Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service

Engineer Professional Advisory Committee




Chief Engineer: 1948-1961

Mark Dexter Hollis was born in September 1908 in Buena Vista, Georgia. His father, a physician in the PHS Commissioned Corps, moved the family frequently as he was given new assignments, and young Mark spent two childhood years in China.

His undergraduate education was at the University of Georgia where he received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Civil Engineering in 1931. In 1933 the University awarded him the degree of Civil Engineer. He began his professional career with the Rockefeller Foundation in 1931, and was assigned to typhus fever research in Alabama.

He joined the Commissioned Corps in 1933, and continued with typhus fever activities in the southern United States. In 1934 he was assigned to the North Dakota State Department of Health, where he reorganized and expanded the programs of the state Bureau of Sanitary Engineering. In that year he was married to the former Virginia Houchins.

In 1939 he was transferred to Cincinnati, to become a member of the staff of the Ohio River Pollution Survey. This work was a collaborate effort with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to study stream pollution covering the entire basin ¬comprising a drainage area of some 204,000 square miles, the first such pollution study covering an entire river basin.

At the outbreak of World War II, he was assigned to defense related activities out of Atlanta, Georgia. There he served first as Executive Officer and later as Officer-in-Charge of the Malaria Control in War Areas Programs (MCWA), the predecessor of CDC. The program operations were directed to developing mosquito-free zones within a one-mile radius around each military and industrial establishment serving the war effort in fifteen southeastern states, as well as California, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. related Caribbean areas. The program was later assigned responsibility for dengue, typhus, and other communicable diseases.

Following the end of the war, MCWA operations were re-directed from war-related efforts to more general communicable disease problems affecting the nation as a whole and MCWA became the
Communicable Disease Center (CDC), with its headquarters remaining in Atlanta, Georgia. Hollis was appointed director of CDC in 1944.

In late 1946 he was transferred from CDC back to Washington, and assigned to the post of Executive Officer to Surgeon General Thomas Parran. In 1948, upon the retirement of the Service's first Chief Engineer, Hollis was assigned to the post and promoted to Assistant Surgeon General with the rank of Rear Admiral. In 1956, he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Florida. He was the President of the Water Pollution Control Federation from 1959-1960. He continued in that position until his retirement from the Corps in 1961 at which point he was awarded the PHS Distinguished Service Medal. The citation for award stated, “ in recognition of his outstanding performance , his sense of dedication, and his demonstrated broad and far-sighted thinking over a span of 25 years of service. He has been primarily responsible for the steady growth of sanitary engineering in health programs of the Service and in an interdisciplinary approach to health problems of the future. His accomplishments as the Chief Sanitary Engineering Officer of the Service and as a delegate to the World Health Assembly and a member of the committee that formulated the Third International Report on Sanitary Engineering have established him as a leader on a national and international basis in the field of sanitary engineering.”

Engineering programs established or expanded during his service as Chief Engineer included water pollution control, engineering resources development, and radiological health. He also expanded the ongoing stream pollution investigations at Cincinnati, creating the Environmental Health Center, which later became the Robert A. Taft Sanitary Engineering Center

Upon retirement, RADM Hollis accepted the position of Director of Environmental Health, for the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland. At WHO, he worked to arrest a cholera epidemic in India and to develop wastewater treatment systems for the Third World. In 1965 he returned to the U.S. to assume the position of Chief of the Department of Environmental Science and Engineering, at the Pan American Health Organization, the WHO Regional Office for the Americas.

RADM Mark Hollis, one of the most distinguished and accomplished engineers and health administrators of the century, retired from the WHO in 1971 and moved to Lakeland, Florida where he continued an active professional life until his death on February 23, 1998. In 2000 the Society of American Military Engineers created the Hollis Medal, given yearly in his honor to outstanding PHS engineers.

Page Last Modified on 10/12/2017

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