Dr Jeremy Stern, Consultant Neurologist & Honorary Medical Director at Tourettes Action UK and a close friend of Suzanne's has kindly shared with us this wonderful tribute.
"Many of us feel the loss of Suzanne Dobson as a friend, and as shocking news. In her passing the respect and affection she inspired is obvious.
She had been Chief Executive of Tourettes Action for well over a decade and in that time not only developed our charity but improved things for people with Tourette syndrome in the UK. She had strong links with her colleagues in other charities and was the past chair of the Neurological Alliance, a patient representative organisation with the ear of Government. She also facilitated the growth of ESSTS and helped bring together the other European patient groups.
Suzanne perhaps did not have a very English sensibility. She could be described as a bon-viveur. She had an unexpected early background in professional catering before moving professionally into civil and voluntary organisations. She was kind but direct with a quick intellect that effortlessly cut through nonsense in a way that endeared her to all kinds of people, ranging from distressed individuals needing support to medical professionals and funders. She had an easy manner with doctors, absolutely no unearned respect for academic hierarchy and absorbed her own specialised clinical acumen in our field.
When summing up the medical situation of a helpline query or a Tourette related TV documentary (a common genre in the UK) she would laugh "I suppose my medical degree certificate is in the post". I observed a few times in the early ESSTS meetings how she delighted in the spectacle of clinicians and researchers trying to organise themselves, in the manner of a tolerant parent. Putting on meetings did come naturally to her. In 2015 she was central in producing the success of the joint meeting of ESSTS, Tourettes Action and the Tourette Association of America in the first, and so far only, World Congress on Tourette Syndrome held in London. On those occasions her ambition also added what the British call 'a certain je ne sais quoi', a renowned ballet company performing a piece inspired by Awakenings, or in an earlier ESSTS meeting a reception on the river terrace of the Houses of Parliament.
In the time she led Tourettes Action its ability to support families and people with Tourette's expanded substantially in direct and indirect ways, one example being very successful TICfests (residential events for families) which elicited frankly heart-warming feedback from participants. The families and adults with Tourette syndrome were what she really cared about. Whilst it will be hard to replace her as a Chief Executive, she will not be forgotten as a friend and I know many colleagues will miss her.
I find it hard to close without mentioning that whilst her recent illness was short over the last couple of years she had unfortunately suffered other medical setbacks but she had a remarkable fortitude and capacity for recovery. She always had her eye on enjoying life again and contributing in her work. Suzanne leaves a family of her children and grandchildren and devoted friends who may not have fully appreciated her stature in our community. We convey our sincere condolences and very best wishes from across the continent."