Renee Tankenoff Brant was born in 1946 and raised in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Brant's family was involved in a Conservative synagogue, and she was one of the first young women in the community to have a bat mitzvah ceremony. Although her family had strong roots in Minnesota, Brant was restless and eager to come east for college. She entered Brandeis during the 1960s, at a time when the university was a hotbed of radical politics and activism. At Brandeis, Brant met her husband and became involved in Vietnam War protests and reproductive rights issues. They were also influenced by Rabbi Al Axelrod, who helped them connect social justice and Jewish values. In recent years, Brant has returned to Jewish themes of social justice through her involvement in a congregation that prioritizes social activism. After Brandeis, Renee chose to go to the University of Chicago for medical school and eventually transferred to Harvard Medical School. While in medical school, Renee chose psychiatry as her specialty and became increasingly interested in the exploitation of women and children. She was influenced by the burgeoning women's movement and her own experiences as a female doctor in a male-dominated profession and as a wife and mother. As a resident training in child and adolescent psychiatry and women's health, Brant became an expert on the sexual abuse of children. She helped author one of the first published papers on the topic, titled The Sexually Misused Child. Brant started a Sexual Abuse team at Children's Hospital. She was a founding member of the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children and the first president of the Massachusetts chapter. In addition, she also served as an expert witness at countless court hearings. After this work became increasingly stressful, Renee switched gears and became interested in working with families dealing with chronic illnesses. She sees her work as a way of supporting the needs and voices of those who can't speak out or who are ignored. Recently, Brant's clinical work has turned to the issue of chronic illness in families. Brant and her husband have two children and live in Newton, Massachusetts.
Brant talks about her family background, childhood memories growing up in St. Paul, Minnesota, and the decision to move to the East Coast to attend college at Brandeis University. She reflects on her relationship with Judaism, how it has changed over time, and how it connected her to social justice work. At Brandeis, Brant became more aware and involved in social movements of the time, participating in anti-Vietnam War protests and getting involved in organizations such as the Student Health Organization. She explains how her graduate education and medical school experience exposed her to women's issues, rape crisis counseling, and the connection between psychiatry and medicine. Renee became involved in working with children who were survivors of incest and sexual abuse. Her work was informed by the women's movement and her experience of being a woman in a male-dominated field. Brant describes her career trajectory, expanding her expertise, forming a Sexual Abuse team at Children's Hospital, founding the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children, and getting into consulting work. She also looks back on balancing her work and family life, explaining that family came first. Renee also talks about the challenges she encountered in her career and obstacles for women in medicine, and the rewards of her life's work. Finally, Brant describes how she's personally changed and grown as a result of her work. She mentions her role models, reflects on her activism, and promotes mental health services and "compassionate caretaking in the medical profession."