From Wallflower to Leader
When Dr. Sue Sisley arrived at Northern Arizona
University she was a shy young woman with dreams of earning a degree in
theater. When she graduated four years later, she was a bona fide activist with
degrees in chemistry and pre-medicine.
Now Sisley has joined her interests in public health,
medicine, and theater into a diverse career based in Phoenix. She and her
mother run a private family practice and she is a clinical faculty member at
St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center's Mercy Care Adult Medicine Clinic for
indigent patients. Sisley, a card-carrying member of the Actor's Equity Union,
also is the founder and CEO of Ensuring Tomorrow Productions, a nonprofit
organization that produces touring musicals focused on health education for
schools in underserved areas.
Whatever time is left in Sisley's day is spent advocating
for issues in which she strongly believes—something she learned to do in her
undergraduate student government days, at the urging of several faculty and
"When I left NAU I had such a huge sense of
empowerment—I felt that no issue was ever too daunting, no reason I couldn't
take on any injustice or wrongdoing," Sisley says. "I spend at least
a portion of my time lobbying the legislature, drafting bills, and trying to
work on legislation to help improve the community on all matters."
Sisley incorporates that community service mentality when
she's practicing medicine, too. Her patients primarily live in areas where they
don't have access to medical providers, such as various Native American
populations and people living in other remote regions of the state. Because she
practices telemedicine, she's able to conduct exams via video conferencing and
digital technology, such as digital stethoscopes, photoscopes, and optometry
scopes—all without leaving her home in Phoenix.
"I think ninety percent of my patients I've never
met face-to-face," Sisley says. "It's very unconventional for now but
I suspect it will be the doctor's office of the future, because it's so
Her work—whether as a doctor, volunteer, or musical
producer—hasn't gone unnoticed. Sisley was honored with the President's Point
of Light Award, including letters of commendation from Presidents George H. W.
Bush and Bill Clinton, for using the arts to promote health to at-risk youth.
She has also received honors from former Arizona governors for community
The shy girl came out of her shell and attributes most of
her achievements to what she learned at Northern Arizona University, the
student organizations she joined, and the professors who took the time to
nurture her talents, steering her toward a successful future. Dr. Sisley
encourages today's undergraduates to take advantage of those same
"Don't allow yourself to sit back and just attend
class, take notes, and leave," she says. "NAU offers this incredible,
unprecedented access to all these talented faculty, staff, and administrators
that are open to having deeper relationships with students."