Edward J. Benz Jr., MD, President and CEO Emeritus of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Richard and Susan Smith Distinguished Professor at Harvard Medical School, has received the 2020 ASH Award for Leadership in Promoting Diversity.
The Award honors hematologists who have supported the development of an inclusive hematology workforce, encouraged the career development of underrepresented minority trainees, or made a commitment to inclusiveness through contributions in support of ASH’s mission.
An internationally recognized hematologist and physician scientist, Benz has devoted himself to improving workforce diversity in academic medicine and health care. Over the course of his career, he personally trained more than 50 scientists in his own laboratory, a significant proportion of whom were women.
“We are rapidly becoming a pluralistic minority-majority society, all of whose members are susceptible to the broad array of conditions that we as hematologists attempt to decipher, diagnose, and treat. As in all areas of medicine, hematologists need to represent that diversity within our ranks if we are to understand and address the needs and challenges of the patients for whom we provide care… If we do not diversify our ‘person-force’ we will fail to tap into all of the pools of talent needed to make the best use of the tremendous opportunities to apply science to meaningful and equitably shared progress against hematologic illnesses,” Benz commented.
Benz successfully established a culture at Dana-Farber that focused on supporting junior faculty, with specific attention to increasing the number of women and underrepresented minority faculty members. While serving as Director of the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center, he launched a trans-institutional Initiative to Eliminate Cancer Disparities, designed to coordinate cancer disparities research, enhance minority medical student training, and promote development of a diverse faculty throughout the Harvard cancer enterprise.
Benz also spearheaded a novel partnership with the University of Massachusetts Boston, the area’s largest academic institution that primarily serves minority populations, to develop a more diverse workforce, built upon community partnerships to encourage students from underrepresented backgrounds to pursue careers in health and science. Additionally, he established the first Dana-Farber clinic in a community health center for minority patients.
Benz is currently the principal investigator of a National Institutes of Health R25 grant devoted to promoting minority careers in STEM fields.
The award will be presented during the 62nd ASH Annual Meeting, December 5-8, 2020.