Elizabeth R. “Lissa” McAnarney, M.D., Professor and Chair Emerita of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC), has been named a Distinguished University Professor — the highest title that the university bestows on its faculty.
McAnarney, who served as pediatrician-in-chief at UR Medicine’s Golisano Children’s Hospital from 1993 to 2006, is only the 13th recipient of the title in university’s history, and is the first woman to receive the honor.
“Dr. McAnarney’s contributions to the community, and to pediatric health at large, cannot be overstated,” said Joel Seligman, former president of the University of Rochester. “She has given all of herself to Rochester, and to our children, for the past 50 years, and I can think of no one more deserving of this honor.”
McAnarney earned her medical degree and an honorary degree, D.Sc. from SUNY Upstate Medical University, where she also completed her internship and residency. She came to the University in 1968 and joined the faculty at the University of Rochester Medical Center one year later; in 1972, she became Chief of the Division of Adolescent Medicine, a position she would hold for the next 22 years.
During this time, she changed the way that health care providers cared for pregnant teens and their babies, working tirelessly to improve outcomes for these patients. The lead editor of the Textbook of Adolescent Medicine along with co-editor Richard E. Kreipe, M.D., McAnarney’s advocacy efforts helped make adolescent medicine into a board-certified pediatric subspecialty.
“I think that our Rochester community sees Lissa as one of the most influential leaders in our children’s hospital’s history — and, of course, that perception is entirely accurate,” said Mark Taubman, M.D., CEO of URMC and Dean of the School of Medicine and Dentistry. “But nationally, she is also among the most influential individual in adolescent medicine for the last 50 years. That field would not be what it is today without her influence and advocacy.”
In 1993, she took on the dual role of Pediatrician-in-Chief of the children’s hospital, and Chair of the Department of Pediatrics, making her the sixth Chair in the department’s history and the first woman to serve in the role. During her 13 year tenure, full-time pediatric faculty doubled in size as did national and state grant support.
During this time, she also envisioned something for Rochester that many others did not: a transformed children’s hospital that would rival the best in the nation. This vision, and her leadership during this time, led to a transformative gift of $14 million from B. Thomas Golisano — then the largest gift from a living donor ever received by the University of Rochester.
Golisano would go on to give an additional $20 million for the new, state-of-the-art Golisano Children’s Hospital tower, which opened in 2015.
At the national level, McAnarney served as president of three major academic pediatric societies, including the American Pediatric Society, from which she received the John Howland Award in 2013, the society’s highest honor. She was elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1998 and of the Institute of Medicine (now the National Academy of Medicine) of the National Academy of Sciences in 2000. Locally, she received the Athena Award in 2004.
“I am deeply grateful to have had such remarkable support from the leadership of the University, the medical center, and the Department of Pediatrics to ‘dream dreams’ and to create ideas to improve the health of all children, particularly Rochester’s children over 50 years,” said McAnarney. “The freedom to pursue all aspects of academic pediatrics: patient care, education, and research is a remarkable gift. Additionally, I am very grateful to our patients, their families and to our trainees, faculty, and staff for their contributions to our collective pursuit of optimal health for all children.”