide leadership in public health by initiating and supporting voluntary and governmental action to meet health needs or to remedy health problems, and
  • promote continuing educational opportunities for public health and allied workers to help them acquire new or broader knowledge and develop skills to provide more effective health services.

Description and Timeline

MWPHA History

These historical notes were taken from the conference summary of July 29, 1989 prepared by Sam Seeman, to review the history of the public health association.

  1. Formation and Early History

The association was established as the District of Columbia Public Health Association (DCPHA) in 1962. The purpose was set forth in the Constitution and Bylaws, and has not changed dramatically since then. Its formation was led by five persons including Dr. Paul Cornelly, the first President from 1962-1964, Dr. Lorin Kerr the representative to APHA’s governing council, a nurse and two others. Among those active in the governing council during those early formative years was Dorothy Jane Youtz, Henry Daniels, Arthur Spindler, Louise Haas, and Sam Seeman. APHA officers were not allowed to hold positions on the governing council of DCPHA. The local association refused to affiliate with the Southern Branch of APHA due to that group’s policies on racial segregation. Some years later Dr. Cornelly was elected president of APHA. Also the DC Department of Health resented the then formed public health association, fearing it would be a competing spokesman for public health issues in the area. DCPHA held membership meetings during the day, and DC DOH finally allowed members to have administrative leave to attend meetings.

Dorothy Jane Youtz chaired the first annual meeting of DCPHA, where the program included a paper by Clara Schiffer on mental health and mental retardation in DC. More than 300 persons attended. The annual meetings were seen as important for social networking as well as educational events. The Surgeon General attended one of the early meetings. In the first years, membership of the DCPHA was more than 300 persons, remaining as such until the mid -70s. It was seen that membership and participation was directly related to the support by the health department supervisors and health officers.

  1. Change in geographic scope

The Association became the Metropolitan Washington Public Health Association in 1982. The rationale for this change was basically a decreasing membership. Increasing the boundaries would enlarge membership by attracting persons who reside in the suburban Washington area. In fact no many new members joined from the suburbs. The annual meetings though were well attended by persons living outside of the DC boundaries. The focus could no longer be strict on the interests and problems faced by the district. In 1980 there was a joint meeting held with the Virginia Association in Northern Virginia.

  1. Composition of Members

The profession most heavily represented in those early days was nursing. A corporate membership category was established at $100. This arrangement was discontinued for a five year period for review. One year the Association made an effort to include lay people, new professionals, and indigenous workers. A special meeting was held focusing on such groups, with a lower fee, but continuous lay membership did not occur.

  1. Governance

The Governing Council was patterned after APHAs existing council structure, and has remained the mode of governance.

The association published a newsletter throughout the years. Keeping past copies of the newsletter is helpful.

The dues changed from $5 to $15 by 1989. There was always reluctance to raise the dues level. Other income came primarily from the annual meeting. Some funds were raised by private corporate contributions.

After some years, APHA staff helped the Association through having their members serve actively.

  1. Activities

There was limited activity in testifying on legislation. There was some testimony along with APHA on smoking. The associations Public Affairs committee followed some legislative interests, and was active in legislative affairs dues to a committed chairperson.

The annual conference was a well attended function that also was profitable to the organization. There were some early meetings which were co-sponsored with the Cancer society and with the Heart Association, including their financial support. There was also some joint activities with these organizations as well.

Continuing Education programs have occurred during the years, held at various locations; such as the Mt. Vernon library, the cancer society and elsewhere.

Past Presidents that could be recalled:
Dr. Paul Cornelly

Bob Conn
Blanche Bourne
Lorin Kerr
Caroline French
Ira Laster
Dr. David Rabin
Patricia Theiss
Barry Wilson