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July 7, 2023 News

Dr. Susan Love, former ECF board member and renowned surgeon and breast health advocate, passes away at 75

The Episcopal Church Foundation community is deeply saddened to share thatDr. Susan Love, renowned surgeon and researcher, passed away at her home in Los Angeles on July 2nd, 2023. Dr. Love served on the ECF Board of Directors from 2014 – 2022.

Please read below, (full article linked here) a part of Susan’s obituary posted by The New York Times:

Dr. Susan Love, Surgeon and Breast Health Advocate, Dies at 75

Dr. Susan Love, a surgeon, author, researcher and activist who was for decades one of the world’s most visible public faces in the war on breast cancer, died on Sunday at her home in Los Angeles. She was 75.

The cause was a recurrence of leukemia, said Allie Cormier, the chief marketing officer at the Dr. Susan Love Foundation for Breast Cancer Research.

Ubiquitous, energetic, forthright (some critics said brash) and at times controversial, Dr. Love, it was generally agreed, helped reshape both the doctor’s role and the patient’s with respect to the treatment of breast cancer, which kills more than 43,000 women in the United States annually.

A former faculty member at the medical schools of Harvard and the University of California, Los Angeles, Dr. Love was a founder of the National Breast Cancer Coalition, an advocacy group, in 1991. At her death, she was chief visionary officer of the Dr. Susan Love Foundation, a nonprofit organization that conducts and finances breast cancer research.

Though Dr. Love retired from active surgical practice in 1996, she remained influential through her writings, her lectures and her many television appearances.

She was known in particular for a book for lay readers, “Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book,” written with Karen Lindsey. Originally published in 1990 and now in its sixth edition, it has sold nearly half a million copies and has long been a de facto bible for breast cancer patients. A seventh edition is scheduled to be published this fall.

Dr. Love — who began her medical career as a general surgeon and had previously planned to be a Roman Catholic nun — realized early on that the fight against breast cancer would entail political as well as medical battles. By temperament and training, she seemed well armed for both.

She did not suffer fools gladly, and her opinions often pushed against the tide of medical orthodoxy. In an era when surgeons were overwhelmingly male and deference by their female patients was still expected, she exhorted women to ask hard questions about their treatment.

She did few things by half measures. After realizing as a young doctor that she was a lesbian, she chose to come out of the closet at a time when being openly gay carried grave professional and personal risks. She felt an obligation to do so, she said, so she could serve as a role model for others.

Her vision for breast cancer was no less expansive. What she ultimately wanted, she often said, was not so much to cure the disease as to vanquish it altogether by isolating its causes and pre-empting them at a cellular level.

As plain-spoken as Dr. Love could be in public, she was known for the immense private tenderness she displayed toward her patients. Many news-media profiles of her recounted her habit of standing alongside a patient just before surgery began, holding her hand and talking softly to her as the anesthesia took effect.

Dr. Love is survived by her wife, Dr. Helen Sperry Cooksey, a surgeon, whom she married in San Francisco in 2004 during the brief period when same-sex marriages were being performed there, before a California ballot proposition made them illegal in 2008. Also surviving is their daughter, Katie Patton-Love Cooksey, whose adoption by her two mothers in 1993 — Dr. Love was the biological mother; both women reared her from birth — was the first granted to a same-sex couple in Massachusetts. In addition, Dr. Love is survived by two sisters, Christine Adcock and Elizabeth Love, and a brother, Michael James Love.

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