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History of the Indiana Department of Health

The State Board of Health came into existence as a result of legislation passed in March 1881. The first regular meeting of the board was held on January 19, 1882. This date marks the real beginning of the State Board of Health as a functioning body. The first secretary of the Board and State Health Commissioner was Dr. Thaddeus Stevens.

In the beginning, the Board of Health was not much more than a means of registering births and deaths and making perfunctory sanitary inspections of various state institutions. By 1900, however, laboratories were established, an industrial hygiene program was created, stream pollution control laws were enacted, and sweeping efforts to control communicable diseases were instituted. Indiana was admitted to the U.S. birth registration program, and a nucleus of programs for maternal and child health came into being.

We have had many homes since our beginning. The early days of the Board of Health were usually associated with a room on the second floor of the Statehouse. During this time, some lab work was done on the second floor of the Gallup building at the corner of Capitol and Market Streets. In 1927, the old medical school building at the corner of Market and Senate Avenues was sold to the state, and the Board of Health occupied the first and second floors of what was known as the Statehouse Annex. Meanwhile, there was a growing push to relocate to the Indiana University (IU) Medical Campus. It was felt by the Board that we belonged on a medical center campus; however, the state wanted all of its offices near the Statehouse.

In 1933, Gov. Paul V. McNutt reorganized the state to reduce the number of boards and commissions in state government; the Board of Health was placed under the Department of Commerce and Industry and changed its name to the Division of Public Health. The laboratories of the Division of Public Health and of the Indiana University Hospital were combined in the interest of the economy. The relationship between the university and the Division of Public Health was growing and the concept of the two institutions working together was born.

In 1939, the Board of Health moved into a new building on the medical campus at 1098 West Michigan Street. Within eight years the building was bursting at the seams. Plans were considered to expand the existing building, but soon it was decided to construct a new building and in July 1950, the Board of Health moved into its last building on the IU campus at 1330 West Michigan Street.

In 1961, the Bureau of Special Institutions was established, which administered the following institutions: Indiana School for the Deaf, Indiana School for the Blind, Silvercrest Children’s Development Center, Indiana Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Children’s Home, and the Indiana Veterans’ Home. The state health commissioner had administrative control over these institutions.

In 1985, the Indiana General Assembly created the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) under Title 13 of the Indiana Code. This act reorganized the state environmental programs that the Board of Health had previously implemented and enforced under the direction and authority of the Environmental Management Board, the Stream Pollution Control Board, and the Air Pollution Control Board. Since that time, the legislature reorganized and renamed the boards.  IDEM began operating on July 1, 1986.

In 1986, Woodrow A. Myers, Jr., MD, was the first African-American to be appointed state health commissioner by the governor.

The Board of Health, as a result of the General Assembly’s Human Services Reorganization Act in 1991, became the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH), effective January 1, 1992. The reorganization initiative, authored by Senators Blankenbaker and Hunt, sponsored by Representative Crawford, was Public Law 9-1991 and marks the beginning of the modern ISDH. The Department operates under Title 16 of the Indiana Code.

In 1996, the ISDH moved to be closer to the statehouse and have all the ISDH (except for the labs and weights and measures) under one roof. The labs relocated to 635 North Barnhill Drive in June 1999 on the IUPUI campus. The Weights and Measures Section relocated to 2525 North Shadeland Avenue in December 1999 and remains there today.

As of May 17, 2000, the Indiana School for the Deaf and the Indiana School for the Blind no longer functioned under the auspices of the ISDH. On that date, they became their own independent agencies. The Department maintains a close relationship with both institutions, particularly the School for Deaf and Hard of Hearing which is where the Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Education is located. In 2013, the Indiana General Assembly created the Center via IC 20-35-11 and placed it administratively within the Department.

In 2005, Judy Monroe, MD, was the first female state health commissioner appointed by the governor.  In March 2010 Dr. Monroe was appointed Deputy Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Director of the CDC Office for State, Tribal, Local and Territorial Support.

In 2007, the ISDH labs moved to the new Indiana Forensic and Health Sciences Labs facility at 550 West 16th Street, which is their present location.

In October 2014 Jerome Adams, MD, MPH was appointed as state health commissioner by the governor. In September 2017, State Health Commissioner Jerome Adams, MD, MPH was appointed to serve as the 20th U.S. Surgeon General.

He was succeeded by State Health Commissioner Kristina Box, MD, FACOG effective October 2017 and became the 27th person to occupy the position. Dr. Box retired in May 2023.

In June 2023, Lindsay M. Weaver, MD, FACEP was appointed as state health commissioner, after serving as chief medical officer since February 2020.

The Indiana State Department of Health became the Indiana Department of Health (IDOH) in July 2021 after the Governor signed legislation updating the agency's statute. That same year the Department was also awarded accreditation by the Public Health Accreditation Board, joining the ranks of 36 other states and territories. The Department's Executive Board subsequently adopted a new seal to reflect the name change and new logo.

A comprehensive list of Indiana State Health Commissioners can be found here.