All in the family
For third-generation Stritch School of Medicine alum Dr. Susan Scanlon, providing exceptional health care is a family tradition
By Alexandra Jonker
“I want you to reach outside of your community.” Those are the words Susan Scanlon (JFRC ’84-’85, MD ’91) remembers hearing as a student at the Stritch School of Medicine from her father, Patrick Scanlon (MD ’62), who was then chief of cardiology at Loyola University Medical Center. “Do something more,” he said. “Try to reach beyond something that you think is possible. That’s what I want you to do.”
Scanlon, today a leading Chicago-area OBGYN, grew up in and around the Loyola medical community. Her grandfather, Edward W. McNamara (MD ’37), graduated from Loyola Medical School one year before it was renamed the Stritch School of Medicine, making her a third-generation Stritch alum. Her uncle, Jack Scanlon (MD ’65), and cousin, Matt Scanlon (MD ’92), are also Stritch graduates—but it was her father’s influence that had the most impact on Scanlon’s career.
She would often join her father as he worked in the cardiology catheterization lab in Maywood, and she credits the experience as being a significant part of her decision to attend Stritch after completing her undergraduate education at Boston College. “I loved the experience and I loved the people at the medical center,” Scanlon says. “It was such an exciting place to be, with world class researchers on staff and cutting edge technologies being developed.”
While her father was working as a physician at Loyola University Medical Center, Scanlon and her sister joined him on a medical mission to St. Jude Hospital in St. Lucia. Even as a college student, Scanlon says the trip made a profound impact on her career goals. “We were exposed to the world around us and saw medical care being practiced in a completely different way than what happens here in America,” she says. “It was a big part of why I chose to become a physician and gave me a foundation for what I wanted to do in life.”
Aware of the enormous impact such missions can have on young people, Scanlon decided to take her own family—her college-age son and two high school-age daughters—on a medical mission to Ecuador this past summer. “It was a fantastic experience for me as a physician,” she says. “But it was also a chance to expose my children to the world of medicine and how fortunate we are to have access to excellent medical care in our country, like at Loyola, and why it’s so important to give back to those who have less than us.”
Closer to home, Scanlon has just finished her most recent project, The Gyne’s Guide for College Women: How to Have a Healthy, Safe, and Happy Four Years, a how-to book for young women on handling the health and social issues they may encounter in college. The work is accompanied by a series of hands-on workshops in the Chicago area that build on the book’s message.
“I have two daughters in high school that will be going to college in the next few years, and I was unable to find a book with smart strategies for handling health and safety issues that young women face away from home,” Scanlon says. “This is my 20th year in private practice. I’ve taken care of thousands of girls, and I know that they need more information before they go to college.”
Reaching beyond one’s self—a philosophy her father instilled in her as a med student and one that has been exemplified by Scanlon’s own career—was the inspiration for the Patrick J. Scanlon, MD, Cardiovascular Research Fund. The fund supports research at Loyola's Cardiovascular Research Institute, mainly focusing on physiology, pathology, and pharmacology issues.
“My father felt that research was an important part of not only being a physician but also for the academic center as a whole,” Scanlon says. “He always encouraged his team of Loyola physicians to conduct cutting-edge research, advance medical knowledge, and seek out cures for the benefit of their patients.”
The family hopes that, as a University, Loyola will continue to grow its research in the field of cardiology and cardiovascular disease. “I love Loyola, it’s a great place,” Scanlon says. “And I think that it really fosters my father’s way of thinking—to provide excellent medical care to patients and then reach beyond to make a difference in the world.”