Susanna Krentz joined the Women’s Health Research at Yale Advisory Council in 2016, offering her decades of expertise advising health care organizations on strategy and financial analysis. A graduate of the Yale Class of ’80, Krentz has served as chair of the Yale Alumni Association Board of Governors and received The Yale Medal in 2010 for her outstanding individual service to the university.
Krentz became the newest chair of WHRY’s council in January. We spoke to her about what she has learned since joining the center and what she hopes we can accomplish in the years ahead.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic shaped your views on the importance of medical research?
For me, it has reinforced the miracle of science. It boggles the mind how researchers around the world could so quickly develop and deploy the vaccines we now have to fight this disease. But I am not sure how much the public is aware of how research is conducted and how scientists at centers like WHRY need to play the long game and prepare for threats before they become a public health emergency. Research needs to balance working to address current and emerging health problems, which can get overlooked when the world focuses on a single, overwhelming health crisis.
What do you think people need to understand more about how science is conducted?
I think a lot of people don’t realize that a lot of science is dynamic and what you learn can change conclusions over time. For example, people have expressed confusion over some of the shifting guidance about how to protect the public from COVID-19. I understand this confusion, but that’s the nature of science. When you get new data, conclusions may change. That’s the challenge we have in communicating scientific information. People want to know the final answer when the current answer is always just the best answer available with the information we have at the moment.
What role does Women’s Health Research at Yale play in improving science to better protect public health?
We are changing science to be sure that women are studied and that lessons about sex-and-gender differences are investigated and applied to health treatments. In this way, people and their health care providers will be better equipped to make informed decisions. Importantly, this will help women — who have historically not had the same benefit of health research as men — but also men, who benefit as well from the discovery of sex-and gender influences on health.
What do you hope the WHRY Advisory Council can achieve in the coming years?
I would like to see the council continue to attract diverse, talented volunteers committed to improving the health of women. My amazing predecessor as chair, Carol Ross, has made this such an inviting, thoughtful, and respectful place to conduct our work. In particular, I am eager to continue implementing the work of our Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Committee, headed by Patricia Brett and Diane Young Turner. Mostly, I want to continue cultivating a council that helps solidify the future of the center so it can make an even bigger impact on medical research and practice.
Why do people need to support WHRY?
WHRY relies on individual and foundation support to conduct the research we need to improve our health. The center also brings together experts from different fields so they can build on each other’s work, shares the latest research findings with the public and medical community, mentors students and junior faculty members, and helps shape public health policy. As we approach our 25th anniversary, WHRY is doing more than ever. Without donor support, it will not get done.