Success Stories in the Sciences: Dr. Susan Taylor ’75

Dr. Susan Taylor ’75 was raised by a single mother in North Philadelphia and attended public school before coming to Friends Select. In comparing these educational experiences, Susan said, “There were very few Black children at the public school and, without having the Quaker influence and value that there is God in each of us, the socioeconomic and cultural differences were even more apparent.” She added, “I felt accepted at Friends Select; it felt like home and was a safe space, and I cherished that sense of community.”

Susan credits her mother’s determination for her years as a Friends Select student. “My mother always understood the importance of education and that it can open a myriad of doors as well as your mind. Her vision was to send us to Friends Select,” she said. “It was because of her influence and investigation that my sister, Flora ’80, and I ended up at the school. With a combination of my mother’s sacrifice and financial aid provided by Friends Select, we were able to attend.” 

Susan was a serious student, active in the life of the school and involved in many extracurricular activities. After graduating from Friends Select, Susan attended the University of Pennsylvania and continued to Harvard Medical School, committed to becoming an internist and treating patients in the inner city who were underserved. During her fourth year of medical school and first dermatology rotation, she was pleasantly surprised by the depth and breadth that the field offered. “After another three years of dermatology residency, I was able to carve out a niche in color dermatology,” she said. “I was able to remain true to my core goals and mission, and have made a career out of treating people of color who have skin, hair, and nail problems that are different from the majority of the population.” 

To advance and advocate her clinical work and the unique dermatologic needs of people of color, Susan founded the Skin of Color Center at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Medical Center in New York in 1998. “There are many disorders that present differently—and should be treated differently—in brown and Black people,” she said. “In starting the center, I was able to educate my peers about these disorders; lecture and write about them, do more research, treat more patients, and educate brown and Black people.” In 2004, Susan also founded the Skin of Color Society, an organization that has supported research related to skin of color and educated dermatologists and dermatology students across the world. 

Susan now sees patients at Penn Medicine, and she is the Vice Chair for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for the Department of Dermatology and the Sandra Lazarus Professor of Dermatology at the Perelman School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania. Even though she has had a rewarding career and has helped countless people, Susan still taps into what she learned at Friends Select. “Janet Goldstein ’57 taught me how to write, and it has been one of the greatest gifts,” she said. “Many years later, I am still using those skills in my scientific and academic medicine writing.” Susan added that the teaching style of Larry Butler, her religion and history instructor, appealed to her scientific mind. “It wasn’t what he taught us, but how he taught us. I learned the importance of thinking, questioning, and evaluating material.”

Susan was honored for her career and achievements with the Friends Select Distinguished Alumni Award in 2018. In reflecting upon herself as a student and her peers, she said, “The Friends Select student was always one who questioned and explored. We were never a group to just accept things at face value.” She continues with her wishes for the future of the school. “My hope is that Friends Select will continue to exist as an educational institution that puts the students and their families at the forefront of their mission. It’s my wish that hard conversations can continue to occur within the walls of Friends Select, and that the school will continue to prepare their students for leading and being productive in a whole new world.”

Friends Select's science curriculum fosters intellectual curiosity and appreciation of the creative aspects of scientific discovery. 
To learn more about the science program in grades PK-12 and the school's plans to transform the upper school biology, chemistry, and physics classrooms, please contact Christine Jefferson at 215.561.5900 x3141 or chrisj@friends-select.org.