See that empty wheelchair? We who fight for embryonic stem cell research believe that wheelchairs are for temporary occupancy only. We do not accept the diagnosis of “incurable”, given to more than one hundred million Americans with cancer, paralysis, Alzheimer's, AIDS, Parkinson's disease, diabetes, MS, and more. We are America's millions: patients, family, and friends. We support research to bring cures, to empty the wheelchairs everywhere.


 Don C. Reed, October, 2005

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# 354 Tuesday, July 31 , 2007 - WONDER WOMEN



I rented the movie RIO LOBO, because I heard it had an acting performance by Sherry Lansing, who went on to become not only the leader of Paramount Motion Picture Studios, but also one of the Independent Citizens Oversight Committee decision-makers, in the California stem cell program.


I did not like the movie a whole lot. It was one of those John Wayne superhero flicks, designed to make him appear larger than life (his movie guns were made 5/8 normal size, for instance, so he would physically look bigger) and people are constantly kissing up to him, even his enemies. “He was a big man, almost as big as you, Colonel, Sir,” is typical.


The portrayal of women was also, to put it mildly, somewhat askew.


For instance, when John Wayne shoots and/or beats up a bad guy, he makes macho wise cracks afterwards, at which everyone laughs or nods appreciatively.


But when a woman shoots a villain, afterwards she must either burst into tears: “Oh,

 boo-hoo, I shot the man who murdered the city of Peshtawa, Texas, will I ever be able to live with myself?”, or, option B., faint, which means JW has to carry her upstairs to bed and “loosen her clothing” down to her underwear.


It was in short, a rampant exercise in sexism.  I glanced cautiously at Gloria once, and she was shaking her head.


Only once did the screenwriters let a woman really come alive. 


Sherry Lansing’s character, Amelita, swears vengeance on a bad guy, the sheriff responsible for slashing her face.


“I’ll kill him,” she says, “I swear it.” 


For a blazing instant, a silly movie went away, and the real Sherry Lansing was present, determined person who broke the glass ceiling for women as leaders in movies—and who fights incurable disease as a part of the Independent Citizen’s Oversight Committee.


At the end of the movie, she does shoot the bad guy, (and obligingly, goes with option b,  bursting into tears) but then, in a preview of real life, she helps the wounded John Wayne walk again.


I was reminded of this yesterday, when I was interviewing Dr. Jan Nolta of UC Davis. We were outside the meeting room for the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, and I was asking her some questions about the UC Davis stem cell research center.


Now, as you know, decisions are being carefully worked through as to which institutions get how much money for the development of their stem cell programs.


The purpose of this particular meeting was to work (further) on how to structure the RFA (Request For Application) so that the best science and the best bargain for California could be realized. This was tough negotiation, because


Will the big winner(s) be UC Berkeley, UC Davis, the San Diego Consortium?


I have no horse in this race, except all of them. I want everyone to win, so that research will be encouraged all across California.


I will try in weeks ahead, to talk with champions of the leading sites, including UC Davis. When I do, I will clear it with the lead interviewee, so it will be the best possible summary of their chances. But that is not this article.


While I was talking with Dr. Nolta, who was cheerfully extolling the virtues of stem cell research in general, and UC  Davis in particular—I asked her about Claire Pommeroy, the dean of Medicine at UC Davis, and a cheerful realist on the ICOC board.


Dr. Nolta lit up like a light bulb. “Dr. Pommeroy is the reason I am here,” she said, “She is so enthusiastic, 1000% committed to the fight for cure.”


Something clicked.


“Remember Wonder Woman?” I said.


“Um, yes,” she said, the smile fading slightly.


“She was invented as a role model for young girls, a woman to look up to,” I said, which was correct. It happened in the early 1940’s, when there were tons of comic superheroes, almost entirely male.


Dr. William Marston (who invented the lie detector, the polygraph) came up with the “idea for a new kind of superhero”…”Fine, said (his wife) Elizabeth, “But make her a woman.”


Wikipedia quotes Marston in a 1943 issue of the American Scholar, saying:


“Not even girls want to be girls so long as our feminine archetype lacks force, strength, and power…The obvious remedy is to create a feminine character with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman.”


“Well, Claire Pommeroy is like a modern-day Wonder Woman,” I said, “She is fighting incurable disease with every fiber of her being.”


Dr. Nolta beamed.


Then the meeting began and the conversation had to end.


But the thought remained.




The ICOC is to me a perfect set of role models for young men or women to emulate.


I went to the CIRM website and hunted up a few bios of the real life women superheroes on our side.


Take a look. (And if I miss somebody, please put it down to my greatly advancing age!)



Susan V. Bryant, Ph.D.


An executive officer from a UC with a medical school (2 of 5), appointed by UCI Chancellor


Susan V. Byrant, Ph.D., is a developmental biologist who during her career has conducted influential research in the area of regeneration and has published more than 100 papers delineating its core principles in addition to pioneering the development of molecular techniques for studying regenerative systems.


