Bonita Stanton, M.D.

The Hackensack Meridian Health family has lost a beloved leader, and we have lost a true friend, as Bonita F. Stanton, MD, the founding dean of the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine and president, Academic Enterprise, Hackensack Meridian Health, passed away January 19, 2022.

It is impossible to overstate her role in bettering, and saving, countless lives over the course of her career as a pediatrician and visionary in medical education. Leaders of positive change, those who really move the world to a better place it would not otherwise reach, are few and far between. Dean Stanton was such a person – a figure whose legacy extends from the impoverished parts of the developing world to the most prestigious halls of academia, including the medical school she helped create in a totally new mold, amid the promise of a better 21st-century future: the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine.

She earned her Bachelor of Arts at Wellesley College and her M.D. at the Yale University School of Medicine (YSOM), performing her residency at the University Hospitals of Cleveland and YSOM. She served on the faculty of University of Maryland, West Virginia University, and Wayne State University (Detroit, Michigan).

To say that Bonnie led a remarkable life and accomplished more than most of us can expect to is an understatement. The following is an incomplete list of her achievements. She made major research contributions toward global HIV prevention and was continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as a Principal Investigator for the 25 years from 1991 to 2016. She authored more than 350 peer-reviewed manuscripts and served as an editor of several textbooks, including the Nelson 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. With fellow female faculty members, she established the still-thriving Phyllis Bodel Infant and Child Care Center at the Yale School of Medicine. She served on the American Board of Pediatrics Global Task Force and Planning Committee and the Macy Conference on Pediatric Professional Education. She served as president of the Association of Medical School Pediatric Department Chairs, and chaired the Women in Pediatrics Federation of Pediatric Organizations Task Force on Women in Pediatrics.

In her own words, however, the five years early in her career working for the World Bank in Dhaka, Bangladesh – saving an untold number of lives through the prevention and treatment of diarrheal diseases –  “is fundamental to our vision for the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine, and has driven my whole career since that point.”

We were delighted that she joined our family in February 2016 as the Founding Dean of the medical school. No one other than she, in six short years, could have inspired the school’s Vision and Mission, assembled such 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 2018 Cohort, and proudly sent 18 of its members to graduate this past June to enter residencies across our health network.

The Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine, Hackensack Meridian Health, and all of us who knew her and worked closely with her will continue to work toward implementing the totality of her vision and mission, both honoring her memory and striving to eliminate the disparities of health outcomes “in New Jersey, and in the United States, regardless of race or socioeconomic status.”

Bonnie Stanton was dearly loved by those at every place she made a difference, most recently here at her home at our medical school. We can never replace her, but we can work toward the considerable lofty goals she set. She already put us on the path to fulfilling a remarkable dream.

Funeral arrangements will be private.  At the request of Bonnie’s family, a memorial service will be held at the School of Medicine in the future.  In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be made to the Bonita F. Stanton, MD Scholarship Fund.

Our Vice Dean, Dr. Jeffrey Boscamp, will now assume acting Dean responsibilities.

We will not fall short of Dean Stanton’s considerable expectations for what good people committed to good works can do, with effort and compassion.

Bob Garrett
CEO, Hackensack Meridian Health

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