A Tribute to Seema Sonnad

It is with great sadness that we announce the recent death of our dear friend and colleague Seema Sonnad, an active SMDM member and leader since 1992, who died of a cardiac arrest while running an ultramarathon outside Seattle on Saturday, May 23. We extend our deepest condolences to all who knew Seema, especially to her husband, Henry Glick, also a long-time active SMDM member.

Seema was a tireless and devoted volunteer for SMDM. She served as an SMDM trustee (2009 to 2012) and co-chair of the 30th North American Meeting in Philadelphia in 2008. Seema was extraordinarily committed to SMDM, which she considered to be her academic home, because of the quality of the science and the camaraderie of the annual meeting. Her first official role with SMDM was as a student member of the education committee. In 1993, the committee asked her to redesign the short course evaluation form and she created the form that we use to this day. She was an almost continuous member of the education committee, reviewed abstracts for most annual meetings, reviewed Lusted prize candidates for several years, was a member of the development committee from 2000-2002, served as short-course co-chair in 2005 and 2006, was a member of the executive director search committee, was an elected member of the nominations committee in 2007, and was a symposium co-chair for the 2009 meeting. She was a dedicated member who contributed significantly to every committee on which she served. In short, whenever SMDM required her assistance, Seema was there, enthusiastically helping in every way possible and always cheerfully and reliably.

Seema was originally from Kalamazoo, Michigan. She was a highly accomplished clinically-oriented health services researcher with over 130 peer-reviewed publications. Seema earned her Ph.D. in Health Services Research and Policy Analysis from Stanford University.  Before completing her doctoral degree, Seema co-founded a medical diagnostics start-up company and worked in business development for Stanford University Hospital. Seema was an expert in guidelines design and implementation and technology assessment, especially diagnostic technologies, including diagnostic meta-analysis. She was particularly interested in how individuals and organizations make decisions about new technology and surgical interventions. She also had a passion for promoting women in academic medicine.
After completing her formal training, Seema became a faculty member in the department of surgery at the University of Michigan, where she helped to establish the Consortium for Health Outcomes, Innovation and Cost-Effectiveness Studies. In 2003, she moved to the University of Pennsylvania, where she established and, for many years, served as director of outcomes research for the department of surgery and was an active Senior Fellow at the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics, Penn’s university-wide, multi–disciplinary health services and policy research institute. In 2012, she was appointed Director of Health Services Research of the Value Institute at Christiana Care in Delaware, one of the United States’ largest healthcare systems. This position allowed her to champion pragmatic implementation research in a real world setting, reflecting her leadership skills, her desire to ensure that her research made a difference in improving people’s lives, and her exceptional commitment to mentoring. She especially took pride in mentoring women, sharing career advice, and helping them to successfully advance their research.

Seema was also an enthusiastic mentor for young trainees and an exceptional teacher. She designed and taught courses on introductory statistics for clinicians, successful publication strategies for academic physicians, and outcomes research for devices and diagnostics. She was always one of the first and most enthusiastic members to volunteer for SMDM mentoring activities (Seema and Henry hosted several fantastic “Dinners with Experts,” a program at the annual meeting that she helped to initiate).

Seema had many passions outside of her research. She had a deep love for horses and will be remembered by the equestrian community for her dedication to event riding, training competition horses, judging of equestrian events, and philanthropic activities for the riding community. She also had broad-ranging interests in sports, arts, and music. She was an associate editor for the American Journal of Managed Care and was a member of the Advisory Panel on Assessment of Prevention, Diagnosis and Treatment Options for the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute.

Seema embraced life and everything she did with vitality, enthusiasm and panache and touched the lives of all with whom she came into contact. With the news of her passing, SMDM members have remarked that she was “a phenomenal colleague” and a “major force within the society.” Seema Sonnad will be very much missed. On behalf of the Society, we extend our deepest condolences to Henry and to Seema’s other family, friends and colleagues.


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