Women who Inspire: Somer Greene

Somer’s cancer diagnosis and experience at St. Jude fueled her desire to give back to her community.

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Women who Inspire: Somer Greene

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From an early age, Somer Greene possessed a keen awareness of the inequality that existed in her hometown of Memphis and wanted to contribute to change.

As a high school sophomore on scholarship at a private school, she founded a charity called Teens on the Scene or TOTS. As the group leader, she applied for grants that funded writing and speaking workshops for inner-city children. 

“We packaged the opportunities we had at our high school in a way that children from the inner city could also experience,” Somer recalled. 

Women who Inspire: Somer Greene

Somer as a child with her dad, Bryan.

But Somer’s philanthropic pursuits were halted the following year when she was diagnosed with hereditary gastric cancer, the same cancer her father had been diagnosed with earlier. She was referred to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital® and later underwent surgery to remove her stomach, as well as part of her esophagus. A little over a month after her surgery, her father died of his cancer. 

Somer recalled how being surrounded by the laughter of other children being treated at St. Jude helped her through some difficult times. And how doctors and nurses encouraged her when fear took over. 

“The surgeons and nurses didn’t sugarcoat it, but they didn’t make it doom or gloom,” she said. “They told me you still have so much agency with this. Cancer is a word and is not a sentence, and fear is a liar. They taught me that fear can be so manipulative, but you must listen to people who can see all the perspectives.”

When she left St. Jude, Somer felt she had grown in many ways. And her experience at St. Jude made her even more determined to continue to give back to her community.  

“Being a St. Jude kid, you really do see human kindness times 10, and that fueled a lot of me when I was 17, and I wanted to carry on that open-hearted giving,” she said.

Somer’s interest in philanthropic work continued at Occidental College in California and while she pursued a master’s degree at the University of Cambridge in England. For a few years, she worked as a senior development executive at the University of Cambridge where she was responsible for securing major gifts and other fundraising. 

Women who Inspire: Somer Greene

Somer at her Cambridge University graduation with her mom, Terri.

More than a year ago, Somer started work at Google DeepMind, which researches and builds artificial intelligence systems. There, she serves as co-lead of a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)  employee resource group. 

 “I’d like to be a driver in diversifying the people who work in tech,” she said.  

Somer, who is now married and lives in England, hasn’t returned to St. Jude in about five years. She plans to visit St. Jude with her husband this fall. 

St. Jude is still very interactive with me. Especially their social services and genetic planning department,” she said. “I have immense gratitude to St. Jude for saving my life.”

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