Lawton & Rhea Chiles Center - Serving Women, Children & Families


Director: William M. Sappenfield, MD, MPH

William M. Sappenfield

William M. Sappenfield, MD, MPH is professor and chair of the Department of Community and Family Health and Director of the Lawton and Rhea Chiles Center for Healthy Mothers and Babies at the College of Public Health, University of South Florida. He just started this new career opportunity at USF to teach and develop new professionals in December 2011. His vision is to make the Chiles Center one of the leading national centers in maternal and child health practice and research.

As both a pediatrician and an epidemiologist, Dr. Bill Sappenfield has more than 27 years of experience in epidemiological teaching, research and practice in maternal and child health at a local, state and national level. Dr. Sappenfield received his medical degree from Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans in 1980 and his masters of public health with a concentration on epidemiology from Harvard University in 1984. He completed his pediatric residency training at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in 1983 and his preventive medicine residency training at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 1987. He also received applied epidemiology training through CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) program from 1984 to 1986.

As a nationally recognized leader in the field of maternal and child health epidemiology, Dr. Sappenfield spent the first 21 years of his career as a CDC epidemiologist working with state and local public health agencies to enhance their capacity to use epidemiology to improve the health of the women and children. This included being assigned to state public health agencies in Massachusetts, Mississippi and South Carolina. He was also assigned to work at CityMatCH—a national public health organization working with MCH Leaders in urban public health agencies, at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. He completed his CDC career serving four years as Team Leader of their MCH Epidemiology Program directly responsible for the national MCH EPI effort including mentoring senior MCH epidemiologists assigned around the nation.

For the next six years, Dr. Sappenfield served at the Florida Department of Health as the State MCH Epidemiologist and as Unit Director for the MCH Practice and Analysis Unit. His responsibilities include leading the Department’s MCH epidemiology and evaluation efforts including directing a unit of six epidemiologists; working with MCH programs in Family Health and other divisions; collaborating with state agencies, organizations, and universities; and assisting County Health Departments and community partners.

Dr. Sappenfield’s major contributions to the MCH field include early efforts to develop community-based fetal and infant mortality reviews, to adapt the perinatal periods of risk approach to assess infant mortality in U.S. communities, to propose state preconception health indicators and to shape best practices in applied MCH epidemiology. His current research projects include: maternal and infant mortality, chronic diseases during pregnancy, assistive reproductive technology, unintended pregnancy and contraceptive use, non-medically indicated deliveries prior to 39 weeks, population-based perinatal quality improvement efforts, access to childhood preventive dental care, and use of data file linkages in maternal and child health. He continues to mentor both young and senior MCH epidemiologist in public health practice around the nation.

Dr. Sappenfield has received several national and state awards. In 2003, he received the National MCH Epidemiology Award for Outstanding Leadership sponsored by 16 national health organizations.