Dr. Susan Clark’s most valuable possession, a tattered book with a worn cover and damaged binding, sits innocuously in a packed bookshelf inside her office.
When she first opened the book at age 12, Dr. Clark found the biography of a female doctor from the early 1900s – and crystal clear inspiration to dedicate her life to medicine.
“From there on, my focus was changed,” Dr. Clark says. “I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life.”
Decades later, she has dedicated her life to providing care and education to CHOC Children’s patients and families with pre-diabetes, Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, and a variety of endocrine disorders.
As CHOC’s Medical Director of Endocrinology, Dr. Clark leads a multi-disciplinary team that provides specialized care for more than 1,100 children with diabetes.
The endocrine division also works closely with other CHOC specialists, including oncology, pulmonary and gastrointestinal. Education remains a priority for the division, which runs a Diabetes Education Center. CHOC has the only American Diabetes Association-certified pediatric diabetes program in Orange County.
“I am most proud of the team that we have,” Dr. Clark says. “The quality of a team – and that’s the doctors, nurses, educators and everyone who helps take care of endocrine patients – is what makes a program sustainable.”
Diabetes education and treatment are of particular significance for Dr. Clark: When she was 15, a young friend died of diabetes-related complications after the girl’s family refused insulin therapy.
“That still touches me. Her death was such a complete waste,” Dr. Clark says. “There is no question in my mind that her death started my passion for diabetes work.”
To that end, CHOC’s endocrine division continues to make new progress. Positive data was unveiled at Grand Rounds recently on CHOC’s diabetes prevention program PODER, or Prevention of Obesity and Diabetes through Education and Resources. The program, which provides materials in English and Spanish, showed statistically significant improvement for the first time in the areas of weight loss, behavior change and knowledge.
CHOC is also preparing to begin a second study on the use of a 24-hour glucose sensor. This study is a critical step toward the ultimate development of an artificial pancreas, Dr. Clark said.
Further, a program that would help pediatric type 1 diabetes patients transition into adult care is beginning to materialize thanks to a partnership with Hoag and a grant.
Dr. Clark joined CHOC in 2001, and is also the CHOC Children’s Specialist Chief of the Endocrinology and Diabetes Division. She completed medical school and her residency at Loma Linda University School of Medicine, and her fellowship at University of California, San Francisco.
In her free time, Dr. Clark enjoys ballroom dancing with her husband. After being inspired by a well-choreographed couple at a wedding about four years ago, the pair decided to give dancing a try.
Now hooked, the Clarks take a lesson at least once a week, and sometimes more when a recital nears. The hobby allows the couple to spend time together, learn something new and stay active. Her favorite dance is swing, and the most challenging is salsa.
Dr. Clark also enjoys cross-stitching and traveling. She and her husband have two grown children.
Update: Dr. Susan Clark passed away in June 2017. A nationally-recognized expert in pediatric endocrinology, she was an inspiring advocate for children with diabetes. Dr. Clark was a beloved member of the CHOC family. She will be deeply missed by her colleagues, and her patients and their families.