Susan M. Wolf

Law School, and Department of Medicine, Medical School, 2021

Susan M. Wolf, McKnight Presidential Professor of Law, Medicine, & Public Policy; Faegre Baker Daniels Professor of Law; and Professor of Medicine, is nationally and internationally renowned as one of the nation’s top scholars in law, medicine, and bioethics. She is also the founding chair of the Consortium on Law and Values in Health, Environment & the Life Sciences at the University of Minnesota, which is recognized around the world for path-breaking research, seminal publications, high-impact events, and critical policy collaboration. Her work on securing patients’ rights to a humane death, patient care, and how research is conducted with human beings, governing biomedical technologies for the public good, and ensuring that advances in genomics and precision medicine promote equity, has been transformational. Wolf’s pioneering work has changed scholarship, policy, and real-world practice. She has put the University of Minnesota on the map for top work on societal issues in biomedicine and the life sciences. She has helped to secure over $60 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Science Foundation (NSF), and other funders as principal investigator (PI) or co-investigator (Co-I), leading interdisciplinary teams and authoring seminal publications. In a 2019 quantitative analysis at Vanderbilt University, Wolf was ranked as the #1 most cited legal scholar publishing in non-law journals. She continues to be prolific in her publication activity in both law and non-law journals, including Science, the New England Journal of Medicine, Genetics in Medicine, and the Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics.

Wolf’s scholarship achievements and service are impressive. She is the only University of Minnesota faculty member ever elected to the National Academy of Medicine, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Law Institute. She was named by the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) from 2013-16. At the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, she serves on the Committee on Science, Engineering, Medicine and Public Policy (COSEMPUP). This is one of the few committees at the National Academies that crosses all three academies, and to serve on this committee is considered to be a career-defining honor. Wolf has also served or been involved in more than 25 National Academy of Medicine, NIH, or other governmental or professional society committees. She is the founder of the University’s Annual Research Ethics Week, created to elevate commitment to research ethics across the University. Currently, Wolf co-leads the Minnesota COVID Ethics Collaborative (MCEC), a statewide effort convened by the Minnesota Department of Health, the State Healthcare Coordination Center, the Minnesota Hospital Association, and the University of Minnesota. The state has relied on Wolf’s judgment and expertise in ethical policy development to address moral challenges posed by the COVID-19 crises. In addition, Wolf has served on numerous Law School and University committees, including the Law School Promotion and Tenure Committees (2004-08; 2019-present), the Precision Medicine Task Force (2018), Grand Challenges Working Group on Advancing Health Through Tailored Solutions (2016), the Distinguished McKnight Professorship Committee (2005-07), the Stem Cell Ethics Advisory Committee (2002-08), and the University Senate (1994-96), to name a few. 

Wolf is described as a gifted teacher, who has made teaching, advising, and building innovative programs for students a centerpiece of her work. She spearheaded the creation of the University’s Joint Degree Program in Law, Health & Life Sciences (JDP), which was approved by the Board of Regents in 1999. Wolf also built the Law School’s Concentration in Health Law & Bioethics. She is widely known for involving her students in her research, both grant-funded and independent scholarship. She has advised and mentored students across the University, teaching in the Law School and Medical School, and serving on doctoral and master’s committees. Wolf ensured that the Consortium on Law and Values in Health, Environment & the Life Sciences created a program for professional and graduate students at the University that has competitively awarded more than $700,000 to over 100 students to advance their work on the societal implications of biomedicine and the life sciences.

The University of Minnesota is most fortunate to call Professor Susan M. Wolf one of its own.