President Names First Warren Professors

in Featured
May 18th, 2009

President Robert A. Brown has appointed two faculty members as the first William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professors at Boston University: George Annas, the Edward R. Utley Professor of Health Law, Bioethics, and Human Rights and chair of the School of Public Health department of health law, bioethics and human rights, and James Collins, a College of Engineering professor of biomedical engineering.

warren professor

“The exceptional contributions of George Annas and Jim Collins certainly fit the high standards envisioned when we created the Warren Professorships,” says Brown.

The recipients of the professorships, named after the University’s first president, were announced Saturday in an e-mail Brown sent to faculty. The professorships were established last year on the recommendation of an ad hoc committee of the Faculty Council as a way of recognizing the University’s most distinguished faculty.  In a letter to the faculty last year, Brown said the award is intended to be the highest honor bestowed upon senior faculty members who will continue to be involved in research, scholarship, and teaching, as well as the University’s civic life. After a call for nominations last fall, a faculty advisory committee reviewed several candidates and delivered recommendations to Brown, who made the final selections.

Annas, who is also a professor in the School of Medicine and the School of Law, said the award “should be seen as an honor to my colleagues in the department of health law, bioethics and human rights, as much as to me.”

“It is my privilege to work with the incredibly talented faculty on both campuses of Boston University,” says Annas. “I have had consistent support for my not always uncontroversial research and advocacy in health law bioethics and human rights.”

Annas earned a J.D. from Harvard Law School and an M.P.H. from Harvard School of Public Health, where he was a Joseph P. Kennedy Fellow in Medical Ethics. After graduating from law school, he clerked for Justice John V. Spalding of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, and came to Boston University in 1972 as the director of LAW’s Center for Law and Health Sciences.

Annas is the author or editor of 16 books on health law and bioethics and is an expert on patient rights. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, cochair of the American Bar Association’s Committee on Health Rights and Bioethics, and a member of the Committee on Human Rights of the National Academies. He is the cofounder of Global Lawyers and Physicians, a transnational professional association of lawyers and physicians working together to promote human rights and health. He has held a variety of government regulatory posts.

Collins is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, a position he holds concurrently with his BU appointment. He also is cofounder and codirector of the University’s Center for BioDynamics. A Rhodes scholar, he holds a Ph.D. in medical engineering from Oxford and has been a member of the College of Engineering biomedical engineering faculty since 1990. He has been recognized as the ENG Biomedical Engineering Teacher of the Year and the Professor of the Year. In 2000, he won the Metcalf Cup and Prize for Excellence in Teaching. He is a 2003 recipient of a MacArthur Fellows Program award.

“I am delighted and very appreciative to be selected as one of the first Warren Professors,” says Collins. “I would like to thank Bob Brown and the selection committee for this marvelous honor. My academic career has benefited tremendously from Boston University’s support and celebration of high-risk interdisciplinary work. I look forward to continuing such work and teaching BU students for many years to come.”

Last week, Collins also was named as the recipient of Drexel University’s inaugural Anthony J. Drexel Exceptional Achievement Award, which comes with a $100,000 prize and recognizes “a member of a U.S. institution whose work transforms both research and the society it serves.” Collins has pioneered the application of nonlinear dynamics to biological systems and the developing field of synthetic biology. His research has led to the development of novel bioengineering devices and techniques, while making innovative contributions at multiple biological scales. He has 130 archival publications, and has 10 issued patents and 15 pending patents. He has been named a Fellow of the Institute of Physics, a Fellow of the American Physical Society, and a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. He won the NIH Director’s Pioneer Award, the Ellison Medical Foundation Senior Scholar Award, and the Scientific American 50 Award, given to 50 outstanding leaders in research, industry, and politics.

This story appeared in BU Today and was written by Art Jahnke.