by Maria SCRIVANI
For a cutting-edge coupleshes a pioneering health-care attorney, hes
a world-renowned oncologistSusan and Steven Piver hold to some pretty simple
old-fashioned ideas about life. Family comes first say these parents of three. The walls
of their North Buffalo home are lined with photos of their brood, currently starring their
first grandchild, Ryan Nicholas, age one. Considered to be no less a member of the family
is their two-and-a-half-year-old black Lab, Little Mo.
1968, Deb, Kenny and Bobbie.
Susan and first grandson, Ryan.
The Piver philosophy, a kind of mantra that pervades their busy lives, is threefold.
Your family comes first, says Steven. Then your career, then your health
and friends. He omits from this list the commitment to bettering the community that
he and his wife share. That seems to have arisen spontaneouslya natural outgrowth of
their highly visible professional activities. As doctor and lawyer with many
firsts to their individual credit, Steven and Susan are frequently asked to
chair or sit on boards of diverse worthy organizations. Theyve done so with gusto
and continue to do it at a time in life when others of their ilk are looking to slow down
and take it easy.
For more than four decadesthe Pivers will celebrate their 40th wedding
anniversary this Junethey have supported and encouraged one another in each
others work. Hes originally from Washington, D.C. and shes from
Philadelphia. They met at Temple University School of Medicine. She completed one year of
four dropping out in favor of her new husbands continuing studies.
Kenny, Steve and Rob
Susan neither minces words nor apologizes for that decision. You have to
understand that at the time none of the professions were really receiving women with open
arms, she says. I was very young when I entered medical school. It was a very
hostile environment for women and even more so to think you could be married and go to
medical school. I felt it was not an option to continue in school and get married.
Steven Piver, recruited as associate chief of the Department of Gynecology by Roswell
Park Cancer Institute in 1971, tells it this way: The two best things that ever
happened to me were marrying Susan Myers and coming to Buffalo.
In 1973 when their youngest child was in kindergarten Susan went back to school,
enrolling in UB Law as a member of the first class to start on the Amherst campus. Though
not great and not nearly the more equitable enrollment story there today, it was a
slightly more welcoming atmosphere than her earlier med school experience. The class was
about 20 percent female. Most were fresh out of college, Susan recalls.
None had children and they werent struggling to balance kids schedules
with class and study time.
She prevailed and ended up using her extensive medical background to advantage. After
separate stints with the Erie County Departments of Health and Social Serviceswhere
she was a Special Prosecutor for Medicaid fraudSusan was hired in 1985 as the first
in-house hospital counsel in Western New York (Vice President of Legal Affairs and General
Counsel) at the Childrens Hospital of Buffalo. She held this post until 1995 and has
since been in solo practice, specializing in health care law and risk management.
Kenny, Rob and Steve enjoying a round of
While Susan forged ahead in the legal world Steven was becoming more prominent in
medicine, establishing himself as a premier ovarian cancer specialist. He discovered the
diseases genetic link and established in 1981 the Familial Ovarian Cancer registry
at Roswell. The registry which now lists over 5,000 people was renamed in 1990 in memory
of Gilda Radner, the comedienne who died of the disease. Her husband, actor Gene Wilder,
contacted Steven after his wifes death seeking answers about the causes and
treatments of the disease. He and Steven became friends and together wrote a book,
Gildas Disease: Sharing Personal Experience And A Medical Perspective on Ovarian
Cancer. The project was born from a shared desire to spare other women and their families
what Gilda and her loved ones endured. Stevens zealous fight against the disease has
led to his appearance as an expert on such television programs as Oprah, 20/20, Nightline
and The Today Show.
Today he serves as Chairman Emeritus of the Department of Gynecologic Oncology and
continues to direct the registry at Roswell. Our goal is to find the gene that
actually causes inherited ovarian cancer and distinguish it from inherited breast
cancer, Steven says. My other goal is to continue as a cancer surgeon at
He and Susan love Buffalo. We want to help make living in Western New York better
for all people, he says. I think you should have a commitment, when you are
successful and have a nice life, to help your community and help people who are less
fortunate, adds Susan.
Deb in costume, 1996.
At this time she is a member of the 1998 class of Leadership Buffalo, a year-long
training and education forum on all aspects of life in Western New York, geared to those
who are already movers and shakers as well as those who want to be. Susan also chairs
Coordinated Care, an agency that acts in partnership with Erie County to determine
appropriate care for Medicaid clients. She sits on the advisory board of Bry-Lin Hospitals
and has, with her husband, acted as honorary chair for the annual Kavinoky Theatre benefit
for AIDS Family Services.
Steven is currently chairing the Board of Trustees of DYouville College. He is
past chair of Friends of the Night People soup kitchen and a current board member.
Hes a past president of the Jewish Family Services board; Susan is a past vice
president of that agency.
Steve and Little Mo, 1995.
Its clear that both Pivers relish all their involvements. For pure recreation
they love attending live theatre productions and they golf. Shes better,
Steven says. They also enjoy spending time with their children. Debra is an actress and
faculty member at Cal State in Los Angeles. Bobbie Piver Dukarm, a pediatrician at the
University of Rochester, her husband Rob, a neonatologist at the Childrens Hospital
of Buffalo and Ryan live in Akron, NY. Kenneth is a physician starting his psychiatry
residency at UCLA this summer.
It all makes for a very full life, but one the Pivers believe is healthily balanced
between doing for oneself and for others. Im only coming this way once,
says Steven. I want to do as much good for those less fortunate than me as I can.
When I leave, all Ill leave behind is my reputationand I want it to be a good
Maria Scrivani is a freelance writer.
Photos courtesy of the Pivers.
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