Suzanne Garber


Kim Sokoloff

Suzanne Garber was traveling on business in the Middle East when she had severe difficulty breathing, leading to the revelation that she had a lifelong congenital heart defect that required open-heart surgery. Living through a life-threatening medical emergency in a foreign country prompted Garber CCAS’92 to start a company to develop a database of international hospitals and also to make a documentary comparing the quality and affordability of health care in the United States with other countries. “It was the impetus for my film and for my company,” she says.

A cancer survivor who served as a FedEx executive in Latin America and chief operating officer of International SOS, Garber traveled to 24 nations to conduct interviews and research at 174 hospitals for GAUZE: Unraveling Global Healthcare, a documentary that aired on PBS. Garber—whose father served in the U.S. Air Force and later worked as a globetrotting government contractor—lived in Spain, Egypt, Algeria, and the Dominican Republic while growing up. She finished high school in North Carolina and attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for two years before transferring to Rutgers University–Camden when her family moved to Voorhees, New Jersey.

A double major in political science and Spanish, Garber had three internships while at Rutgers–Camden, including working in U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg’s office in South Jersey and assisting NPR Fresh Air host Terry Gross at WHYY in Philadelphia. “I’m such a big fan of preparing students for real life,” says Garber, an instructor at Temple University who has written a book on networking. “Rutgers did that for me. I learned a lot of valuable skills in each of those internships.”

After graduating cum laude, Garber worked as an administrator for UPS, where she had worked part time during college, before she landed a position at FedEx. She climbed the company ladder, with stints in Cincinnati, Washington, and Mexico before Garber was named the company’s managing director of South America, based in Brazil. “It was a thrilling opportunity to live in another country and work as an expatriate representing a huge Fortune 100 conglomerate,” says Garber, who is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese.

A favorite project of hers at FedEx was overseeing the deployment of company planes to help in relief efforts following hurricanes or earthquakes. When the opportunity arose to become chief operating officer of SOS International, a medical and travel security-assistance company with 11,000 employees worldwide, she jumped at the chance. “My passions really are travel and helping people,” she says.

It was in that role in 2013, while credentialing a hospital in the Middle East, that her heart condition was revealed and prompted another change in her multifaceted career. After recovering from heart surgery and leaving her position, she began working on the documentary, which debuted on PBS in fall 2017. The film was screened at Rutgers–Camden in March, followed by a panel discussion with professors in nursing, law, and health sciences. It also has played at film festivals in Miami and Fort Myers, Florida, and at the Right Angle Club in Philadelphia. Creating Garber’s company went hand-in-hand with making the film, which share the name Gauze. Founded in 2015, the company has assembled a comprehensive database of more than 20,000 hospitals around the globe. “The likelihood of someone falling ill abroad is relatively high,” Garber says. “I want to make health care more accessible and educate people about it when they are traveling and at home.”