Dr. Felix J. Underwood

Known as “the father of public health in Mississippi,” Felix Underwood was born in Nettleton, Mississippi, in 1882. His mother died in childbirth when he was ten, an experience that encouraged him to go into medicine. He received his M. D. from the University of Tennessee and returned to his hometown to practice. He was elected president of the Mississippi State Medical Association in 1919 and served as president of the Southern Medical Association. In 1921, he was appointed director of the Bureau of Child Hygiene and Welfare in Jackson and three years later was named executive officer of the Mississippi State Board of Health. Among the advancements Underwood championed were free immunizations and water fluoridation. He provided public health treatment for such diseases as syphilis, tuberculosis, malaria, polio, and diphtheria. He helped establish Mississippi’s medical school and increase the number of hospitals and physicians. He also worked with President Franklin D. Roosevelt to create a national health policy. Underwood died in 1959, in the office from which he had directed the health department for 34 years.

More about: