Who We Are

                        Susan E. Lawrence, MD, JD                                                            David Bruyette, DVM                       

                           Founder and CEO                                                                                 Treasurer



A native of Brooklyn, New York, Susan Lawrence entered Barnard College at the age of 14 to escape a troubled family. She was inspired and mentored by Christiaan Barnard, the South African surgeon who performed the world’s first human heart transplant. Susan entered Baylor College of Medicine at 18. A rotation in medical oncology drew her to work with the terminally ill. She became a board certified internist and medical oncologist and opened her practice of medical oncology in Lancaster, California, in 1985.


When many local doctors declined to treat people living with AIDS, Susan welcomed those patients into her practice. In 1992 she and her husband, Sonny Bartz (who passed on due to AIDS the following year), launched The Catalyst Foundation, a California nonprofit organization providing medical care, support services, and advocacy for people living with HIV/AIDS.  Susan closed her private medical practice and became Catalyst’s first full time Executive Director.


Shortly before his death, Sonny made a profound observation.  "I'm not dying of AIDS," he said, "but of the delayed effects of child abuse."  This insight, now supported by the firm scientific evidence of the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study, formed the basis of the expansion of Catalyst's mission to include raising public awareness of childhood trauma as the root cause and driving force of many of the most serious problems facing our society today.  Susan became a nationally known expert and sought after lecturer on this topic, providing educational programs nationwide for diverse audiences including the Mayo Clinic, the San Carlos Apache People, and California maximum-security prisoners.  In 2007, Susan published her award-winning book, "Creating a Healing Society:  The Impact of Human Emotional Pain and Trauma on Society and the World."


It was through her work with prisoners that Susan learned about LWOP sentences, and how they are a massive human rights crisis perpetuated in plain sight in our country.  In 2013, she made the difficult decision to leave Catalyst and attend law school, as she believed absent the training and status of a lawyer, she could not be as effective as she needed to be to make an important difference.  After graduating summa cum laude from Concord Law School in 2016, Susan launched The Center for Life Without Parole Studies, and currently serves as its CEO. Susan is now a licensed attorney, having passed the California Bar Exam in 2017.


Dr David Bruyette received his DVM from the University of Missouri in 1984 and completed an internship at Purdue University and a residency in internal medicine at the University of California-Davis. He was a staff internist at the West Los Angeles Veterinary Medical Group and a member of the Department of Comparative Medicine at Stanford University.


Dr Bruyette was an Assistant Professor and Head of Internal Medicine at Kansas State University and Director of the Analytical Chemistry Laboratory. From Sept 1996 until Jan of 2017 he was Medical Director of the West Los Angeles Animal Hospital. Currently, he is Chief Medical Officer of Anivive Lifesciences and President and CEO of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation and Consultation.


Dr Bruyette is a recipient of the Humanitarian of the Year Award from The Catalyst Foundation and is a board member of the Lifer’s Education Fund. He also plays a highly influential role in the multi-year campaign to save the Honor Program at California State Prison-Los Angeles County.