St. Bonaventure University

Alumni News

Noted epidemiologist and Olean native Dr. John Vena to present lectures at St. Bonaventure and JCC

Feb 19, 2020

Olean native and St. Bonaventure University graduate Dr. John E. Vena will speak about his research and experiences as an epidemiologist, educator and mentor during his March 9-19 residency at St. Bonaventure and Jamestown Community College.

Vena, a spring 2020 Lenna Visiting Professor, was nominated for the professorship by the School of Health Professions at St. Bonaventure.

In addition to guest lecturing in classes including public health, health science, chemistry, human development and learning, Vena will present two lectures open to the public.

He will discuss “The Pivotal Legacy of Public Health in Western New York: A Call to Action” at 7 p.m. Monday, March 16, in the Athletics Hall of Fame in St. Bonaventure’s Reilly Center.

Jamestown Community College will host Vena for a March 18 presentation titled “Mysteries & Magic of Epidemiology and Public Health.” The program begins at noon in the Weeks Room, located in the Sheldon Center on the Jamestown campus.

A graduate of Archbishop Walsh High School, Vena is a 1975 graduate of St. Bonaventure and received his Ph.D. in epidemiology from the State University of New York at Buffalo in 1980. He joined the faculty at SUNY-Buffalo in 1981 as an assistant professor in the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine; he was promoted to associate professor in 1987 and full professor in 1994.

While at SUNY-Buffalo, Vena served in several leadership roles, including director of the Research Program in Environmental and Occupational Health, director of the Environment and Society Institute, and associate chair of the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine.

In 2003, Vena joined the University of South Carolina, Norman J. Arnold School of Public Health as professor and chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics. He remained in that role until 2008, when he was recruited to the University of Georgia College of Public Health as UGA Foundation Professor in Public Health, Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Scholar, and head of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics. He also served as program director for Cancer Epidemiology, Prevention and Control at the Georgia Cancer Center.

Vena was appointed professor and founding chair of the Department of Public Health Sciences at the Medical University of South Carolina in 2014.

A fellow of the American College of Epidemiology and the American Epidemiological Society, Vena’s areas of research expertise include cancer epidemiology, community-based research, environmental health, epidemiology, occupational health, and reproductive and developmental health.

He serves as a member of the American Public Health Association, the Society for Epidemiologic Research and the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology. Throughout his career, he has been a major force and leader in providing the formal mechanisms for structured interdisciplinary graduate training programs and junior faculty mentoring.

He has 40 years of experience in environmental epidemiology and graduate training, and from 1985 to 2003 he was part of a team as co-investigator on Nation Institutes of Health grants to pioneer integration of biomarkers in epidemiology analytic studies to look at gene-environment interactions, exposure assessments and the use of Geographic Information Systems in epidemiologic research.

He was the principal investigator from 1990 to 2003 of the New York State Angler Cohort Study, which is investigating the association between past and current consumption of contaminated fish from Lake Ontario and both short- and long-term health effects.

Vena’s current grant activities are on the topics of environmental influences on children’s health, environmental determinants of cancer, chronic kidney disease and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE); physical activity, stroke and cognitive function; stress and cardio-metabolic disease in police; longterm lung health after exposure to chlorine gas; and health effects of persistent organic pollutants.

The Lenna Endowed Visiting Professorship, established in 1990, is funded through gifts from the late Betty S. Lenna Fairbank and Reginald A. Lenna of Jamestown. It is designed to bring scholars of stature in their field to St. Bonaventure University and Jamestown Community College for public lectures.


About the University: The nation’s first Franciscan university, St. Bonaventure University is a community committed to transforming the lives of our students inside and outside the classroom, inspiring in them a lifelong commitment to service and citizenship. In 2019, St. Bonaventure was named the #1 regional university value in New York and #2 in the North by U.S. News and World Report.