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Bethel Board member was a patient's advocate, known for tenacity

September 11th, 2017

NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Bethel College Board of Directors member Suzanne K. Wedel, 60, Marblehead, Massachusetts, died March 30 after a three-year battle with ovarian cancer.

As the daughter of Bethel College Professor Emeritus of Mathematics Arnold Wedel and Dolores Wedel, Suzanne Wedel grew up as a “campus kid.” She graduated from Newton High School and from Bethel with a double major in biology and peace studies.

Wedel then went on to study medicine at the University of Kansas, completing a residency in internal medicine. She performed a critical care fellowship at the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems, one of the world’s premier trauma units, also known as “Shock Trauma, Baltimore.”

Following her marriage to fellow physician Alistair Conn, Wedel moved to Boston in 1985, where she worked at Boston City Hospital and Boston University Hospital. When Conn left Boston MedFlight, a critical-care air transport service, in 1989, Wedel agreed to replace him as CEO and medical director for a year. She never left.

Under her guidance, Boston MedFlight became one of the leading life-flight programs in the United States. It grew from one helicopter to four and from a dozen employees to more than 100. The company expanded into critical-care ground transport and long-distance transfers, using dedicated medically configured airplanes with more than 3,500 patients annually.

Wedel also founded the North East Air Alliance to foster coordinated efforts among the region’s air-ambulance organizations: two in Massachusetts, including Boston MedFlight, and one each in Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York and Maine.

“Suzanne was the conscience who reminded us how unique and special this consortium was, and how we were much better working together than on our own,” Ann Prestipino, chair of the Boston MedFlight board of trustees, told the Boston Globe. “She was the glue that really made sure that stayed together.”

“Her mother was a nurse and it’s no accident that [Suzanne] went into the medical profession,” Conn told the Globe. “She always was a patient advocate. She always put the patient first, and she would roll over any obstacle to get the best care for her patients.”

Following her diagnosis in late 2012, Wedel turned the abilities that had grown her company into advocating for awareness and early detection of ovarian cancer. She spearheaded a number of fundraising efforts, most notably the Suzanne Wedel XOXOut Ovarian Cancer Fund, which takes its name from the “xoxo” with which Wedel always signed personal letters and e-mail.

Wedel was an accomplished pianist who loved classical music and opera. She was an avid sports fan who was regularly seen in the colors of her beloved Kansas Jayhawks.

Wedel had indicated her intention to resign from the Bethel Board due to her illness just ahead of spring meetings April 1-2, but the board had not had time to officially accept it when word came of her death.

Wedel is survived by her parents, Arnold and Dolores Wedel; a sister, Janine Wedel; a brother, Ed Wedel; her husband, Dr. Alistair Conn; and three children, Kathryn, Christopher and Alexander Conn.

A memorial service will be April 30 at 11 a.m. at the Old North Church in Marblehead, where Wedel was a longtime active member.

Memorial gifts are to the Suzanne Wedel XOXOut Ovarian Cancer Fund at Massachusetts General Hospital, or Boston MedFlight at

Bethel College is the only private, liberal arts college in Kansas listed in the 2015–16 analysis of top colleges and universities in the United States, and is the highest-ranked Kansas college in the Washington Monthly annual college guide for 2015–16. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see

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As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.