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History of the Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences

Marian Dubrule checks a patient's blood pressure in 1975.
Nursing faculty member Marian Dubrule demonstrates how to measure blood pressure in 1975.

It was in 1967, 17 years into his term as president of Lowell State College – and more than 70 years since its founding as a teacher-training institution for women – that Daniel O’Leary announced his intention to broaden the college’s horizons. He wanted a nursing program. To launch it, he hired Gertrude (“Trudy”) Barker, a former clinic nurse in California and one of the few women in the country with a doctorate in the field. 

The first class of 33 nursing students, who met for classes in the student infirmary in Dugan Hall, entered the program in the fall of 1968. They would form the original nucleus of the college and pave the way for today’s Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences.

Prof. Joe Dorsey of physical therapy demonstrates an aqua therapy device in the early 1980s
Prof. Joe Dorsey of physical therapy demonstrates an aqua therapy device in the early 1980s.

In 1975, the Lowell State College-Lowell Tech merger established the College of Health Professions. That year, the university became the first school in the U.S. to offer a master’s degree in gerontological nursing. Prof. Joe Dorsey came to UMass Lowell in 1976 and realized his vision to establish an affordable physical therapy program. In 1977 with a class of 22 students, he launched the first and only public physical therapy program in Massachusetts, a distinction that is still true today.

Spearheaded by Kay Doyle, the launch of the medical laboratory science program in 1978 spawned more health sciences programs such as nutritional sciences, applied biomedical sciences, exercise science and more. 

In the following decades, the college continued to innovate and evolve. In 2016 faculty expertise in sustainability and community and environmental health was harnessed to form the Department of Public Health, which teaches students how to improve the health and well-being of communities, populations and societies.

Asst. Teaching Professor Brent Shell (center) with students in the renovated anatomy and physiology lab
Asst. Teaching Professor Brent Shell (center) with students in the renovated anatomy and physiology lab.

One of the college’s recent teaching innovations is interprofessional education, an approach recommended by the World Health Organization that teaches students from different health disciplines how to work as a team to improve care.

Today, the College of Health Sciences, formally dedicated in the name of Roy Zuckerberg ’58 in the spring of 2017, is the academic home to more than 1,800 undergraduate and graduate students in the departments of Public HealthBiomedical and Nutritional Sciences, Physical Therapy and Kinesiology and the Solomont School of Nursing.

Its future course, predicted College Dean Shortie McKinney at the dedication ceremony, will change “health care for our region, our state and our country.” Its graduates continue to make an impact through patient care, research, health care policy, entrepreneurship and industry leadership.