Bonita F. Stanton, M.D., the late dean of the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine, was honored with a special award for her decades in medical education.
Stanton, the founding dean of the medical school, was given the posthumous Special Recognition Award by the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) for her long and illustrious career.
The award was bestowed at the AAMC’s annual awards event, held virtually the afternoon of Oct. 26.
Stanton passed away unexpectedly in January 2022 of a sudden illness, but not before seeing the inaugural class of graduates from the medical school shaped on her mission and vision the previous June.
“How fortunate we were to have such a visionary educator and physician to start our medical school journey,” said Robert C. Garrett, FACHE, the chief executive officer of Hackensack Meridian Health. “Bonnie was one-of-a-kind, and we miss her every day.”
“Bonnie was a terrific leader who created this magnificent school based on her experiences in academics, and among underserved communities across the globe,” said Jeffrey Boscamp, M.D., the interim dean of the School, and a professor of pediatrics. “Her legacy lives on, and thrives, in what we do everyday.”
Stanton was a pediatrician who saved lives in the developing world before returning to the United States as a visionary medical educator at leading institutions and served as the founding dean of Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine in New Jersey. She was 70 at the time of her passing.
Dr. Stanton was known for her pioneering work in impoverished corners of the globe, where her research and care improved and saved countless lives. A prolific author and researcher, Dr. Stanton taught for decades in leading medical schools across the country and helped create the innovative curriculum at one of the nation’s newest medical institutions, Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine based in Nutley, New Jersey.
Dr. Stanton launched her career in a disease-ridden and disadvantaged part of the world. For five years, Dr. Stanton lived in Dhaka, Bangladesh, conducting research and treating the poor. Her groundbreaking research addressed the prevention and treatment of diarrheal diseases in the urban slums of the city, where drinking clean water, as well as maintaining a healthy life, was a near impossibility.
She also made major research contributions toward global HIV prevention and was continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as a Principal Investigator from 1991 to 2016. She authored more than 350 peer-reviewed manuscripts and served as an editor of several textbooks, including Nelson’s Textbook of Pediatrics. She was the consulting editor for “Pediatric Clinics of North America,” and was a member of the editorial board of Clinical Keys. She served on countless study sections for the NIH and Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention, and served on numerous boards, task forces, and professional organizations.
In academia, she brought her lessons from the developing world back to the United States as she served on the faculty of University of Maryland, West Virginia University, and Wayne State University (Detroit, Michigan).
In 2016, she distilled all her experiences and insights into a career-defining new role: creating a new medical school with a mission to fundamentally change health care. The U.S. could improve outcomes and lower costs by focusing more on the social determinants of health, issues such as safe housing and access to healthy food, which play a major role in health outcomes.
Her global experience directly informed the mission of the new school, the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine. In six short years, the School has blazed new trails in medical education. Dr. Stanton’s leadership inspired the school’s Vision and Mission, assembled a remarkable leadership team, partnered in the development of HMSOM’s governance, secured accreditation from five separate institutions, established the school as an independent Institution of Higher Education, and pivoted the institution through a pandemic. She relished the opportunity, delighted in welcoming the first class in 2018, and proudly sent 18 of its members to graduate and enter residencies across the Hackensack Meridian Health network in June 2021.