In the late 1950’s, David W. Swetland and Mary Ann Swetland felt that not enough was understood about the unintended health consequences of chemical, agricultural, and industrial products in our environment. Their resolve to change the world’s perception of environmental threats was reinforced by Rachel Carson’s book “Silent Spring”. While medical education at the time principally focused on the diagnosis and treatment of injury and disease, there was little medical science that documented the relationship of diet and lifestyle on human health. Therefore, David W. Swetland focused the Mary Ann Swetland Professorship of Environmental Health Sciences, endowed by his late wife’s estate, on preventative medicine and the threats of man-made environmental hazards so that all graduating doctors would have an interest in and understanding of the impact of the environment on human health.
Following this remarkable foresight, the Swetland Endowment has taken several forms at Case Western Reserve University over the ensuing 33 years, including the support of Professorships at the School of Medicine, first to Dr. Samuel Epstein and later to Dr. Herbert S. Rosenkranz. Recently, the Board of Trustees of Case Western Reserve University, in conjunction with David W. Swetland, established the Mary Ann Swetland Center for Environmental Health, an academic clinical center, and appointed Dr. Dorr G. Dearborn as the Mary Ann Swetland Professor of Environmental Health Sciences and Founding Director of the new Center.
In 2015, Dr. Pamela Davis, Dean of the School of Medicine, appointed Dr. Li Li, MD, Ph.D., as the new Mary Ann Swetland Professor of Environmental Health Sciences and the center director. As research continues to demonstrate the vital connection between the environment and health, the Center is positioned to respond. Emphasizing environmental health disparities, initiatives will translate findings into practices and programs that promote community and population health.