Published May 4, 2020
Mary Wilson, wife of the late Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson and a strong advocate of Western New York for the past 29 years, will be awarded the Chancellor Charles P. Norton Medal, UB’s highest honor.
Jean Wactawski-Wende, SUNY Distinguished Professor of Epidemiology, dean of the School of Public Health and Health Professionals, and an internationally recognized researcher on women’s health issues, will receive the UB President’s Medal in recognition of extraordinary service to the university.
SUNY honorary doctorates are being presented to UB alumna Donnica L. Moore, president of the Sapphire Women’s Health Group, and Richard A. Schatz, research director of cardiovascular interventions at the Scripps Heart, Lung and Vascular Center.
Wactawski-Wende will receive the President’s Medal during the School of Public Health and Health Professions’ virtual commencement ceremony on May 16; the other award recipients will receive their honors at a later date.
The Chancellor Charles P. Norton Medal is presented annually in public recognition of a person who has, in Norton’s words, “performed some great thing which is identified with Buffalo … a great civic or political act, a great book, a great work of art, a great scientific achievement or any other thing which, in itself, is truly great and ennobling, and which dignifies the performer and Buffalo in the eyes of the world.”
Announcing this year’s Norton Medal recipient, Jeremy M. Jacobs, chair of the UB Council, said that Mary Wilson richly deserves the honor for her longstanding commitment to the region.
“This year, we were absolutely unanimous in our decision to honor Mary Wilson,” he said. “In her leadership of the Wilson Foundation, Mary is making an enduring and unprecedented impact on Buffalo and all of Western New York, which will be felt for many generations to come. Her dedication and work align perfectly with the spirit of the Norton Medal.”
Wilson has been devoted to Western New York since she first arrived in the area for the Bills home opener in 1990. She has spent many years developing her Western New York Girls in Sports program, which biannually brings more than 200 9- to 12-year-old girls together to take part in various sports taught by young athletes from local universities and sports clubs. The program, now ensured to run in perpetuity, is organized by the United Way of Buffalo and Erie County through an endowment from the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation, of which Wilson serves as one of four life trustees.
She has also supported organizations benefiting communities in Buffalo, Erie County and Southeast Michigan, among them Hospice of Western New York, WNY Women’s Foundation, Food Bank of Western New York, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Girl Scouts of Western New York, the SPCA serving Erie County, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, the Alzheimer’s Association Greater Michigan Chapter, The Helm (formerly Services for Older Citizens), the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the Detroit Historical Society and the Detroit Institute of Arts, to name a few.
The UB President’s Medal, first presented in 1990, recognizes “outstanding scholarly or artistic achievements, humanitarian acts, contributions of time or treasure, exemplary leadership or any other major contribution to the development of the University at Buffalo and the quality of life in the UB community.”
President Satish K. Tripathi described recipient Jean Wactawski-Wende as a world-renowned epidemiologist who has brought great prominence to UB through her scholarly pursuits and academic excellence in the area of women’s health.
“A dedicated member of our university community for more than 30 years, Dr. Wactawski-Wende has made seminal contributions that have significantly impacted health care practice and disease prevention for women in the U.S. and around the world,” he said.
“Thanks to her tremendous leadership, she has further elevated the reputation of UB. Our university community, along with the many communities we serve, have been profoundly enriched by Dr. Wactawski-Wende’s scholarship, teaching and service, and it is an honor to present the President’s Medal to such a truly deserving recipient.”
Of particular note is Wactawski-Wende’s leadership role in the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI), the largest longitudinal study of women’s health in the United States. In 1993, she was part of the team that spearheaded UB’s successful bid to become one of the federally funded study’s 16 original vanguard clinical centers. Since the inception of the WHI, UB has received more than $30 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health to investigate health issues impacting postmenopausal women.
Among the WHI’s major discoveries was the groundbreaking finding that intake of combined estrogen plus progestin was associated with an increased risk of heart disease, stroke and invasive breast cancer. That research, on which Wactawski-Wende served as a co-principal investigator, changed the use of hormone therapy in older women worldwide, potentially saving countless lives.
Through UB’s current $6.2 million award extension of the WHI, she has overseen the continuation of research into many diseases associated with aging, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, osteoporosis, stroke and dementia. She is also administering new studies that focus on frailty and predictors of healthy aging.
“For those of us who know and have worked closely with Dr. Wactawski-Wende, we readily recognize the magnitude and excellence of her contributions to academic medicine,” said Michael E. Cain, vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB. “She is an eminent and distinguished scholar and leader whose work, professional service, and stature in her discipline and research field are outstanding and continue to grow.”
An internationally recognized women’s health expert and advocate, Donnica L. Moore is president of Sapphire Women’s Health Group, a multimedia firm that educates women about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. A pioneering physician, Moore utilizes public speaking and multiple media platforms — including her own website and podcast — to share impactful health information in layperson’s terms.
She will receive a SUNY Honorary Doctorate in Science.
“Dr. Moore’s significant accomplishments associated with women's health set an inspiring example for our university community and reflect the values of both UB and the SUNY system,” Tripathi said.
“Breaking barriers to educate women about an array of health-related topics, she has demonstrated a sustained and dedicated commitment to the well-being of women around the globe. One of UB’s most distinguished alumni, Dr. Moore — in utilizing accessible platforms to create broad access to sound, peer-reviewed medical information — is enhancing lives in communities near and far.”
A 1986 alumna of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Moore underwent residency training in obstetrics and gynecology at Temple University, followed by a year of family medicine training at Memorial Hospital of Burlington, New Jersey. The editor-in-chief of Women’s Health for Life, she has served on the editorial boards of the Journal of Women's Health and the Journal of the American Medical Women’s Association, in addition to the board of directors of the Society for Women’s Health Research, among other organizations.
Known for her relatable delivery and depth of expertise, Moore was the women’s health contributor for NBC’s “Later Today” and has appeared more than 800 times on such programs as “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” “The Anderson Cooper Show” and “Good Morning America.” Additionally, she has been a medical adviser or medical advisory board member for companies including DuPont and Helm Pharmaceuticals.
Richard A. Schatz is co-creator of the first coronary stent approved by the Food and Drug Administration for restenosis. Known as the Palmaz-Schatz stent, this life-saving device has been used to treat coronary artery disease in nearly 100 million patients worldwide since its approval in 1994. It is considered one of the top 10 medical device patents of the past 50 years.
He will receive a SUNY Honorary Doctorate in Science.
“Dr. Schatz is widely known as the father of modern interventional cardiology for good reason,” Tripathi said. “Every day, his groundbreaking work is realized in operating rooms across the country and beyond. The stent he co-created spurred a revolution in the treatment of coronary artery disease — and, 30 years later, it has had an immeasurable impact on health care.
“By contributing to society through his biomedical innovations and inventions, Dr. Schatz has improved the lives of tens of millions of people while embodying the ideals of our university community and our university system.”
A New York native, Schatz is the research director of cardiovascular interventions at the Scripps Clinic and director of gene and stem cell therapy. He is an elected fellow of the American College of Cardiology; in 2019, he received the Fritz J. And Dolores H. Russ Prize, which recognizes biomedical engineering achievements that have significantly improved the human condition. He is also the recipient of the Barton Haynes Lifetime Scholar Award from Duke University Medical Center.
Schatz attended UB in the early 1970s before gaining early admission to Duke Medical School, then completed his cardiology training at Brooke Army Medical Center. Throughout his career, he has maintained a strong affinity for UB, crediting the university’s faculty and curriculum for inspiring him to pursue a career in medicine.