Susan S. Spencer, MD

Susan S. Spencer, MD

Memorials from:

Dean Robert J Alpern and Colleagues at Yale University School of Medicine

Cesare T. Lombroso, M.D. Ph.D., Children's Hospital,Boston,MA
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With profound shock and sadness we report the sudden death of Susan S. Spencer, M.D., Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery at Yale School of Medicine, on Thursday, May 21, 2009, in Salt Lake City, Utah, from complications of an acute intestinal illness.

M.D., Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery at Yale School of Medicine, on Thursday, May 21, 2009, in Salt Lake City, Utah, from complications of an acute intestinal illness.

Dr. Spencer was an internationally recognized expert in epilepsy and epilepsy surgery. She was the co-director of the Yale Epilepsy Program with her husband, Dennis Spencer, M.D., Chair of Neurosurgery. She was a pioneering woman in medicine, fighting for and forging a pathway for other brilliant female scientists of the next generation.

Dr. Spencer was born in 1948 in Budapest, Hungary, and grew up in Yonkers, NY. She came to Yale as a resident in neurology in 1975 following a distinguished undergraduate and medical school education at the University of Rochester. She was immediately recognized as an outstanding resident and continued on in fellowship before joining the Yale faculty in 1980. She soon wrote major papers in epilepsy surgery and eventually authored more than 200 original manuscripts and chapters on the subject. Her research earned continuous National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant support almost from the beginning, and she was the principal investigator on several Program Projects. Her contributions were recognized by the American Epilepsy Society (AES) Clinical Research Award in 2003, the most prestigious honor paid to a member in the field.

As a leader in her field, Dr. Spencer served as the president of the AES in 2000 and vice-president of the American Neurological Society (ANA) in 2001. She served on the executive boards of both the ANA and the American Academy of Neurology. She also co-founded and co-edited the AES's only journal, "Epilepsy Currents" from 2001 to 2009.

As an educator, Dr. Spencer served on the Yale School of Medicine Admissions Committee for almost a decade and was thesis advisor for numerous Yale medical students, many of whose theses went on to become important publications. She directed an epilepsy fellowship program that graduated dozens of experts who have gone on to major leadership positions in the field.

While highly active in research and teaching, Dr. Spencer was an outstanding and indefatigable clinician. She cared for thousands of patients, who traveled from all over the world to entrust their health to her.

Dr. Spencer was also an accomplished musician whose love for music and art permeated her life and her family's. She mastered the oboe and piano when young and more recently took up the harp.

Dr. Spencer was selfless, tireless, brilliant, passionate, and so loved by her family, friends, patients, and colleagues. She will be dearly missed and in our hearts every second of every day. She is predeceased by her beloved Father, Bernard Schneider, of Yonkers, NY. She is survived by her loving family: her Mother Magda Schneider of Yonkers, NY; her husband Dennis Spencer of Woodbridge, CT; her daughters Joanna Spencer of Manhattan and Andrea Spencer of Cambridge, MA; her stepdaughter Kate Spencer of Burbank, CA; her stepson Christopher Spencer of Haverford, PA; her sisters Beth Weingarth of Woodbridge, CT and Karen Kimball of North Haven, CT.

Memorial contributions can be made to the American Epilepsy Society for the Susan Spencer Fund for Clinical Research and Education (to the AES at 342 North Main St., West Hartford, CT 06117, or by credit card online at www.aesnet.org).

From Dean Robert J Alpern at
Yale University School of Medicine regarding the recent sudden death
of Dr. Susan S Spencer.

To the School of Medicine Community,

It is with enormous sadness that I relate the news that Dr. Susan S. Spencer died suddenly on Thursday (May 21). This is devastating news for Susan's family, friends, colleagues, and patients, and for all of us in the Yale community. As many of you know, Susan was a professor of neurology and neurosurgery and co-director of the Yale Epilepsy Program with her husband, Dr. Dennis Spencer, chair of the Department of Neurosurgery. Susan Spencer was a world-renowned expert in the treatment of epilepsy and was widely regarded for her major contributions to research in the field. She was a past president of the American Epilepsy Society (AES) and the recipient of numerous awards, including the highly prestigious AES Clinical Research Award.
Susan was well known to many in our community, having been at Yale since 1975 when she came to New Haven as a resident in neurology.
The suddenness of her death, in a person as vital and well-loved as Susan was, has left us reeling and searching for answers. Please join me in supporting Dennis, her colleagues, and all who were close to Susan in the difficult days ahead. I will forward any information about memorial services as it becomes available.

