BUSM Lecture Honors Alumni, Victim of 9/11 Tragedy

Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) will present the 11th annual Sue Kim Hanson Lecture in Immunology at noon, Friday, Nov.16, in the School of Medicine’s Keefer Auditorium. The annual lecture honors Sue Kim Hanson, MA, and PhD ’02, a former researcher in BUSM’s Pulmonary Center. Hanson, her husband and their daughter were passengers on one of the airplanes that struck the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

This year’s lecturer is Ruslan Medzhitov, MD, investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and David W. Wallace Professor of Immunobiology at Yale University School of Medicine. 

The lecture, “Host Defense Strategies” will focus on Microbial infections, which pose a significant threat to our health and survival. Many encounters with pathogens go unnoticed because they are quickly eliminated by efficient immune defenses. But, some of these infections make us more vulnerable to unrelated secondary infections, such as the Influenza virus, which can lead to disease and even death. This presentation will detail lethal co-infections and the different ways the host organism protects itself from microbial challenges.

Medzhitov has dedicated his career to analyzing the innate immune system, inflammatory response, innate control of the adaptive immunity and host-pathogen interactions. He is nationally recognized for his work with Toll-like receptors, a component of the innate system that provide the adaptive system with the necessary information to create custom-made B and T cells that target specific bacterial or viral invaders. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2010 and was a co-recipient of the prestigious Shaw Prize in Life Science and Medicine in 2011.

Sue Kim Hanson moved to Boston and earned a master’s degree in medical sciences from BUSM in 1992. After graduation she joined the school’s Pulmonary Center and then entered BUSM’s doctoral program in the Immunology Training Program through the department of pathology and laboratory medicine.

Her dissertation project was an investigation of the role of interleukin-16 in immunity and targeted deletion of the interleukin-16 gene in mice. Her degree was awarded posthumously by unanimous vote by the dissertation committee.

“Sue was on her way to a promising career in molecular biology,” said David Center, MD, Gordon and Ruth Snider professor of pulmonary medicine and associate provost for translational research. “While her life was taken at an early age, her legacy lives on through this annual lecture. We are proud to remember and honor her and her family each year.”