Faculty Spotlight

Jean Wactawski-Wende

Jean Wactawski-Wende, PhD, is an epidemiologist with an extensive list of significant research achievements and academic accolades.

In addition to serving as professor in Epidemiology and Environmental Health, Wactawski-Wende is dean in the School of Public Health and Health Professions. 

Wactawski-Wende is the principal investigator of UB’s Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) Center, and current lead of the Northeast Regional center of the WHI. The WHI, a now 20-year-old study, was launched by the National Institutes of Health to address three common causes of death—cardiovascular disease, cancer and osteoporosis— in postmenopausal women.

“It has opened up a tremendous amount of opportunity for research,” said Wactawski-Wende, who has been specializing in research that affects women’s health for more than 25 years. “The breadth of what we are able to study is really quite wide.”

The initial WHI study began in 1993 and involved more than 162,000 women nationally, about 4,000 from Western New York. UB plays a significant role in the continuation of the project through its standing as one of four regional WHI centers around the country. Buffalo manages the data collection and scientific coordination among nine WHI affiliated research institutions in the mid-Atlantic region and the Northeast.

To date, WHI data has resulted in the publication of more than 700 papers, with more than 1,000 additional papers in progress. Much of that work involves researchers within numerous units at UB, including the School of Public Health and Health Professions.

UB’s advancement of the WHI has brought positive attention to the university and its commitment to research, while enabling students and younger faculty to work on a major study, said Wactawski-Wende.

“WHI is one of the largest and longest research studies ever conducted at this institution. It’s generated more than $30 million, directly or indirectly. It has brought a positive national spotlight on our university. The research to come out of this has been, in some cases, landmark studies and some of the most cited research on women’s health,” she added.

In addition to the WHI, Wactawski-Wende has been the principal investigator on dozens of studies including research on cancer, osteoporosis and periodontal disease in postmenopausal women. She has led several large scale clinical prevention trials in women. She is also actively involved in the activities of the new clinical and translational research center located on the downtown campus.

Recognized as one of the top researchers at UB, she was honored as the inaugural recipient of the Researcher of the Year award in the School of Public Health and Health Professions in 2005.