Carnegie Mellon Engineering

Lynn Banaszak Receives Athena Award for Professional Excellence and Mentorship

Lynn Banaszak Receives Athena Award for Professional Excellence and Mentorship

Carnegie Mellon University's Lynn M. Banaszak (Brusco) was recently chosen from among 49 nominees — including business leaders, chief executive officers and local officials — to be the 2015 ATHENA Award Recipient. This award, presented by the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, recognizes professional excellence, contributions to the community and mentorship of other women. 

The honor came as a very pleasant surprise to Banaszak, who is the executive director of the Disruptive Health Technology Institute (DHTI). But for Banaszak's peers and nominators, the connection between Banaszak's accomplishments and the award criteria was easy to recognize.

"She (Banaszak) pays it forward and is always quick to help, connect and mentor whenever the opportunity presents itself. She epitomizes the character of ATHENA," wrote one of Banaszak's peers in the ATHENA Award nomination, according to a press release by the Allegheny Conference on Community Development earlier this month.

As a 20-year veteran of the life sciences and biotechnology industry, Banaszak has become an expert at her craft, tackling large-scale problems with a unique blend of strategy and innovation. Banaszak was also recently asked to sit on the Health Innovation in Pennsylvania Steering Committee so that she can apply her knowledge to statewide policies and plans.

At DHTI, Banaszak is using her experience in product and technology development to create affordable, accessible and effective health care solutions. To date, DHTI has committed $4.5M to 34 CMU-led projects which will focus on using transformative technologies to improve outcomes for patients.

What is the secret to her success? As a woman in the sciences, Banaszak says that the secret to becoming a leader in the field is about collaborating and sharing knowledge.

"Life for women today has never been as promising – or as challenging.  A generation of high-achieving young women are embarking on a new technological future for our country and our world. I believe that by sharing knowledge, resources and networks, mentors can prepare young women to meet challenges and create opportunity for themselves and others. We can help them see the possibilities for personal and professional success."

Banaszak has focused much of her time on working with organizations, like Pittsburgh Women in Bio, that promote a larger community among women in sciences. As a founding board member of the Pittsburgh chapter of the national nonprofit, Banaszak is thrilled by the impact of the group.

"It gives younger women who want to have lifelong careers in the sciences a place to develop leadership. They get a network of supporters as well as opportunities to connect to industry," she says. "We wanted to create an organization that could give women vision in biotechnology and health care industries beyond where they may be right now in their careers."

For Banaszak, the ATHENA Award serves as an exciting platform to further discuss the importance of developing the next generation of female leaders in the Pittsburgh region. She was presented with the award in early October at the 25th annual ATHENA Award luncheon held at the Westin Convention Center Hotel in downtown Pittsburgh.

"I was really excited for the opportunity to talk about why it is essential to support women in our region at the very beginning of their careers," says Banaszak. "It was also important to me to be able to represent DHTI and Carnegie Mellon at the podium — there are so many novel technologies being developed here that address really big problems in the world."

As Banaszak continues to build her own career as well as a develop a strong network of women leaders in Pittsburgh, she remains grounded by remembering lessons she learned from the women she says she was fortunate to have as mentors.

"Having industrious grandmothers and a courageous, dedicated and loving mother as my example of wisdom and strength, equipped me with an internal compass that continues to drive how I lead and mentor others," says Banaszak. "They taught me through simple words turned into action. Honesty. Integrity. Humor. Hard work. I have tried to inspire leadership by employing those simple words as my foundation."

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