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Bonita F. Stanton, M.D., the late dean of the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine, was recently 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 on 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 CEO 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 every day.”

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.

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.

ABOUT HACKENSACK MERIDIAN HEALTH

Hackensack Meridian Health is a leading not-for-profit health care organization that is the largest, most comprehensive and truly integrated health care network in New Jersey, offering a complete range of medical services, innovative research and life-enhancing care. The network has 18 hospitals and more than 500 patient care locations, more than 35,000 team members and 7,000 physicians. Hackensack Meridian Health is a distinguished leader in health care philanthropy and committed to the health and well-being of New Jersey communities.

ABOUT HACKENSACK MERIDIAN SCHOOL OF MEDICINE

The Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine, the first private medical school in New Jersey in more than 50 years, welcomed its first class of students in 2018 to its On3 campus in Nutley and Clifton. Hackensack Meridian Health assumed its independent operation in July 2020. The school’s vision is that each person in New Jersey, and in the United States, regardless of race or socioeconomic status, will enjoy the highest levels of wellness in an economically and behaviorally sustainable fashion. The school’s unique curriculum focuses on linking the basic science with clinical relevance, through an integrated curriculum in a team-oriented, collaborative environment. The school prides itself on outreach, through programs like the Human Dimension, which is active in communities across New Jersey.

Photo caption: Bonita F. Stanton, M.D., the late dean of the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine. Photo courtesy Hackensack Meridian Health.