History of wjbgai
The organization was founded by Dr. Walter E. Boek in the mid 1960’s to provide research, training, and to carry out studies in the social sciences. This focus evolved into the goal of creating an interdisciplinary stand-alone graduate school. Dr. Jean K. Boek, his wife, joined his efforts in the early 1970’s. Through the years they taught students in a broad range of professions and from many walks of life, earning their loyalty and deep appreciation.
Walter and Jean Boek enjoyed distinguished careers in public health for many years, Water serving as director of public health research for the State of New York under four governors. Jean designed and implemented individual research studies. Some credit Walter as a founder of medical anthropology. Their work focused on deliverance of health care and improved nutrition to rural populations, determining causes of juvenile delinquency, alcohol and drug addiction in urban communities, facilitation of communication among physicians, improvement of cardiovascular health, quality of life and longevity, and public safety.
Walter and Jean Boek co-wrote the seminal book, Society and Health. They taught at several colleges and universities as professors and visiting lecturers. Jean helped found the Society for the Study of Aging in Albany, New York, held a weekly radio show on nutrition, and taught nutrition courses for nurses. Jean designed and ran the first studies that established that seat belts prevent deaths, and that cigarette smoking causes heart disease.
In 2013 Sandra Boek Werness was hired by the Board of Directors to the leadership position, following the death of her father in 2012. To her and the Board, it appeared that a new direction for the organization was in order, as it was determined that operation of a school was infeasible. Fortunately, existing assets could be marshaled to accomplish significant good. They wished to honor and further the Boeks’ deep commitment to public health and education. They recognized a tremendous need for better diagnosis and treatment of autoimmune disease and associated disorders. They thus decided to devote the organization to research, education and awareness in autoimmune disease, neurological disorders, and cancer.
Current board of directors
Sandra Boek Werness, President and CEO
Marlene Bekey, Member
Alfreda Jones, M.D., Treasurer
Susan Gerber, Secretary
About Sandra Boek Werness
Sandy is a caring, loving and passionate advocate for patients and families living with chronic autoimmune diseases. She is raising awareness to unite the autoimmune disease community and to find a cure. She is working to pinpoint the most critical cutting edge scientific research to further our knowledge of how autoimmunity develops and functions; to explore the frequency of co-existences of distinct autoimmune diseases and neurological disorders; and to help develop a comprehensive understanding of their symptoms. She has been involved in educational programming centering on celiac disease, its accompanying autoimmune diseases and neurological disorders; as well as improving its diagnosis and treatment and determining the prevalence and incidence in subsets of the population.
Sandy's first child with celiac disease was undiagnosed for 7 1/2 years and continued to be ill with a range of symptoms after her diagnosis. Finally at age 18, she was diagnosed with thyroid disease and POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome), an autoimmune disease of the circulatory system.