Dean of the School of Biological Sciences at the University of California, Irvine (UCI), Dr. Bryant rose to the position after being the first woman in the university’s history to be recruited as a faculty member in biology. Since then, she has continued to be a strong advocate for women in science, winning numerous awards including the UCI Pacesetter Award for contributions to women. Her goal as Dean is to ensure that the School is a major participant in the discoveries that are fueling the revolution in biology, and at the same time to work for the full participation of women and minorities in the scientific enterprise.


Dr. Bryant has been an influential developmental biologist, and she established regeneration as a model system for pattern formation. Her research provided evidence for a unified model for pattern formation, demonstrated the universality of regulative mechanisms among diverse animals, predicted the conservation of developmental pathways, and pioneered the development of molecular techniques for studying regenerating systems.


Dr. Bryant spent her childhood in Yorkshire, UK. She became interested in biology in at a girls-only high school, obtained her undergraduate degree at King’s College and her Ph.D. degree at St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School, University of London. She moved to the US to study regeneration as a postdoctoral fellow at Case Western Reserve University, after which she joined the faculty at UC Irvine. In 2005, she was elected a Fellow, the highest honor bestowed, by the Association for Women in Science.


Sherry Lansing

Patient Advocate (2 of 9), appointed by the Controller


Founder and current chair of the Sherry Lansing Foundation, a philanthropic organization focusing on cancer research, health and education, Ms. Lansing was the chair of the Motion Picture Group of Paramount Pictures from 1992 to 2005, where she oversaw the release of more than 200 films including Academy Award winners Forrest Gump, Braveheart, and the  highest grossing movie of all time, Titanic. A pioneering studio executive, Lansing is the first woman in the film industry to oversee all aspects of a studio’s motion picture production.


Her distinguished career has earned her numerous honors, including the Woodrow Wilson Award for Corporate Citizenship, the Milestone Award from the Producers Guild of America, the Overcoming Obstacles Achievement Award for Business, the YWCA Silver Achievement Award, the Outstanding Woman in Business Award from the Women’s Equity Action League, the Distinguished Community Service Award from Brandeis University, the Alfred P. Sloan, Jr. Memorial Award and an honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts from the American Film Institute. She was also the recipient of the Simon Wiesenthal Center Distinguished Service Award for the Performing Arts and was named the 1996 Pioneer of the Year by the Foundation of the Motion Picture Pioneers. In 2004, Lansing received the Horatio Alger Humanitarian Award.  (Also received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Services Award at the Academy Awards this year!—dr)


Lansing serves on the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors of Friends of Cancer Research and as a Trustee of the American Association for Cancer Research. She continues to lend her energy and talents to such advisory boards and committees as the American Red Cross Board of Governors, the board of trustees for the Carter Center and Stop Cancer, a non-profit philanthropic group she founded in partnership with Dr. Armand Hammer.


Lansing is a Regent of the University of California and serves as chair of the University Health Services Committee. She graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Science Degree from Northwestern University in 1966.



Tina S. Nova, Ph.D.

An executive officer of a Commercial Life Science Entity (3 of 4), appointed by the Lt. Governor

Dr. Nova is President, Chief Executive Officer, Co-Founder and a Director of Genoptix, Inc. Over the past several years she has been involved in the co-founding of three life science companies in the San Diego biotechnology community. Her current company, Genoptix, Inc., is a venture-backed biotechnology company developing advanced cellular isolation characterization techniques applicable in the post-genomics era.


She received a B.Sc. degree in Biological Sciences at the University of California, Irvine, where she graduated with Honors, and she received her Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of California, Riverside.


Dr. Nova serves on the Advisory Boards of the UC San Diego Division of Biological Sciences, the Keck Graduate Institute of Applied Life Sciences Advisory Council and UC Irvine Division of Biological Sciences. Additionally, she is on the Board of Trustees of University of San Diego. Dr. Nova was the winner of the 2004 BIOCOM James McGraw Distinguished Contribution Award, the 2004 Distinguished Alumnus Award UC Riverside, the 2003 Distinguished Alumnus Award UC Irvine, the 2002 Outstanding Executive Award UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering and the 2001 Athena Pinnacle Award.



Marcy Feit, RN, MSN

Patient Advocate (1 of 9), appointed by the Lt. Governor

Type II Diabetes

Marcy Feit joined ValleyCare Health System in 1973. After earning her RN credentials, she worked in the critical care unit for three years followed by a 3-year stint as the unit’s head nurse. A series of promotions to administrative positions followed. In 1995, Marcy became Vice President of Patient Care Services. In December 1996, she became Chief Operating Officer and Interim Chief Executive Officer.

In July 1997, Marcy was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of ValleyCare Health Systems.

She holds a Master’s Degree in Nursing Science and Administration and has served on a state strategic planning committee for nursing, the Medical/Auxiliary Advisory Committee for Chabot College, and the Board of Directors for Hope Hospice. She is currently a member of the Tri-Valley Business Council, and serves as a member of the East Bay Hospital Council. She is also a member of the Board of Directors for Cooperative Hospitals, Inc., VHA West Coast, and Sigma Theta Tau, International.

Other accomplishments:

1998 Women of Achievement Award, Contra Costa County;

2003 San Francisco Times Top 100 Business Women of the Year

2003 Distinguished Alumna – Community College League of California

2004 Mertes-Feit Chabot Las Positas ValleyCare Education Center

2004 San Francisco Business Times Top 100 Business Women of the Year

2005 TriValley Magazine Ten Most Powerful Women



Claire Pomeroy, M.D., M.B.A.

An executive officer from a UC with a medical school (5 of 5), appointed by UC Davis Chancellor

Claire Pomeroy, M.D, is Vice Chancellor for Human Health Sciences at UC Davis and Dean of the UC Davis School of Medicine, is an expert in infectious diseases and a professor of internal medicine and microbiology and immunology. She oversees the UC Davis Health System and all its academic, research and clinical programs, including the 800-member physician group known as UC Davis Medical Group and the 576-bed acute-care hospital known as UC Davis  Medical Center. With an operating budget of nearly $800 million, patient visits of nearly 900,000, and more than $100 million in outside research funding, UC Davis Health System is a major contributor to the health care and economy of the Sacramento region.


Dr. Pomeroy joined UC Davis in 2003 as executive associate dean of the School of Medicine. In that role, she guided the development of a new strategic plan, enhanced the infrastructure for research and educational programs, and integrated the operations of the medical school and teaching hospital. Dr. Pomeroy leads an active research team studying host responses to infectious diseases. She has published over 100 articles and book chapters and edited two books. She currently serves on grant review study sections for the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Veterans Affairs.


With special expertise in HIV/AIDS, she is a long-time advocate for patients with HIV/AIDS and has a special interest in health-care policy. She also has led efforts to advance electronic health records to improve health-care quality. Dr. Pomeroy is a member of the Board of Directors of the MIND Institute at UC Davis and of the CARES clinic in Sacramento.


She received bachelor’s and medical degrees from the University of Michigan, then completed her residency and fellowship training in internal medicine at the University of Minnesota. She also earned an MBA from the University of Kentucky.



Joan Samuelson, J.D.

Patient Advocate (4 of 9), appointed by the Controller

Parkinson’s Disease


Diagnosed with Parkinson's in 1987, Ms. Samuelson left the practice of law to found the Parkinson's Action Network in 1991, and continues to serve as a member of the Board of Directors. PAN is credited with many successes in increasing federal research spending, including the 1997 Morris K. Udall Parkinson’s Research Act. Samuelson played an active role in the campaign resulting in the 2004 passage of California’s Proposition 71 Stem Cell Research and Cures Act.


Samuelson has been appointed to a variety of advisory panels on biomedical research and health policy. She served as an Independent Report Reviewer for the 2004 Report of the National Academies’ of Science’s Institute of Medicine on NIH Extramural Centers Programs, and sits on the Advisory Committee to the Director, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. In 2004 she was appointed Patient Advocate to the Medicare Consumer Advisory Committee. She serves on the NIEHS Collaborative Center for Parkinson’s Disease Environmental Research and the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute at UMDNJ/Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. Samuelson is a longtime member of the American Society for Neural Transplantation and Repair.


Samuelson was honored by the American Society for Neural Transplantation in 1997 for "outstanding efforts and support for research," and received Research!America's 2000 advocacy award for "Exceptional Contributions as a Volunteer Advocate for Medical Research.” She is a graduate of the University of California at Los Angeles (B.A. Public Service, 1972) and the Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California at Berkeley (J.D., 1977). Before founding PAN, her law practice specialized in litigation and alternative dispute resolution.



Janet S. Wright, M.D., F.A.C.C.

Patient Advocate (10 of 9), appointed by the Treasurer

Heart Disease


Janet S. Wright M.D., F.A.C.C., is currently assisting in the coordination of the American College of Cardiology’s (ACC) collaboration with several disease management organizations in Phase I of CMS’ Chronic Care Improvement Programs (CCIP). Her interest in disease management led to her contribution in “Specialty Referral Guidelines for Cardiovascular Evaluation and Management” and “Defining the Patient-Physician Relationship for the 21st Century,” both of which are collaborative efforts of American Healthways and Johns Hopkins University.


Dr. Wright practices invasive cardiology as a partner in Northstate Cardiology Consultants in Chico, California and currently serves on the board of trustees of the American College of Cardiology (ACC). She is the ACC Advocacy Committee’s Liaison to the Food and Drug Administration and to the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation. Dr. Wright was recently elected to the board of directors of the Disease Management Association of America (DMAA) and is a member of the DMAA Healthcare Leadership Advisory Council.


Dr. Wright received her medical doctorate at the University of Tennessee and completed her internal medicine residency at Children’s Hospital and Adult Medical Center in San Francisco. She also completed a cardiovascular fellowship at San Francisco General Hospital and the University of California, San Francisco.


Janet Wright, Sherry Lansing, Joan Samuelson, Tina Nova, Marcy Feit, Susan Bryant, Claire Pommeroy


Wonder women, one and all.

Don Reed