Beth Macy

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Sue Ella Kobak Character Analysis

Sue Ella Kobak is a lawyer and activist who is married to Dr. Art Van Zee and who was a close collaborator with fellow activist Sister Beth Davies in the early days of the opioid epidemic. She first meets Van Zee at an NAACP rally, and she opts not to change her name after they’re married. Though Sue Ella is committed to exposing the harmful effects of OxyContin (as well as the lengths that the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma have gone to hide these harmful effects), she sometimes worries that her husband’s patient caseload combined with his activism is too much work for him. One of Sue Ella’s biggest contributions to the movement is when she scores some documents that Purdue Pharma filed when they applied for FDA approval of OxyContin—these documents prove that Purdue knew about the harmful effects of the drug early on, despite their claims to the contrary. Like her husband, Van Zee, Sue Ella represents how early activists in the opioid crisis struggled to be heard and how they were frequently frustrated. But she also represents how through persistence they were ultimately able to bring greater awareness to the issue and effect change, even if the changes are still short of what they originally hoped to accomplish.
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Sue Ella Kobak Character Timeline in Dopesick

The timeline below shows where the character Sue Ella Kobak appears in Dopesick. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
Cycles of History Theme Icon
Fighting the Medical Establishment Theme Icon
...There, at an NAACP rally to stop a planned KKK event, he met his wife, Sue Ella Kobak , who is a lawyer and an activist. When they got married, the flower girl... (full context)
Fighting the Medical Establishment Theme Icon
...Zee begins holding public meetings. At one, an undercover Purdue Pharma rep raises sharp objections. Sue Ella begins to worry that her husband’s heavy caseload is getting the better of him. He... (full context)
Poverty as an Obstacle to Recovery  Theme Icon
Fighting the Medical Establishment Theme Icon
...a meeting where several locals discuss the issue as a coalition, many—including Van Zee and Sue Ella —are initially leaning toward accepting the money. But a five-foot-tall nun named Sister Beth is... (full context)
Chapter 3
Fighting the Medical Establishment Theme Icon
The Value of Science Theme Icon
...for sale by the FDA. As it turns out, Van Zee receives some documents from Sue Ella about Purdue Pharma, including their application to the FDA for OxyContin’s approval. It turns out... (full context)
Chapter 13
Fighting the Medical Establishment Theme Icon
...the course of her book that makes her feel hopeful, Macy thinks of people like Sue Ella , Tyson, and Cantrell, who use the strength of community to combat the epidemic. (full context)