The following remembrance was prepared by her colleagues and speaks to her unique gifts and the legacy she leaves behind.

Sincerely,
Dean Robert J. Alpern, M.D.
Ensign Professor of Medicine

 

In Memoriam: Susan S. Spencer, M.D.

With profound shock and sadness we report the sudden death of Susan S. Spencer, M.D. professor of neurology and neurosurgery, on Thursday, May 21, 2009.

Dr. Spencer was an internationally recognized expert in epilepsy and particularly epilepsy surgery. She was the co-director of the Yale Epilepsy Program with her husband, Dennis Spencer, M.D., chair of Neurosurgery.

Dr. Spencer came to Yale as a resident in neurology in 1975 following a distinguished undergraduate and medical school education at the University of Rochester. She was immediately recognized as an outstanding resident and continued on in fellowship before joining the faculty in 1980. She soon wrote major papers in epilepsy surgery and had been at the forefront of the field since that time, having published more than 200 original manuscripts and chapters on this subject. Her research earned continuous NIH grant support almost from the beginning, and she was the principal investigator on several Program Projects. Her contributions were recognized by the American Epilepsy Society (AES) Clinical Research Award in 2003, the most prestigious honor paid to a member in the field.

Her contributions and leadership were also recognized by election as the president of the AES in 2000 and vice-president of the American Neurological Society (ANA) in 2001. She served on the executive boards of both the ANA and the American Academy of Neurology.

At Yale she led the epilepsy program through a period of substantial growth. She served on the Admissions Committee for almost a decade and was thesis advisor for numerous Yale medical students, many of whose theses went on to become important publications. She directed an epilepsy fellowship program that graduated dozens of experts, many of whom have gone on to major leadership positions in the field.

While highly active in research and teaching, Dr. Spencer was an outstanding and indefatigable clinician. She cared for more patients than the entire remainder of the epilepsy staff and saw her devoted patients until late in the evening.

Finally, she was a colleague, beloved wife, and mother of two wonderful daughters, both of whom are pursuing careers in medicine.

Her loss is immeasurable. Her years at Yale are a wonderful gift.

 

IN MEMORIAM : FRIEND AND COLLEAGUE SUSAN S. SPENCER
From: Cesare T. Lombroso, M.D. Ph.D.

On the 20th I was admitted to Beth Israel Hospital undergoing some tests. I was without my lap-top and 2 days later a nurse came in saying my wife Rysia was on the phone.... I did not believe her, it could not be possible what she told me...!she must have misunderstood what our son Paul just two hours before had told her..: 'that Susan Spencer had suddenly died..' I kept telling it was not possible...and I asked to call Paul back while I was taken to the CAT Scan lab.

When I got wheeled back into my room I found that our friend David had brought copies of e-mails, arrived on the 22nd, from Robert Alpern, Dean of Yale's Medical School...from Steve Schachter and from Paul Lombroso, professor at Yale's Child Study Center....My God ! it was the stunning truth that on the 21st she had died suddenly while traveling with Dennis.. And then on the 23rd came from Sue the Susan Spencer's Obituary Message to all members of the AES...Board

While awaiting my discharge I still had difficulty to absorb the incredibly sad truth that such an outstanding woman – in the middle of her life- could have been robbed from the love of husband, daughters, and from the esteem, affection of colleagues, friends, pupils and patients.

No doubt others will describe her outstanding career ,indefatigable in both research and clinical activities, recognized by many awards, testimony of Susan Spencer being in the forefront of several aspects of the Epilepsies and Related Disorders.

Here I just wish to reminisce only about a few personal anecdotes. The first that came to mind is the recent conversation we had in Seattle, at the AES Meeting in December. Briefly, I told how I personally regretted her not being any longer an Editor of Epilepsy Currents, a Journal that I considered being such a valuable exercise in selecting recent papers and have them evaluated by proper experts in their fields. I then asked about the background for her ...leaving the Editorship.. Her reply was a smile, obviously a way not to indulge in talking about how that had been decided.

Another memory is her warm hospitality when –some years ago – my wife and I were invited at Yale to be present when our son had been elected to a University Professorship as announced by Dennis Spencer, then Dean of the Medical School.

Cesare T. Lombroso, M.D. Ph.D.
Senior Neurologist ,Children's Hospital,Boston,MA

Professor of Neurology, Emeritus
Harvard Medical School
Chief of the Seizure Unit, Emeritus
Director of the Division of Neurophysiology,Emeritus
Children's Hospital , Boston MA.
Hospital, Boston, MA
Adjunct Professor of Neurology
Department of Neurology
Rochester University,
Rochester, NY