ASHG honors Dian Donnai with 2017 Education Award

Credit: courtesy Dr. Donnai

BETHESDA, MD – The American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) has named clinical geneticist Dian Donnai, MD, Professor Emerita of Medical Genetics at The University of Manchester; and Clinical Head of Division at Saint Mary’s Hospital, Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Manchester Academic Health Science Centre, as the 2017 recipient of the annual Arno Motulsky-Barton Childs Award for Excellence in Human Genetics Education.

The ASHG award recognizes an individual for contributions of exceptional quality and importance to human genetics education internationally. Awardees have had long-standing involvement in genetics education, producing diverse contributions of substantive influence on individuals and/or organizations. Dr. Donnai will receive her award, which includes a plaque and $10,000 prize, on Wednesday, October 18, during ASHG’s 67th Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida.

Dr. Donnai’s efforts in human genetics education have reached large and diverse audiences, including clinical geneticists, genetic counselors, students, and the public. Her research at the Manchester Centre for Genomic Medicine has focused on understanding the underlying causes of developmental disorders in children; in this effort, she founded the biennial International Manchester Dysmorphology Conference series in 1984, which has acted as a focus for many research collaborations. She also initiated and continues to run an annual dysmorphology workshop at the European Society of Human Genetics (ESHG) conference, and often runs similar workshops in other countries. She was founding editor of the journal Clinical Dysmorphology, and has served as editor-in-chief since 1992.

“Training clinicians in dysmorphology through meetings and courses will be important for phenotypic interpretation in the era of next-generation sequencing,” she said. “I believe an international approach to dysmorphology has contributed to the progress that has been made so far, in both delineating the dysmorphic features and subsequently explaining the genetic mechanisms.”

Dr. Donnai has also been involved with genetic service development and sat on many national and international committees, including a term as consultant advisor to the Chief Medical Officer of England (1998-2004). She co-wrote with Andrew Read New Clinical Genetics, a case-based textbook on clinical genetics practice that is now in its third edition. And in 2003, she established Nowgen, a center for public education, engagement, and research in biomedicine and genetics, which offers learning and teaching resources as well as public events and online materials.

A longtime member of ASHG, Dr. Donnai belonged to the Society’s Nominating Committee in 2009 and its Program Committee in 2011. She served as President of the Medical Sciences Section of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 2007 and as President of the ESHG from 2009-10. Among several awards and honors, she received the March of Dimes Lifetime Achievement Award in Genetics in 2010 and the ESHG Education Award in 2011, and was the Carter Medalist and Lecturer of the Clinical Genetics Society (UK) in 2005.


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