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From advocating for district health departments to realizing the need for fluoridating drinking water, the late Dr. Millard A. “Doc” Shepherd made a lasting impact on the health of Kentuckians. He was honored recently with the Hume Medallion Award – the University of Kentucky College of Public Health’s highest award – at the CPH Hall of Fame ceremony.

The Hume Medallion, named for General Edgar Hume, represents a lifelong commitment to promoting public health. General Hume, a Kentucky native, retired from the US Army as the most highly decorated physician in Army history, which included public health responses to environmental disasters, economic displacement, and plagues. The Hume Medallion Award is granted to an outstanding public health practitioner or organization demonstrating exceptional service to the nation, Commonwealth of Kentucky, University of Kentucky, or College of Public Health.

“The Hume Medallion is about bravery, bravery to do the work needed so people have the opportunity of health,” said Acting Dean Heather Bush. “When I saw the hundreds of health articles Dr. Shepherd wrote across multiple decades in the local paper, I saw bravery. Article after article publicly tackled difficult health concerns facing his community.

“Public health is more than a moment, it is a consistent and continued commitment. It is every day. His work shaped public health in Kentucky, and we are proud to honor his bravery in pursuing this work, every day for the people of Kentucky, as the inaugural recipient of the Hume Medallion.”

Dr. Shepherd attended Berea College before earning his medical degree at the University of Louisville. Upon his graduation, he established a private medical practice in Harrodsburg, Kentucky, where he was the sole provider.

According to his granddaughter, Dr. Emily Blevins, DMD, who accepted the award on Dr. Shepherd’s behalf, he often practiced a wide range of medicine, from family medicine and OBGYN to surgery and anesthesia.

“It was these interactions in that rural practice that lead him to public health,” Dr. Blevins said. “In Doc’s own words, ‘I was constantly hounded by the realization that due to a peculiar quirk of human nature, we always seem to be straining at a gnat while swallowing a camel. If we could only find a way to motivate people to protect their health, this would be profoundly more important than treating disease.’”

Dr. Shepherd received his Master of Public Health and returned to Somerset, Kentucky, in 1959. After completing Boards in Preventive Medicine and Public Health Administration, he worked for the Kentucky Department for Public Health (KDPH).

During his time at KDPH, his dream was to create a district or regional health department. This dream came to fruition with the establishment of the Lake Cumberland District Health Department in 1972.

“He was always thinking ahead,” said Claude Tiller, who was hired by Dr. Shepherd and worked with him for several decades. “He had the vision and he could do it.”

Dr. Shepherd initiated the practice of fluoridating drinking water in the district, thus greatly decreasing the risk of dental decay and disease. He was active in getting vaccinations in public schools and even vaccinated his own children for polio and smallpox as public examples of the benefits of vaccinations.

Dr. Shepherd believed in family planning and established many family planning clinics throughout the health departments. He also saw a great need for prenatal care for the women of southeastern Kentucky, establishing prenatal clinics as well.

“Doctor Shepherd was one of the most kind, understanding people that I knew,” said Tiller. “He knew how to work with people to get the job done.”

He served as the director of the Lake Cumberland District Health Department until his retirement in 1980. The health department has now grown to 10 counties and recently became accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board.

Dr. Shepherd also published hundreds of Health Columns in the Commonwealth Journal and the Harlan Daily Enterprise. He was a life member of many organizations, including the American Medical Association, Kentucky Medical Association, Pulaski County Medical Society, the League of Kentucky Sportsmen, and the American Legion. In 1981, he received the Russell E. Teague Meritorious Award from the Kentucky Public Health Association.

“Above all, Doc loved humanity, always seeing the best in everyone and dedicating his life to the people of Kentucky,” said Dr. Blevins.

In addition to the Hume Medallion Award, two other honors were awarded during the Hall of Fame ceremony.

Angelica Geter, DrPH, was honored with the Distinguished Leader Award, which is bestowed upon an individual who graduated from the UK College of Public Health more than five years ago and has demonstrated perseverance and excellence in their career in public health, hospital or health system leadership, health outcomes, and/or population health.

Sydney Clark, MPH, was honored with the Promising Leader Award, which is bestowed upon an individual who graduated from the UK College of Public Health within the last five years and has laid the foundation for a promising career in public health, hospital or health system leadership, health outcomes, and/or population health.