Upstate Medical University presented 16 awards at its fall convocation Sept. 16. The SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Professional Service was given to Susan Shaw. Below is her biography, as it appears in the convocation program.
By Stephanie DeJoseph
Susan Shaw’s nomination packet was overflowing with praises that described her exceptional service to Upstate Medical University for nearly 40 years. In her various roles, Ms. Shaw has demonstrated a remarkable depth as a clinician and an unparalleled model as a humanitarian.
Her career began at Upstate in 1975 when she joined the staff as a pediatric nurse. After becoming a pediatric nurse practitioner in 1979, she joined the Pediatric Hematology and Oncology clinic. There she found her niche, caring for children with cancer and blood disorders.
As she became involved with the international Children’s Oncology Group, or COG, she gained experience and additional training that benefited her aging patients. She grew to become an expert practitioner for the survivors of pediatric cancer, a unique group of patients. As cancer treatments improved, more children would go on to become long-term survivors who needed after-care monitoring. Ms. Shaw helped create and revise COG’s Guidelines for Follow-Up of Cancer Survivors and was a part of a select group of experts to author “Late Effects of Treatment for Brian Tumors.”
Oftentimes, childhood cancer survivors would search for information on the late effects of cancer treatment after they had outgrown the “pediatric” age group. In 1990, Ms. Shaw went on to create a survivor clinic, the KNOT Clinic (Kids Now Off Therapy). There, patients were comprehensively screened, educated on childhood treatments and shown how to optimize their health and current care. They were also given information on their legal rights and insurance questions.
“She combed through my medical records, researched the long-term side effects and recommended a comprehensive plan. She diagnosed problems that no other doctor had ever noticed and she acted as a ‘traffic cop’ for all of my medical care providers. She served as an outstanding nurse and, moreover, an amazing human being,” said one of Ms. Shaw’s “grown” KNOT patients.
In 2011, Ms. Shaw joined the University Hospital Palliative Care Service. No matter what time of day, how long her consult list is, how many phone calls she has received, “Sue is ALWAYS available to patients, families and medical teams,” said one. She graciously listens to crying patients and families, and saddened medical teams who can offer no more. She delivers a strong sense of compassion, understanding, gentleness, empathy and realism to many broken hearts and spirits. She has an uncanny ability to help those struggling with life-altering illness, reaching them on both an emotional and medical level. She has taken part in countless family meetings that have resulted in great satisfaction. “She has expertise in the field of palliative medicine that exceeds many well-trained physicians and is able to translate this to patient and family needs,” added another.
In addition to her clinical work, Ms. Shaw is a teacher, mentor and lifelong learner. She has lectured locally, nationally and internationally on the late effects of treatment of childhood cancer survivors. At Upstate, she is on the adjunct faculty in the Colleges of Health Professions and Nursing. She has also served as a preceptor at Le Moyne College and Syracuse University College of Nursing.
She has published articles in several prestigious medical journals and maintains active membership in many professional organizations.
Ms. Shaw is active in her church, where she has taught classes for 19 years. She volunteers at Francis House, which provides care for those with terminal illness, and the Amaus Clinic, where she meets the needs the uninsured. For the past five years, she has volunteered at the Refugee Intake Clinic, performing physical exams on newly arriving refugees. If that weren’t enough, she also is a member of the Manlius Bell Ringers, which performs at local nursing homes.
Ms. Shaw received a BS in nursing from Syracuse University in 1975 and a pediatric nurse practitioner certificate from Upstate’s College of Health Professions in 1979. She completed a Master of Science degree in nursing from Syracuse University in 1993. She obtained an adult nurse practitioner certificate from Upstate’s College of Nursing in 2009.
The words of a nominator who worked alongside her for 20 years sums up her accolades: “She was the epitome of professionalism and an uncommon combination of intellect, curiosity, energy, determination, cooperation, compassion, sympathy, empathy and humor. She was much loved by her patients and universally admired by her colleagues in the Center for Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders. It was a joy to work with someone of Sue’s caliber.”