SPHHP faculty receive prestigious SUNY Chancellor's Awards

Chancellor's Award Medal.

Two faculty members from the School of Public Health and Health Professions have been named recipients of the 2024 SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence.

The Chancellor’s Awards acknowledge and provide system-wide recognition for consistently superior professional achievement and the ongoing pursuit of excellence.

Janice Tona PhD, OTR

The Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching


The Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching honors those who consistently demonstrate superb teaching at the undergraduate, graduate or professional level.

Tona has four decades of experience as a registered occupational therapist and three decades of experience in academia. She is regarded for her “remarkable commitment to educate and mentor students through profound times of change and challenge.”

As director of the occupational therapy program, “her implementation of creative solutions during the COVID-19 pandemic preserved the continuity of students’ education and fieldwork, resulting in all class of 2021 occupational therapy students graduating that year.”

Tona is an extremely collaborative educator who has fostered projects that include UB’s Interprofessional Education (IPE) program and micro-credential program. She has also collaborated with the School of Dental Medicine on providing dental care to people with disabilities, which has led to improved training for students in both fields.

These collaborations have resulted in “superior training and increased professional prospects for students after graduation.” During the past five years of her program leadership, 95% of OT students have passed the national exam, and all students have received jobs within nine months of looking.

“While the COVID-19 pandemic posed a significant challenge for fieldwork, Dr. Tona was dedicated to ensuring that students had the tools and experience to graduate as planned.”

Rachael Hageman Blair, PhD

The Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Faculty Service

Hageman Blair.

The Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Faculty Service recognizes “the consistently superior service contributions of teaching faculty” sustained over a period of time. 

Hageman Blair, a member of the UB community since 2011, is “an exemplary scholar and a passionate educator.” An expert in artificial intelligence, bioinformatics and data mining, Hageman Blair serves as co-director of UB’s Institute for Artificial Intelligence and Data Science.

She is a nationally and internationally recognized biostatistician whose “unique skillset in high-demand topics makes her an incredibly sought-after scholar in the field.”

In addition, Hageman Blair is widely regarded for her cross-disciplinary mentorship, guiding students from the Department of Biostatistics, as well as other departments within SPHHP and serves as associate director of education in UB’s Institute for Artificial Intelligence. 

Hageman Blair’s popularity among students is demonstrated by the fact that enrollment for Statistical Data Mining I and II, courses she has taught since 2012, has surpassed 600 students over the past three years — a number considered “unprecedented” in the history of the Department of Biostatistics.

From participating in speaking engagements at high schools across Western New York, to organizing community engagement events for educators on the rapidly changing field of AI, to developing a summer series for interdisciplinary graduate students, Hageman Blair has, in one colleague’s words, created a “pipeline to biostatistics and data science.”