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The Annual Minority Health Conference was launched by the Minority Student Caucus in 1977 and has been conducted nearly every year since then. When it was first established, the major objectives were to highlight health issues of concern to people of color, but has been broaden to be inclusive of other minority populations. Initially the Conference was held in Rosenau Auditorium in the School of Public Health, but when attendance increased to 300-400 during the 1990′s, the conference moved to the William and Ida Friday Continuing Education Center.

In 1999, Dean William Roper named the Keynote Lecture after William T. Small Jr., Associate Dean and Senior Advisor for Multicultural Affairs. For over a quarter of a century, Dean Small worked on behalf of and won the respect and affection of public health students as well as faculty, staff, and administrators.

Also in 1999, the Minority Health Project began organizing webcasts of the Annual William T. Small Jr. Keynote Lecture, and in 2001 added a satellite broadcast with support from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. In 2009, student organizations at five other public health schools presented the broadcast of the Annual William T. Small Jr. Keynote Lecture in conjunction with their own events, including the 1st Annual Minority Health in the Midwest Conference at the University of Illinois, Chicago. Since then, “partner conferences” have become a regular feature.