Long-time Oregon Health & Science University faculty member, William E. Connor, M.D., was honored today during the reading of a Senate Resolution at the State Capitol in Salem. The resolution recognized Connor’s many scientific and humanitarian achievements, from his pioneering research in diet and heart disease to his advocacy for social justice issues such as promoting racial equality and alleviating homelessness and poverty.
Connor passed away on October 25, 2009, but he left a legacy as an innovative biomedical scientist, stimulating teacher and compassionate physician.
Connor began his medical career at the University of Iowa College of Medicine. He joined OHSU in 1975 as a professor in the Department of Medicine in the Divisions of Cardiology and Metabolism, where he also served as associate director and then director of the Clinical Research Center. He later became professor in the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Clinical Nutrition.
The author of nearly 400 articles, Connor made a number of links between nutrition and disease that were at the time controversial but which have since been accepted as fact. His research focused on dietary cholesterol, diseases of sterol metabolism, the relationship between lutein and macular degeneration and, most notably, how omega-3 fatty acids may prevent sudden death from heart attacks. In 1974, he discovered a new genetic disease (sistosterolemia) that can clog arteries. Connor also coauthored several popular cookbooks, including The New American Diet with Sonja Connor, his wife and scientific colleague.
Known as endlessly curious, energetic and gentle mannered, Connor worked tirelessly and persistently on social justice issues through his church and other groups. Throughout his life, he passionately advocated for peace, racial equality and policies to help the disadvantaged. Another cause close to his heart was the repeal of the death penalty, which he worked on tirelessly first in Iowa and then in Oregon. A lover of the outdoors, Connor gardened, climbed several mountains, promoted the development of new nature trails, and was well known for riding his bike and practicing yoga daily.
The resolution, which was read today at 11 a.m. in the senate chambers, was sponsored by Senators Shields, Burdick; Senator Rosenbaum and Representative Williamson. Many of Connor’s colleagues and friends joined Sonja and their son’s family to help honor him.