5th Apr 1954 - 15th Feb 2009
AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome): a collection of symptoms and infections resulting from damage to the immune system- the body’s defence against disease. AIDS is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
AMYOTROPHIC LATERAL SCLEROSIS (ALS): Also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, this disease affects the muscles attached to the skeleton. People with ALS are afflicted by muscular weakness and over time, suffer from paralysis, loss of speech, loss of swallowing and respiratory failure, though they can still think and feel. ALS is always fatal.
BIOSTATISTICS: the use of statistical methods to collect, analyse, and interpret biological data. In a public health context, biostatistical studies are used to understand the overall health and wellbeing of the population.
EPIDEMIOLOGY: the study of the causes, distribution, and control of disease in populations
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus): a retrovirus spread between sexual partners, by infected needles, and from pregnant mothers to their unborn children. It breaks down the body’s defences and later causes AIDS. There are various strains of HIV, for example HIV-1, which is more easily transmitted than HIV-2.
PAEDIATRICIAN: a physician who specialises in the medical care of children
A long-time enthusiastic runner, while on sabbatical leave in Atlanta, Susan King took up marathon running at age 47!
Caribbean Icons in STI Volume 2
Professor Susan King lectured at the University of Toronto in the Department of Paediatrics of the Hospital for Sick Children. Her work centred on a combination of patient care, research, and teaching in hospital, university, and community settings. She gained recognition for her research among children that showed that HIV infection was possible through blood transfusion. As a result, the HIV testing of all recipients of blood transfusions was initiated in Canada.
Susan Margaret King was born on 5th April, 1954 in Edinburgh, Scotland where her father, a St. Lucian surgeon, was studying. She recieved her primary and secondary schooling in several Caribbean islands. At the age of 16, she was awarded a St. Lucia Island Scholarship and proceeded to the University of Oxford, England.
After completing bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry at Oxford, she earned a medical degree from McGill University in Canada in 1979. Subsequently, she specialised in paediatrics at the University of Toronto, and became a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada in 1985. She then joined the Hospital for Sick Children and the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Toronto, and completed another master’s degree in epidemiology and biostatistics at Mc Master University in 1989.
She was a founding member, in 1988, of the ID-2 team of the Infectious Diseases Division of the hospital, which introduced more sensitive, holistic care to children with HIV/AIDS. In the era before effective drugs for treating HIV/AIDS, these children would have had little relief from their illness.
In 2000, Dr King was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship and started work at the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, where she researched ways to reduce mother-to-infant transmission of HIV. Three years later, she was appointed Professor of Paediatrics at the University of Toronto and the Hospital for Sick Children.
Professor King was extensively involved in the community aspects of HIV/AIDS care. She was a founding member of the Teresa Group, Canada’s oldest community-based charitable organisation serving children affected by HIV/AIDS and their families.
She participated in many workshops teaching healthcare workers about paediatric HIV and the prevention of its transmission to babies.
Susan King received many awards including the Claus Wirsig Humanitarian Award from the Hospital for Sick Children and the Order of St. Lucia Gold Medal of Merit in 2006. Additionally, the Ontario HIV Treatment Network established a permanent lecture series in her honour.
Professor King withdrew from clinical practice after being diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) in 2002. To her great joy, her colleagues continued the projects she initiated. She passed away on 15th February 2009.
Susan King advised that, “Many girls are intimidated and do not pursue careers in the sciences. If you like science, whether male or female, you can enjoy a career in the sciences. There is a great variety of careers, even within medicine. Some are technical and some require sociability.”