R. Rodney Howell, M.D., Receives Lifetime Achievement Award

Newborn screening pioneer R. Rodney Howell, M.D., professor of pediatrics and chair emeritus of pediatrics at the Miller School, has received the March of Dimes/Colonel Harland Sanders Lifetime Achievement Award in Genetics. Howell, a geneticist and pediatrician who played a key role in developing the uniform panel of serious disorders for which nearly every baby in the United States is tested, received the award from Edward R.B. McCabe, M.D., March of Dimes Medical Director, and Joe Leigh Simpson, M.D., March of Dimes Senior Vice President of Research and Global Programs. The ceremony took place in Phoenix, Arizona, at the American College of Medical Genetics annual meeting on Wednesday, March 20.

Howell is credited with leading his colleagues in evaluating and creating the core list of newborn screening tests for genetic or functional conditions that can be catastrophic to a baby if not detected early. In many cases, early diagnosis and treatment can prevent or lessen the severity of these conditions. Today, these screening tests are administered to nearly all infants born in the U.S. each year, and expansion of newborn screening is a key public health accomplishment.

“Newborn screening saves babies’ lives and gives thousands each year a chance for healthy development,” said Simpson. “Dr. Howell’s leadership and commitment to the welfare of children was invaluable to the public health effort to close the newborn screening gaps that existed among states. Dr. Howell has a unique ability to translate research findings into medical practice that helps give every baby a chance at a healthy start in life.”

Howell, a child advocate who has dedicated his knowledge and skills to making a difference in children’s lives, said it was “very special” to be recognized by the March of Dimes. “Since newborn screening prevents so much disability and saves the lives of children, it has been a great privilege for me to work in this area during a time when so many additional conditions could be identified.”

A member of the Hussman Institute for Human Genomics, he has served both as president of the American College of Genetics and Genomics, and later as president of its Foundation.

During his long career, Howell was senior advisor to the director at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (2004-2011), and the founding chair of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Heritable Disorders in Newborns and Children. He has co-authored more than 150 research papers dealing with genetic and metabolic diseases in children.

Established in 1986, the March of Dimes/Colonel Harland Sanders Award is given annually to an individual whose lifetime body of research and education has made significant contributions to the genetic sciences.

The March of Dimes is the leading non-profit organization for pregnancy and baby health. In 2013, the March of Dimes celebrates its 75th anniversary and its ongoing work to help babies get a healthy start in life.

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