Dr. Edward J. Benz will step down at the end of September after a distinguished and record-setting 16-year tenure as president and CEO of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. So what will the good doctor do with all of his free time? In addition to returning to research and clinical work, Benz is also looking forward to doing more of the things he loves most: teaching and mentoring.
“Developing the careers of faculty and students has been one of the most fulfilling parts of my career,” said Benz in a Boston Business Journal interview shortly after announcing his retirement last year. “Given all the years I have under my belt, academically and professionally and now, after nearly 30 years ofeadership, that’s something I ought to share with people, however it might help them.”
Benz, an internationally renowned hematologist, has spent the better part of his 40-plus year career in various educational and leadership roles, giving him a broad platform from which to share his expertise with students, colleagues, the international medical community, and the general public. He has done so generously and with an eye toward ensuring that those most in need have access to top-notch health care.
We are proud to honor him with the 2016 Clarion Award for Health Promotion and Education. The award recognizes significant achievement in promoting health information, education, treatment, medicine, and care for the purposes of empowering individuals and communities to improve health outcomes for all people, especially the most vulnerable.
As president and CEO of Dana-Farber, Benz brought attention—and solutions—to the racial disparities in access to oncology care and health outcomes. Under his leadership, Dana-Farber partnered with the Whittier Street Health Center in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood to open a diagnostic clinic, the country’s first dedicated oncology space in a Federally Qualified Health Center. Dana-Farber also launched the Cancer Care Equity Program, which serves as a national model for reducing disparities in cancer care. And he established Dana-Farber’s Center for Global Cancer Medicine to provide care, education, facilities, and research expertise to the people of Rwanda and Haiti.
Aside from helming Dana-Farber, Benz is presently the Richard and Susan Smith Professor of Medicine, professor of Pediatrics, professor of Genetics, and faculty dean emeritus for Oncology at Harvard Medical School. Prior to assuming the leadership of Dana-Farber in 2000, Benz chaired the Department of Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and was the Sir William Osler Professor of Medicine.
Benz has published prolifically in medical literature and was an associate editor for the New England Journal of Medicine from 2002-2016. He is a past president of the American Society of Hematology and the American Society of Clinical Investigation and the Association of American Cancer Institutes.
Benz’s plans to do more mentoring and education are likely welcome news to his students and colleagues at Harvard Medical School. His mentorship has helped many emerging professionals and find their footing over the years, particularly women, who still struggle to rise through the leadership ranks in medicine, as they do in many other male-dominated fields, often because they lack mentorship. In 2011 Benz received the Margaret L. Kripke Legend Award for Promotion of Women in Cancer Medicine and Cancer Science from the MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas. His influence was clearly felt by Dr. Susan MacDonald, a colleague from his days at John Hopkins, who was among several women who offered testimonials to his mentorship when he received the award.
“I credit Ed with developing my leadership skills and capabilities, which has shaped my career immensely,” said MacDonald. “When Ed Benz left to become president of Dana-Farber, I was given the title of associate chair of the Department of Medicine. No woman in the past 100 years at Johns Hopkins has ever occupied this position.” MacDonald still holds that post.
The Clarion Award for Health Promotion and Education Fellowship is given annually at the SPARK! Awards Gala in conjunction with the SPARK! Leadership Conference. The 2016 SPARK! Awards will take place on Friday, Nov. 4, 2015 from 6-9pm at the Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel in Boston.