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History

To trace the path of Public Health in Pike County, travel back a few years to 1896. The State Board of Health designated Pike County physicians to work in public health. Those first appointed were Dr. W.A. Campbell, Dr. J.E. Gray, and Dr. J.W. Wrightsman in 1896 and 1897; in 1898 and 1899 Dr. Campbell, Dr. Gray, and Dr. D.M. Adkins; from 1900 through 1903, Dr. Cambell, Dr. M. Pinson, and Dr. H.H. Stallard.

Photo of Pike County Health Department
Pike County Health Department, circa 1953

In 1896 the county population was estimated around 19,000 and 900 lived in Pikeville. Travel was by horse and by boat on the river. Public health concerns would have been different in 1896 than those today, but the common bond starting in that year and running through 100 years of good times and bad, tragedies and triumphs, surely remains the same: the best life possible through good health.

First to receive the title of Public Health Officer was Dr. W.J. Walters in the year 1904. Beginning with that appointment, Dr. Walters name would become synonymous with public health as he served as Health Officer during 1904-06, 1916-20, 1944-47, and 1951-55.

The record remains relatively silent concerning the years prior to 1904. However, the public health problems, according to Dr. Walters' own written account, which faced him in 1904, would certainly have been prevalent in the eight years prior. Smallpox, dysentery, consumption (TB), scarlet fever, and typhoid were common. Trachoma, a chronic contagious eye disease, was contracted by many. In this pre-vaccine era, home quarantine and isolation facilities (known as pest houses) were deemed the proper course of treatment. In the late 1800s and early 1900s “pest” referred to an epidemic disease with a high mortality rate. Pest houses were facilities where disease victims were confined and treated in an attempt to limit the spread.

Newspaper articles from 1912 through 1917 reported numerous cases of typhoid, diphtheria, and tuberculosis. The health officers were physicians who tended their public health responsibilities from their private offices.

It was in 1927 that actual space was allocated for public health activities. An appropriation of $5000 was made by the Pike County Fiscal Court to establish the Pike County Health Department. The Pikeville Women’s Club gave its club rooms on Grace Avenue for use. Dr. N.J. Keith was the current Health Officer.

The Health Department moved many times. Some of the site locations were on Caroline Avenue in the early 1930s, a large house on Scott Avenue from the late ‘30s until 1943, and in locations on College Street and Main Street.

In 1953 the Health Department staff moved to a newly constructed facility behind the Pike County Courthouse. At this time Dr. W.J. Walters was the Health Officer. As public health programs and staff continued to grow, ground was broken in 1988 for the present location. The Mary Pauline Fox Building was opened in 1991 with Dr. Fox as the Health Officer. Following the July 31, 1993, retirement of Dr. Fox, Paul Hopkins became Director of the Pike County Health Department until his retirement on July 31, 2013.

On October 14, 2013, Dr. Rafael Rangel, M.D. was appointed as the Director of the Pike County Health Department. Dr. Rangel served for many years as the clinic physician and continues to remain in that capacity in addition to his newly appointed directorship.