Huntington Medical Research Institutes (HMRI), a world-class Pasadena-based biomedical research organization, has elected Susan Kane, Ph.D., chair of its board of directors. Dr. Kane, who joined HMRI’s board in 2015 and most recently served as vice chair, succeeds James Gamb. Both are long-time Pasadena residents.
“Thanks to Jim Gamb’s wise guidance and transformative vision, our leadership team has laid out a strategic course to solidify HMRI’s position as a leading independent biomedical research institute,” said HMRI President and CEO Julia E. Bradsher, Ph.D., M.B.A. “Jim is an ardent champion of the cause to improve lives through scientific research, and we are deeply grateful for his countless contributions to HMRI.
“We are fortunate to have such a seamless leadership transition to someone as capable and accomplished as Dr. Susan Kane – the first woman chair in HMRI’s 70-year history,” Dr. Bradsher continued. “In addition to her exemplary service on HMRI’s board of directors for the past seven years, Susan’s extensive experience in biomedical research and education combined with her passion for everything HMRI does and stands for ideally suits her to lead us into the next exciting phase of our growth and impact.”
With an early love for science inspired by her 7th– and 9th-grade biology teacher, Dr. Kane headed to Stanford University thinking more about becoming a science writer than a biologist. However, after graduating Phi Beta Kappa from Stanford with a Bachelor of Science in biology, earning a Ph.D. in biology from Johns Hopkins University and completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), her career path in biomedical research and education was set.
Dr. Kane spent most of her professional career at City of Hope (COH) National Medical Center in Duarte, California where she held several academic positions. She went on to become the first woman chair of a COH research department; architect and founding director of COH’s Training Program in Breast Cancer Research; associate director of research; and senior vice president of graduate and professional studies where she oversaw all COH educational and training components. In the years leading up to her 2017 retirement, Dr. Kane held positions as professor, associate chair and professor emerita in the COH Beckman Research Institute’s cancer biology department.
“When I joined HMRI’s board in 2015, the organization was in transition,” Dr. Kane said. “Even though it had been around 60-plus years and had long been a respected leader in several areas – medical imaging, for example – HMRI really hadn’t made its mark. I felt it had so much untapped potential – and that it could become a world-class, independent research institute.
“Since taking HMRI’s helm in 2018, Dr. Bradsher’s vision, leadership, energy and knowledge about how to run an organization like this clearly have put HMRI on a path toward greatness,” Dr. Kane added. “We’ve become a much more professionalized organization. We now have a strong infrastructure for supporting research which has allowed us to hire some outstanding scientists. We also have a more cohesive focus for research: heart, brain and the connection between them. This progress has led to an increase in the number and quality of government and foundation grants to HMRI.
“We’re currently undergoing a new three-year strategic planning process aimed at continuing this trajectory,” Dr. Kane said, elaborating that key aspects of the plan include facilities and land development to ensure the highest and best use of HMRI’s campus; cultivating the next generation of scientists by growing HMRI’s postdoctoral fellowship programs, its Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program and its High School STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) program; and ongoing, meaningful community engagement.
“I’m honored and gratified that my fellow board members have given me this opportunity,” Dr. Kane said. “Few women were on HMRI’s board when I joined. We recognized the importance of bringing different perspectives to the table and felt it was important to diversify the board membership. We’ve come a long way in that regard.”
Proud and involved members of the Pasadena community, Dr. Kane and her husband, Jon Fuhrman, have long supported many schools and nonprofits in the area. As part of her community work, Dr. Kane helps organize a day of hands-on science for middle school girls held annually in Pasadena. She currently serves on Pasadena’s Outward Bound Adventures board and Pasadena Bio’s advisory council, and she is active in the Pasadena branches of the American Association of University Women and the National Women’s Political Caucus. Previously, she served on the Pasadena Unified School District board of education and was a member and president of the board of Young & Healthy as well as The Patron Saints Foundation.
“We confidently anticipate great things to come under Susan’s able leadership as HMRI continues building on the firm foundation that has been laid,” Dr. Bradsher said. “We urge everyone who shares our vision and passion to understand, prevent and cure human disease – and improve millions of lives – through biomedical research to visit our website, www.HMRI.org, to learn more about HMRI and the many ways they can support our work.”