In a career that spanned more than 35 years, Dr. Martha Bidez helped make the world safer place. After earning multiple engineering degrees from UAB, Bidez led a distinguished career in both the academic and private sectors that established her as one of the nation’s foremost authorities in safety engineering.
“When you read about the history of UAB, you often see the word “pioneer” used to describe its leaders, and that word certainly suits Martha Bidez,” said Iwan Alexander, Ph.D., dean and professor of the School of Engineering. “Her success as an entrepreneur speaks for itself, and the Advanced Safety Engineering and Management program she created will continue to serve as a lasting legacy. Her contributions won’t soon be forgotten.”
|“She was an advocate for those who had no voice, and she encouraged those who needed strength to find their own."
--Donald Burke, Ph.D., ASEM Director
A native of Birmingham, Alabama, Bidez graduated with high honors in biology from Auburn University in 1979 before turning her focus to a career in engineering. She earned a bachelor of science in mechanical engineering from UAB in 1985 and a master’s and Ph.D. in biomedical engineering in 1983 and 1987, respectively. Soon after, she became a senior scientist with the UAB Injury Control Research Center. She was the first woman to be named “Young Engineer of the Year” by the Engineering Council of Birmingham in 1988.
“As her faculty advisor and friend, we enjoyed decades of interactions,” said Jack Lemons, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering as well as in the UAB Schools of Dentistry and Medicine. “It is sad to lose someone who offered so much to her family, her friends, and her profession.”
A small sample of the awards and other recognitions she received is indicative of the mark she leaves on her profession:
- Top 100 women in safety engineering by the American Society of Safety Engineers’ (ASSE) Women in Safety Engineering.
- National Leadership Fellow of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (bestowed on the top 2 percent of the field)
- Appeared on ABC’s 20/20 addressing child auto safety and was featured in the book Women Who Mean Business – Success Stories of Women over Forty.
- Engineering team leader for EDU-CAR, a child road user initiative in Uruguay, funded by the World Bank Global Road Safety Facility and the FIA Foundation.
- Engineering Council of Birmingham Engineer of the Year (2004)
After spending several years in private industry as the founder and CEO of BioHorizons Implant Systems, Inc., Bidez returned to UAB in 2009 to pioneer the School of Engineering’s Advanced Safety Engineering degree program (ASEM). A selective and unique program, the ASEM is geared toward practicing professionals and draws students from all over the globe. For her outstanding contributions to engineering safety education she was named the 2011 Educator of the Year by the International System Safety Society.
She stepped down as director of the ASEM program earlier in 2016, turning over the reins to longtime colleague Donald Burke, Ph.D., who says his own career has been shaped in large part by Bidez’s influence. “I had the honor of being just one of many people Dr. Bidez mentored throughout her career,” says Burke. “As she gained success she always looked behind to give opportunities to others who followed. She also had a great ability to inspire those around her to find their voice and bring about change for the good in this world.”
With more than three decades working in Alabama as an engineer, scientist, administrator, educator, and safety professional, she is among a select group of engineers whose influence extends throughout a range of industrial and engineering activities. From transportation, to oil and gas, mining and manufacturing industries, Bidez’s work in safety research and education has had significant impact. Her entrepreneurial skills were always well-matched with her scientific insights and engineering discipline, and this has enabled her to impact areas diverse as medical device manufacture and industrial safety and safety engineering education
“She always thought big, and because of that she had to be innovative; she was always taking steps no one else had even thought about taking,” says Linda Lucas, Ph.D., UAB provost and a former longtime dean and professor in the School of Engineering. “Through the years, she was coming up with new ideas and finding ways to implement them—not just in her professional career, but in other areas where she volunteered her time. Her professional accomplishments are just a small part of what she contributed to the community.”
“She was an advocate for those who had no voice, and she encouraged those who needed strength to find their own,” adds Burke. “When she needed inspiration, she often turned to the following quote by Susan B. Anthony: ‘Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputation and social standing, never can bring about a reform. Those who are really in earnest must be willing to be anything or nothing in the world's estimation, and publicly and privately, in season and out, avow their sympathy with despised and persecuted ideas and their advocates, and bear the consequences...’ Dr. Bidez lived by these words and I know our lives and many more who will never know her are all the better for it."