Susan grew up hearing her grandfather tell stories of his friend in Nicaragua, a newspaper editor named Pedro Joaquín Chamorro who wrote stories denouncing the repressive Somoza regime. Pedro was imprisoned and tortured several times, before he was assassinated by an unknown gunman in 1978. Like her grandfather, Susan became a journalist. She later traveled to Nicaragua to cover the 1990 election, when Pedro’s widow, Violeta, was elected president, bringing with her an age of peace and reconciliation.
But Susan’s relationship with the country and its people was only beginning. In 2006, she was invited to volunteer on a housing project in an impoverished village. While there, she saw the awful conditions at a local hospital and was determined to help, but knew she couldn’t do it alone from California, where she lives with her husband and three children. So, 29 years after Pedro Chamorro was killed, Susan asked his daughter Cristiana to partner with her on a healthcare project. Over the next several years, Susan and a dedicated team raised money, designed, built and opened Clinica Verde, a sustainably designed patient-centered clinic for the poor in Boaco, Nicaragua. In its first two years, the clinic has served more than 28,000 patients. It has extended its reach into community healthcare, cultivated a demonstration farm for hands-on workshops to teach nutrition, and is working to open an in-house laboratory. Earlier this year, Susan was honored by the Dalai Lama as an Unsung Hero of Compassion. She now plans to scale Clinica Verde’s preventative model to underserved communities in the United States, the project she will undertake as a d.school fellow.