District 211 Alumna Susan Szuch Awarded the Michael E. DeBakey Journalism Award

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NBC Correspondent Kerry Sanders and Susan pose with her award. Photo Courtesy Susan Szuch

NBC Correspondent Kerry Sanders and Susan pose with her award. Photo Courtesy Susan Szuch

Fremd High School Alumna Susan Szuch was recently awarded for an article she wrote for The Daily Illini, her collegiate school newspaper.

The Foundation for Biomedical Research’s (FBR) 14th annual Michael E. DeBakey Journalism Awards recognizes journalists that highlight the role of biomedical research that includes the humane and responsible use of animal models, cell cultures, and computer modeling in recent medical discoveries and scientific breakthroughs. Susan received an award, scholarship, and attended an awards dinner hosted by NBC Correspondent Kerry Sanders.

“When I found out I received the award, it completely floored me,” Susan said. “I am still in shock and humbled – I sometimes wonder if they picked the right person. I am very honored, especially because a part of the award is to show the public the humane and responsible use of animal testing and how it can benefit medical and biomedical research. Knowing that my story is helping do that means a lot.”

Susan is a sophomore at the University of Illinois, and works for The Daily Illini as the copy chief and a features department staff writer. Her article, “University Professors Make Developments in Cancer Fights for Humans, Dogs,” highlights the misunderstandings behind the use of dogs in research. The topic originally piqued her interest after a larger story done by a local NBC affiliate. Once she explored the topic further, she discovered what really happens with the animals.

“It was not what I expected. [My] piece ended up being something that worked against the stigma of animal research and such,” she said. “It showed how the dogs that are used in the beginning stages of research, which is testing dosage, how long the drug will stay in the system, and how it’s absorbed best. The lead researcher actually adopted one of the dogs. All of them get adopted out.”

The FHS alumna recieved the Michael E. DeBakey award for an article she wrote about biomedical research involving dogs.

The FHS alumna recieved the Michael E. DeBakey award for an article she wrote about biomedical research involving dogs. Photo Courtesy Susan Szuch

Susan said she first had a glimpse of what journalism is like while at Fremd High School during her freshman year. Initially she was hesitant to get involved, but with a bit of encouragement from her mother she decided to join. She also said her newspaper sponsors, Fremd High School English Teachers Russ Anderson and Grant Dawson, always encouraged and supported the newspaper staff at FHS.

“My sophomore year I competed in the IHSA journalism competition,” she said. “After doing that and working at the paper – I was an editor that year – I knew it was something I really loved. Helping others become better writers and being able to get people’s stories out there, I loved working with people in that capacity.”

Looking toward the future, Susan is not sure where exactly she would like to go with her journalism career once she graduates. She is highly interested in graphic design, as well as freelance writing. She also enjoys science writing and the idea of working in magazines. Regardless of what she decides, she said she knows there is a lot she can do with her degree and that she would be happy with a number of career choices.

To read Susan’s article, please click here.