Susan Hansen Pollock
Jan. 17, 1953-April 15, 2023
Palo Alto, California
Susan Hansen Pollock, beloved wife, mother, sister, grandmother and daughter, passed peacefully attended by her family on Saturday April 15 having received superb care at El Camino Hospital, finally succumbing to the cancer which forced her withdrawal from her medical practice in 2014.
Susan was born in Colorado to solar astronomer parents, raised there and in Hawaii, then attended UC Berkeley as an undergraduate, George Washington University for medical school, internship at Dartmouth, with residency and fellowship at Stanford. She loved the practice of medicine, especially her specialty of neurology as she was an inveterate solver of puzzles. She missed her patients terribly upon being forced from practice.
Clinical practice was not her only contribution to medicine. Susan served nine years as a trustee of the California Medical Association, doing her best to influence that organization to advocate for the sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship, that is for physician independence from insurance companies, government and medical groups. She was a class representative in the largest class action to the time, the RICO lawsuit against the ten largest health insurance companies, learning to her regret that class actions usually benefit the defendants and lawyers more than the wronged plaintiffs. Unsurprisingly to those who knew her, she ended up researching, writing and filing with the federal court an objection to a settlement of the suit (the only effect of which was, as she expected, the loss of her class representative fee).
Closer to home Susan was the prime mover in the return of El Camino Hospital to community control after the El Camino District Board gave the Hospital up to a private entity in the early nineties (“de-districted”). Besides helping to organize the objectors, she met with the District Attorney's office resulting in the letter from the District Attorney informing the ECH District Board it had a serious conflict of interest issue to remedy. Upon the District Board responding by resolving to retain counsel on the issue, Susan found and recruited the law firm which was to successfully prosecute what became the District's lawsuit for return of the Hospital. Settlement of the lawsuit returned the Hospital to community (District) control, whereupon she found and recruited the highly experienced hospital administrator, bored with retirement, who became the new El Camino CEO. Today this independent community hospital is one of the finest hospitals in our country, one of Newsweek's “World's Best Hospitals.” Three other California district hospitals de-districted prior to El Camino: all of them ended up sold to a large hospital association.
Susan met her husband Peter in 1976 when she went to the Cal Sailing Club in Berkeley for her first lesson. He made sure to teach her boat. For both it was love at first sight. Her husband was to manage her medical practice and take part in her crusades. Several years of peaceful marriage resulted in the birth of their daughter Anneliese and their son Grant, both of whom became independent and highly accomplished adults. The typical family vacation was a chartered sailboat, usually from San Francisco Bay, for a week or two “dawdling on the Delta” then back. She waged an epic nine year battle with her cancer including continuous chemo and immuno therapy, multiple major surgeries as well as several other surgical and radiological treatments, one of which subjected her to radiation sickness, a horrid experience. Throughout she was optimistic, usually cheerful, and not once asked “why me.” Thanks to the wonderful care of Dr. Shane Dormady and the El Camino Cancer Center, Susan survived several years beyond expectation, allowing her to see her son married to his delightful French-Canadian bride and to become “Nana” to her daughter's two sons, to whom she became a teacher as well as the expected spoiler. Being grandmother was a great joy and comfort to her.
Susan was a force of nature. She treated others with dignity, fought hard for what she believed, and loved deeply. She will be profoundly missed. She is survived by her husband Peter; her son Grant and his wife Freddie; her daughter Anneliese Renck and her husband Richard, and their two sons, Nicolas (age 7) and Dawson (5); her sister Katrinka Hansen; her brother Tom Hansen; and her mother Shirley Hansen. Her father, Richard Hansen, passed away earlier this year.
The family is holding private services. Should the reader wish to share remembrances please send to [email protected] To personally honor her, rather than flowers please consider a contribution to the “Susan R. Hansen, M.D.” fund of the El Camino Health Foundation (http://donate.elcaminohealth.org/SusanHansen).