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Wactawski-Wende named interim dean of School of Public Health and Health Professions

Jean Wactawski-Wende

Jean Wactawski-Wende is an epidemiologist specializing in women's health issues. Photo: Douglas Levere

By SUE WUETCHER

Published June 26, 2014

Jean Wactawski-Wende, vice provost for strategic initiatives and research advancement, and professor and associate chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Environmental Health in the School of Public Health and Health Professions, has been named interim dean of the school.

The appointment, announced by Charles F. Zukoski, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, and Michael E. Cain, vice president for health sciences and dean of the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, is effective July 1.

Wactawski-Wende succeeds Lynn T. Kozlowski, who is stepping down as dean June 30 to resume his role as a full-time faculty member in the Department of Community Health and Health Behavior.

An international search for a new dean will begin this summer.

“We are grateful to Jean for her willingness to serve as interim dean during this transitional period,” Zukoski and Cain said in announcing Wactawski-Wende’s appointment. “Her strong research and leadership record will ensure that the School of Public Health and Health Professions will succeed as we are searching for a permanent dean.”     

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 — recently renamed the Department of Epidemiology and Environmental Health — in 1999. She was named vice provost for strategic initiatives in 2009. 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 focusing 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 has served on the WHI executive committee and currently serves 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, she 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, Wactawski-Wende coordinates and oversees UB’s Strategic Strengths — which serve 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.

Zukoski and Cain said that while Wactawski-Wende is serving as interim dean, this office will report directly to Alexander Cartwright, vice president for research and economic development.

Wactawski-Wende 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.