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URMC / News / Elizabeth McAnarney, M.D., Receives Prestigious Athena Award

Elizabeth McAnarney, M.D., Receives Prestigious Athena Award

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Elizabeth McAnarney, M.D., pediatrician-in-chief at Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong, today received the 18th annual Athena Award from the Women’s Council of the Rochester Business Alliance. The award, presented during a luncheon at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center, was awarded in recognition of McAnarney’s career accomplishments, and her meaningful role in mentoring women.

When McAnarney was named pediatrician-in-chief at Strong Children’s Medical Center in 1993, she foresaw what many others did not – the potential of a transformed children’s hospital that would rival the nation’s best. A decade later, she has fostered a rapid, but thoughtful, expansion of services, staff, and facilities at what is now known as Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong. Each year, more than 8,500 children are cared for on an inpatient basis at Golisano Children’s Hospital. During the past decade, the hospital has become a pediatric powerhouse, providing extensive medical, surgical, and psychosocial services to children from throughout the state. In 2003, U.S. News and World Report ranked Strong’s Department of Pediatrics among the best in the nation.

A graduate of Vassar College, McAnarney earned her medical degree from SUNY Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse in 1966. After an internship and residency in pediatrics there, she began a two-year fellowship at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. McAnarney joined the University of Rochester’s pediatric faculty in 1969 as an instructor, advancing to assistant professor in 1971, associate professor in 1977, and professor in 1985. In 1993, she assumed her dual role as chair of the Department of Pediatrics and as pediatrician-in-chief of the children’s hospital.

During her career, McAnarney helped set a standard to which female doctors aspire. When she graduated from medical school in the 1960s, less than 7 percent of graduates were women. Last year, at the University of Rochester, 49 percent were women. In her current post, McAnarney continues to blaze a trail for female physicians everywhere, especially here in Rochester. She is the sixth chair in the department’s 79-year history, but the first woman. Says Cheryl Kodjo, M.D., who came to Rochester as a fellow in 1999: “My decision definitely was influenced by the fact there was a female chair,” she says.

McAnarney’s volunteer work in the community is invariably tied to medicine, and often relates to the underserved. Between 1972 and 1993, she served as medical director of the Rochester Adolescent Maternity Project, an organization that provides comprehensive medical and psychosocial care for pregnant teenagers. During 22 years as director, McAnarney led research studies showing that health care professionals could positively impact the child’s health and the mother’s psychosocial status by providing timely intervention during pregnancy. 

McAnarney led that initiative until 1993, when she assumed her current leadership role. Quickly, she recognized a major challenge for children’s health care: the fragmentation of the Rochester health care market. She and several colleagues created a report titled: “Maintaining Our Single Network for Pediatric Care in Changing Times.” It urged ensuring that children would continue receiving the highest quality of health care by trained and qualified pediatric providers, in the most effective manner. A priority was guaranteeing that children and their providers had access to the most convenient and appropriate facility, regardless of insurance coverage. This is how the Rochester community cares for its children today. In Rochester, for instance, there is one Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. In similarly sized Richmond, Va., there are four, driving up costs and preventing the best doctors and nurses from practicing together.

McAnarney has shown her commitment to the children of our community in many other ways, too. For example, in 1996, McAnarney encouraged two young pediatricians – Jeff Kaczorowski, M.D., and Laura Jean Shipley, M.D. – to start Pediatric Links with the Community, a first-of-its-kind program that encourages pediatric residents and medical students to spend time in the community getting to know children and their needs first-hand. Many medical students come here and train solely based on the fact that the Pediatric Links with the Community program is available.

The author or co-author of nearly 200 papers, chapters, and communications, McAnarney also serves as chief editor of the “Textbook of Adolescent Medicine.” She places emphasis on research that may one day allow us to prevent children from becoming sick in the first place. McAnarney, who has enjoyed a stellar research career, supports the full spectrum of research, from the laboratory benches to a child’s bedside.

In 2000, McAnarney became one of only a handful of Rochester-area physicians to be named to the prestigious Institute of Medicine. In addition, she has served as the president of the Society for Adolescent Medicine, the Association of Medical School Pediatric Department Chairs, and the American Pediatric Society. She is among 12 women who have led those three national organizations, but McAnarney is the only woman who has been named president of more than one of these organizations.

As part of her strategic plan for Golisano Children’s Hospital, McAnarney pushed for an expanded faculty base and focused on recruiting more pediatric surgical specialists. At her direction, the hospital recruited a pediatric neurosurgeon, pediatric heart surgeon, and pediatric plastic surgeon – among many others - to ensure that the best care is available to children within a reasonable driving distance of their home. During McAnarney’s tenure, the number of full-time faculty has grown from 90 to 115. Many of the physicians she has hired are international experts in their field of expertise, and have important research interests. During the past decade, extramural grant support at Golisano Children’s Hospital has increased from $8 million to $17 million.

In 2000, McAnarney refocused the hospital’s emphasis on community-based events, and heightened the importance of securing major gifts, outlining a five-year, $30 million capital campaign. The efforts led to a $14 million gift by B. Thomas Golisano in 2002, the largest from a living donor received by the University of Rochester. The gift helped jumpstart a series of enhancements. McAnarney lobbied for permission to design and build a new Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, new Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, and Ronald McDonald House, which will be only the third of its kind in the world to be built at a hospital. These improvements come on the heels of the 2001 opening of a new pediatric emergency department, which serves some 25,000 children each year.

Traveling throughout the country, Thomas McInerny, M.D. associate chair of clinical affairs at Golisano Children’s Hospital, often meets pediatricians who express their desire to work in a community such as Rochester. They want to work in an area where those who care for children are on the same page, no matter where they work, nor by whom they are paid. “What we have accomplished during the past decade is the creation of a true children’s hospital - Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong - that serves children from Rochester and the region,” Tom McInerny says. “Dr. McAnarney is deserving of much of the credit for this.”

 The competition for this year’s Athena Award was stiff, with 21 women making it to the final round. Patricia Chiverton, Ed.D., R.N., FNAP, Dean of the School of Nursing at the University of Rochester, was among the nominees.

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