Brooke Ellison, PhD, MPPResearch Assistant Professor
Hope and Medical Ethics
Stem Cell Research
Sociology and Healthcare
Stem Cells and Society
"One of the few guarantees in life is that it will never turn out the way we expect. But, rather than let the events in our lives define who we are, we can make the decision to define the possibilities in our lives."
Brooke Ellison has lived her life by that idea, and has worked to instill it in those she meets. Brooke grew up on Long Island, and for the first 11 years of her life, was involved in so many of the activities that characterize childhood. She studied dance and karate. She sang in the church choir and played the cello. She played little league baseball and soccer. But all of that changed on September 4, 1990 when she was hit by a car while she was on her way home from school. The accident left her paralyzed from the neck down and dependent on a ventilator. Despite her physical situation, Brooke was determined to continue with her life, and continue to make a difference. After spending nearly one year in the hospital, recovering from her injuries and adjusting to her new life, Brooke returned home and focused on her education.
When Brooke returned to school, she was welcomed by friends she had missed and found an environment that allowed her to thrive. In 2000, ten years after her accident, Brooke graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University. Brooke graduated with an A- average in cognitive neuroscience, a combined major of psychology and biology. She gave a commencement address for her Harvard graduation in June of 2000.
In January of 2002, Brooke and her mother, Jean Ellison, published a book titled The Brooke Ellison Story, which documents their family’s experiences from the day of Brooke’s accident until her graduation from Harvard in 2000. Their book subsequently was made into a movie, directed by Christopher Reeve, which first aired on A&E on October 25, 2004. Brooke has continued her education by graduating from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government with a Master's degree in Public Policy.
Since her graduation from Harvard in 2000, Brooke has worked as a public speaker, delivering the message of hope and motivation, and strength in the face of obstacles. Her audiences have been many and diverse, as she has spoken to members of the medical community, business corporations, politicians, community members, students, and nonprofit organizations, traveling across the country to do so. Brooke’s recent and most notable engagements have included such opportunities as delivering a congressional briefing, serving as commencement speaker, and participation in Bob Benia’s "Smart Talk" Women’s Speaker Series. Although the specific message differs from audience to audience, Brooke focuses her attention on hope and motivation, using her own experiences as a vehicle to convey the message.
In November 2006, Brooke ran for New York State Senate, focusing her attention on the issues of health care, education, and funding for stem cell research. Her campaign was endorsed by the New York Times, and was highlighted on The Today Show. Just as Brooke had overcome challenges in her life, she sought to help the state of New York overcome its challenges. Brooke based her campaign on restoring a sense of hope to politics, with the belief that government has an important and problem-solving role in our lives.
Brooke has continued her work as stem cell research advocate and public speaker by founding two organizations that work independently to further this cause. Collaborating with young, creative, and bright minds, as well as with long-standing visionaries in the field of stem cell research, Brooke has founded The Brooke Ellison Project, which provides the necessary education and activism on behalf of stem cell research. Working with director, Jimmy Siegel from A-Political Productions, The Brooke Ellison Project has produced a documentary both about the research and the lives it stands to benefit. Through this vehicle and through personal presentations across the country, that The Brooke Ellison Project hopes to bring stem cell research so much into the public debate and consciousness, that it must be acted upon.
In addition to her professional pursuits in the area of stem cell research, Brooke has received two gubernatorial appointments in New York State in relation to it. In April 2007, Brooke was appointed to the New York State Spinal Cord Injury Research Board, which provides grants for spinal cord injury research. In August of that same year, Brooke was appointed to the Empire State Stem Cell Research Board, which oversees New York’s $600 million stem cell research initiative. Through both of these appointments Brooke hopes to help advance a cause she has long worked to promote. In 2009 she joined the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care and Bioethics as a Research Assistant Professor and Senior Fellow. In 2011 Rutgers University awarded Brooke Ellison with an honorary doctorate in humane letters.
The details of Brooke’s life have been widely covered in such publications as The New York Times, People Magazine, USA Today, Newsday, Biography Magazine, and The International Herald Tribune, as well as, such programs as Entertainment Tonight, Access Hollywood, The Today Show, Good Morning America, The Early Show, and Larry King Live. In each of these appearances, Brooke has expressed her desire to have an impact on the world, stating "wherever there is a condition of discouragement or inopportunity, that’s where I hope to be."
For more information about Brooke Ellison, please visit her Web site: www.brookeellisonproject.org or contact: (631) 240-4412