Published May 7, 2021
Thomas A. Russo, MD, SUNY Distinguished Professor of medicine, who has been a leader in educating the public about COVID-19, has been awarded the Chancellor Charles P. Norton Medal, UB’s highest honor, as part of the university’s 2021 commencement season.
The Chancellor Charles P. Norton Medal is presented annually in public recognition of a person who has, in Norton’s words, “performed some great thing which is identified with Buffalo … a great civic or political act, a great book, a great work of art, a great scientific achievement or any other thing which, in itself, is truly great and ennobling, and which dignifies the performer and Buffalo in the eyes of the world.”
Russo, chief of the Department of Medicine’s Division of Infectious Diseases in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, received the Norton Medal at the Jacobs School commencement ceremony on April 30.
“I am truly humbled by this unexpected honor,” he said.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Russo has educated and informed the university, health care providers, the public and businesses about how best to manage the evolving crisis.
He described it as a “team effort that includes colleagues from UB and a large number of individuals from the print, radio and TV media workforce.”
“I have tried my best to give the public information that is accurate, and clear and easy to understand, with the goal of keeping everyone as safe as possible,” Russo said.
“A major challenge was keeping abreast of an unprecedented influx of information on all aspects of COVID, which was a daily effort,” he added. “However, this knowledge enabled me to inform the public as accurately as possible — given the dynamic situation — on the gravity of this pandemic without unduly causing panic or fear.”
Russo’s research focus is on pathogenesis, and drug and vaccine development against extraintestinal pathogenic Escherichia coli, Acinetobacter baumannii and a new pathotype of Klebsiella pneumoniae. His work has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Veterans Administration.
Russo teaches medical students in lecture settings and small-group sessions, and teaches clinical patient care to medical students, residents and fellows at the Buffalo VA Medical Center (Buffalo VAMC). In addition, he mentors students, residents and fellows in his laboratory.
As a practicing physician, he cares for hospitalized patients at the Buffalo VAMC.
Among his numerous awards are the SUNY Inventor Award, recognition as one of UB’s Top 100 principal investigators, and the Stockton Kimball Award for consistent academic accomplishment, significant research discoveries and contributions to the progress of UB and the Jacobs School.
Earning his undergraduate degree from Tufts University and his medical degree from McGill University, Russo completed a clinical and research fellowship in internal medicine and infectious diseases at Harvard Medical School and Tufts-New England Medical Center.
He was a senior staff fellow at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease’s Laboratory of Clinical Investigation for five years before joining the UB faculty in 1994.