image credit: NYSCF

Susan was a woman of enormous talent and strategic vision, who propelled the world of stem cell science by co-founding the New York Stem Cell Foundation in 2005. An attorney and entrepreneur by background, who would have imagined that she could so easily transition to build and lead a major scientific institution whose contributions would result in new therapies and understandings of disease.

Yet, Susan didn’t just envision the potential for stem cells. She envisioned the potential for a world where all the talent would be available to engage in the critically important work of science. In 2014, as CEO of the NYSCF, she convened a group of leaders as the Initiative on Women in Science and Engineering (IWISE) Working Group, that published seven actionable strategies to advance gender equity in STEM. One of these strategies grew out of UK’s successful Athena-Swan program, where national funding is tied to achieving certain gender equity benchmarks. Subsequently, NYSCF put into place an institutional report card for all who applied to the NYSCF for funding. The five year follow-up of this pilot was published in Cell Stem Cell, where data from over 540 institutions, most in the US, demonstrated opportunities for improvement. Susan urged other organizations to follow her lead: collect data and call attention to these data by requiring a report card from the institution that is home to the grant applicant.

We visited Susan at the NYSCF in 2019, and as she looked at neuronal stem cells through the microscope, one readily recognized the power of her commitment to improving health. She agreed to sponsor a meeting with CWAMS to further the cause of gender equity in STEM by tracking and reporting data (July 2020, virtual). We were indeed honored to have been included in her sphere.  On September 8th 2022, she lost her long battle with ovarian cancer. Her contributions to science and its community are undoubtedly immense.