Published March 12, 2015
Jean Wactawski-Wende, PhD, professor of epidemiology and environmental health, and interim dean of the University at Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions since July 2014, has been appointed dean of the school after a national search. The appointment, effective immediately, was announced by Charles F. Zukoski, PhD, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, and Michael E. Cain, PhD, vice president for health sciences and dean of the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
In announcing Dean Wactawski-Wende’s appointment, Zukoski and Cain noted that she was selected from a pool of highly competitive candidates after an extensive national search. “Wactawski-Wende brings to her new role impressive scholarly accomplishments, significant administrative experience, and a vision for the school, including how to advance its mission of improving health,” they said. “We are confident that with her strong and forward-thinking leadership, she will succeed in facilitating broad collaboration across the campuses and in the community that sustains and builds the impact of the School of Public Health and Health Professions and our university.”
President Satish K. Tripathi said it is hard to imagine anyone who is better suited to the role of dean than Wactawski-Wende, calling her a dream candidate. “As a national and global leader in epidemiology and women’s health research, Jean’s scholarly contributions have had a sustained and powerful impact on health care practice for women in the U.S. and around the world,” President Tripathi said. “Her impact on our UB community has been equally profound — from her outstanding service as interim dean and earlier as vice provost for strategic initiatives, to her instrumental role in establishing UB’s leadership in the NIH-funded Women’s Health Initiative, one of the largest clinical trials ever undertaken in the U.S.,” he said. “We are truly fortunate to have a scholar of her stature and proven leadership ability at the helm of our School of Public Health and Health Professions.”
Wactawski-Wende said she is greatly honored to be named dean. “I am excited to work with our faculty, staff, and students to build on the strong foundation that is in place. It is an exciting time for our school. The opportunities are endless,” she said.
A UB faculty member since 1989, Wactawski-Wende is an epidemiologist specializing in women’s health issues. Her initial appointments were in the department of gynecology and obstetrics, where she was director of the Division of Women’s Health Research. She joined the department of social and preventive medicine — since renamed the department of epidemiology and environmental health — in 1999. She served as vice provost for strategic initiatives from 2009-2014 — her title was expanded to include research advancement in 2013 — and associate chair of the department of epidemiology and environmental health from 2006-14. Prior to coming to UB, she spent five years as a research scientist at Roswell Park Cancer Institute.
An active researcher for more than 25 years, Wactawski-Wende has been awarded nearly $38 million in grants and contracts since 2001. She has focused her work on understanding the conditions affecting women’s health. She is principal investigator of UB’s Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) Center, one of 40 centers across the country responsible for implementing the landmark, National Institutes of Health-funded study. WHI, which includes both randomized clinical trials and an observational longitudinal study, investigates the major factors influencing disease and death in older women. Results of that work have been far-reaching, impacting our understanding of long-term health in women.
Wactawski-Wende has held various leadership roles in WHI, including publications chair, and currently serves on the WHI Executive Committee and as national chair of the WHI Steering Committee. She also leads the WHI Northeast Regional Center at UB, which manages data collection and scientific coordination among nine WHI-affiliated institutions in the mid-Atlantic region and the Northeast.
In addition to the WHI, she has been principal investigator on dozens of research studies funded by the NIH and other federal agencies. Her research interests include risk factors and prevention of cancer, osteoporosis, and periodontal disease in postmenopausal women. She also has conducted several studies on reproductive health issues in younger women.
Most recently, Wactawski-Wende is principal investigator on a nearly $4 million NIH grant to conduct a prospective study of the oral microbiome and periodontitis in postmenopausal women, as well as principal investigator of the Effects of Aspirin in Gestation Reproduction (EAGeR) medical trial that examined the effect of low-dose aspirin therapy for women with prior pregnancy losses.
As vice provost for strategic initiatives and research advancement, Dr. Wactawski-Wende coordinated and oversaw UB’s Strategic Strengths — which served as the platform for the university’s interdisciplinary and collaborative research — as well as the Office for Research Advancement, which provides support for faculty to pursue large-scale, multi-investigator, cross-disciplinary research grants of institutional priority.
She is the recipient of numerous awards throughout her career, including the inaugural Outstanding Researcher of the Year award in the School of Public Health and Health Professions in 2005, the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Research and Scholarship in 2006, and the UB Exceptional Scholar: Sustained Achievement Award in 2009. She was elected a member of the American Epidemiological Society in 2011.
A graduate of Canisius College with a degree in biology, she holds an MS in natural sciences and epidemiology, and a PhD in experimental pathology and epidemiology, both from UB’s Roswell Park Division.