History of CSELS

Protecting America’s Health From One Century to the Next
Where We’ve Been, Where We Are, Where We’re Going

Although established as a center in October 2013, the seeds of the CSELS story are as old as CDC itself. Some of CDC’s earliest flagship programs were focused on tracking and investigating disease outbreaks, mobilizing to protect the public during health threats, keeping the public informed about a health crisis, and training the professionals who do this work. These programs have been part of CDC in one form or another throughout its history.

In 2015, CSELS completed a reorganization that brought many of these historic programs together to function as a unified package. Combined with new programs that reflect the changing landscape of science and medicine, CSELS provides the support structure for much of our nation’s health system.

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    1946

    Communicable Disease Center, or CDC, opens in downtown Atlanta, in the Volunteer Building on Peachtree Street. The center is focused on fighting malaria, typhus, and other communicable diseases.

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    1951

    The Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) is established. It quickly becomes the nation’s—and world’s—on-call response team for a wide range of emergencies.

    National disease-tracking systems begin. The first list of 41 nationally notifiable infectious diseases was developed at the first conference of state and territorial epidemiologists— the predecessor of the Council of State and Territorial
    Epidemiologists established in 1992.

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    1961

    CDC assumes publication of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR)—the “voice of CDC,” which publishes important data on death and disease from every state every week.

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    1972

    CDC establishes its Preventive Medicine Residency.

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    1988

    The Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA)—the law that governs all laboratory testing on people in the United States—is passed. CDC, FDA, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services begin their work to make sure regulations and guidelines for clinical laboratory tests keep up with laboratory medicine and information technology.

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    1990

    CDC begins using a computerized system for disease tracking—the National Electronic Telecommunications System for Surveillance. It provided weekly reports from across the nation.

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    1993

    CDC establishes the Public Health Training Network (PHTN) to educate the public health workforce. By 2003, it had reached more than 4.8 million users.

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    1996

    By act of Congress, the Community Preventive Services Task Force is formed to develop evidence-based guidance on community-based health promotion and disease prevention interventions. Their recommendations are published in The Community Guide.

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    1997

    CASPIR (CDC and ATSDR Specimen Packaging, Inventory, and Repository) is created to provide long-term storage for sample collections of current or foreseeable value to CDC and others.

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    1997

    The Office of Public Health Genomics is established to help translate genetic discoveries into practices to fight chronic, infectious, environmental, and occupational diseases.

    The first CDC web-based training course is launched (on tuberculosis).

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    2003

    CDC launches BioSense, a precursor of CDC’s National Syndromic Surveillance Program that now provides situational awareness for all-hazards preparedness and response.

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    2010

    CDC Vital SignsTM debuts with an issue on breast and colorectal cancer screening.

    CDC opens the Informatics Innovation Unit (originally Informatics Research & Development Activity).

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    2011

    PHTN evolves into CDC TRAIN. It is CDC’s first online learning management system for the public health community.

    The BioSense Platform becomes the first Department of Health and Human Services system to move completely to a
    distributed cloud computing environment.

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    2013

    CSELS is established to bring CDC’s scientific support services under one center.

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    2014

    EIS deploys all 158 officers to respond to the worldwide Ebola crisis.

    Efforts to modernize the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System (NNDSS) begin, led by CSELS. The NNDSS Modernization Initiative is part of CDC’s Surveillance Strategy.

    The CDC Library is renamed after Dr. Stephen B. Thacker, who served CDC for 37 years as a public health advisor, mentor, and expert in infectious disease, epidemiology, and public health science.

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    2015

    CSELS signs a memorandum of agreement with the Office of the Surgeon General to provide a fulltime medical officer or senior scientist to serve as the editor-in-chief of Public Health Reports, the official journal of the U.S. Public Health Service.

    Using the EIS model, CSELS launches the Laboratory Leadership Service Fellowship Program to train laboratory scientists in biosafety and laboratory management.

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    2016

    CSELS begins managing the Surveillance Data Platform With Shared Services, a virtual data sharing environment being developed as part of CDC’s Surveillance Strategy.

Page last reviewed: December 17, 2018