Nov. 22, 1955 – June 4, 2020
It would be hard, if not impossible, to pigeonhole Susan Bennett.
Pioneer in the field of rehabilitation for people with multiple sclerosis.
Founder of a physical therapy practice that 28 years later remains a leader in treating patients with neurological conditions.
One-time head of the rehabilitation science department at the University at Buffalo and mentor to thousands of practicing physical therapists.
Dr. Bennett died Thursday. She was 64.
"Sue touched the lives of all around her," her colleagues and family said in a statement. "She was a beautiful, empathetic educator, mentor and leader willing to help others any way she could. She courageously faced challenges in her life and stood by others to help them persevere through their own."
A native of Buffalo, Dr. Bennett's legacy is rooted in a 43-year career as a physical therapist and national leader in the field of rehabilitation of individuals with multiple sclerosis.
She served as president of the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers, the preeminent organization for health care providers involved in the care of MS patients. In 2016, she was awarded the group's Lifetime Achievement Award, the first rehabilitation professional to receive the award.
Dr. Bennett was also a longtime member of the board of directors of the New York Physical Therapy Association and eventually served as the organization’s president.
In 1992, she started her own physical therapy practice and, over the years, saw it grow to include 24 employees at five locations across the region. Colleagues said their friend's focus on comprehensive rehabilitation services for people with neurologic conditions made her a household name among patients and providers.
As part of her legacy, Dr. Bennett ensured that her physical therapy practice will continue after her death.
A member of the first graduating class at Daemen College to earn an undergraduate degree in physical therapy, Dr. Bennett later earned a master's in science in health science education and a doctor of education degree in health behavioral sciences from UB and a doctor of physical therapy degree from Marymount University in Arlington, Va.
In addition to her clinical practice, she also was a full-time faculty member in the UB and D’Youville doctor of physical therapy programs and throughout her career taught thousands of student physical therapists.
"Her clinical touch and empathetic nature will live on for generations through the students that she has impacted," her colleagues said in a statement.
In the weeks leading up to Dr. Bennett's death, her students sent her messages of thanks.
"I had come across this Greek word 'meraki' awhile back," one student wrote. "It means to do something with your soul, creativity or love, to put something of yourself into your work. After having you as a teacher, it is easy to see how much of yourself you put into the field of physical therapy and your work."
A service celebrating Dr. Bennett's life will be held at 11 a.m. Aug. 1 at St. Joseph University Parish, 3269 Main St.
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