Susan Eastwood, a peerless editor, writer, educator, consultant, and mentor, died in her sleep from complications of pulmonary disease on February 6, 2010. She was a visionary leader of efforts to improve biomedical research through clarity of expression and adherence to high ethical standards.
Susan possessed the keenest of intellects, phenomenal editorial concentration, and a rare gift for collaboration and mentorship. Through her gentle leadership and her tireless efforts in the Council of Science Editors, the American Medical Writers Association, the Board of Editors in the Life Sciences, and many other organizations, she had a profound influence on her profession.
As an editor, she sought to contribute to the life sciences by editing reports of scientific findings to achieve maximal clarity, accuracy, and completeness and by assisting scientists in preparing effective grant proposals. She also sought to assist young biomedical authors and those whose native language is not English in developing their research reports, grant proposals, and other documents while making them aware of writing techniques to increase their ability to achieve a high quality of communication and clarity.
James Thurber’s description of Harold Ross, legendary editor of The New Yorker, is also applicable to Susan:
…a sound sense, a unique, almost intuitive perception of what was wrong with something, incomplete or out of balance, understated or over-emphasized. He reminded me of an army scout riding at the head of a troop of cavalry who suddenly raises his hand in a green and silent valley and says, “Indians,” although to the ordinary eye and ear there is no faintest sign or sound of anything alarming.
Susan was educated at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where she received a BA in English, and at Stanford University. She began her career as a senior editor in the Department of Laboratory Medicine at San Francisco General Hospital in 1973. In 1977, neurosurgeon Charles Wilson hired her to create an editorial office for the Department of Neurological Surgery at the University of California, San Francisco. During her 28-year tenure there, she undertook editorial projects ranging from “nuts and bolts” editing of manuscripts and grants to developmental editing of books, guidelines for the ethical conduct of research, and program project grants. She wrote countless academic, administrative, public relations, development, promotional, historical, and commemorative documents. In addition, she lectured, conducted workshops, taught classes, and organized symposia and seminars in scientific writing, research ethics, reporting of clinical trials, and peer review in scientific writing. If a project was deemed important, Susan was asked to participate, and inevitably she was a catalyst for excellence.
In recognition of Susan’s exceptional contributions to the department, the department has set up a Susan Eastwood Memorial Fund, which will be used for an annual Susan Eastwood Award to be presented to the resident whose manuscript is judged most outstanding in content and preparation. Contributions to the fund may be sent to Mitchel S Berger, MD, Chair, Department of Neurological Surgery, UCSF, Box 0112, San Francisco, CA 94143-0112.
Susan served as president of the Council of Science Editors (1996–1997) and was a founding member of the Board of Editors in the Life Sciences and a member of its Executive Council from 1991 through 1998. Among her many honors and awards, she received the Harold Swanberg Distinguished Service Award for contributions to biomedicine and biomedical communication, the President’s Award, and the Roger Manwaring Award from the American Medical Writers Association; the Distinguished Service Award from the Council of Science Editors; and two Chancellor’s Outstanding Achievement Awards from the University of California, San Francisco.
As a mentor and friend, Susan had few equals. She always made time to listen and offer perceptive insights and advice. She had great warmth and sensitivity and a wonderful sense of humor, which enabled her to relate in a positive and productive way to just about everyone. She was loyal, thoughtful, generous, and constitutionally incapable of saying “no” to friends and colleagues who came to her for help.
Susan is survived by her husband, Ray Berry of Oakland, California, and sisters Pat Eastwood of Yakima, Washington, Sunnia (Nancy) Eastwood Maseloe of Oakland, California, and Leslee Eastwood (Maj. USAF, ret.) of Del Rio, Texas. She was preceded in death by her father, John C J Eastwood (Lt. Col. USAF, ret.); mother, Della Brown Eastwood; and stepdaughter Katy Berry.
Ave atque vale, dear friend.