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Hecht Receives Distinguished Geneticist Award
Receipt of this award by Dr. Hecht appropriately recognizes her for her many, many contributions in the field of human genetics
The Texas Genetics Society has named Jacqueline Hecht, Ph.D., professor of pediatrics and vice chair of pediatric research at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston, recipient of the 2007 Barbara Bowman Distinguished Texas Geneticist Award.
Established in 1982, the award recognizes outstanding contributions to genetics in Texas and is named in honor of one of the founders of the Texas Genetics Society.
"I have had the unique opportunity to pursue a career that has been very exciting and very rewarding," Hecht said. "The practice of clinical genetics brings together two unique personality characteristics - a love of understanding differences and a need to communicate. I have been able to bring my skills as a genetic counselor into clinical practice and teaching and to start and direct the UT Genetic Counseling Program."
The UT Genetic Counseling Program is unique in Texas and has graduated 56 genetic counselors since its inception in 1989.
"This is a high honor recognizing your outstanding research and your inspirational leadership to all," said UT Health Science Center at Houston President James T. Willerson, M.D., in a congratulatory note. "The importance you place on communications with patients and their families sets a high standard for all of us in the health care professions."
The award-winner joins a very select group of previous honorees, including C. Thomas Caskey, M.D., director- and CEO-elect and chief operating officer of The Brown Foundation Institute of Molecular Medicine for the Prevention of Human Diseases at the UT Health Science Center at Houston.
"Receipt of this award by Dr. Hecht appropriately recognizes her for her many, many contributions in the field of human genetics. It is well-deserved," said Hope Northrup, M.D., director of the Division of Medical Genetics in the Department of Pediatrics.
"Dr. Hecht's contributions have spanned multiple areas of human genetics from basic science discoveries to excellent clinical care to teaching the next generation of geneticists. She is truly a ‘triple threat' in the area of genetics. Those of us in the Medical Genetics Division of the Department of Pediatrics are so very proud of Dr. Hecht!" Northrup said.
Hecht and Northrup also hold appointments in the UT Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston.
"Dr. Hecht's contributions to the academic environment of the Department of Pediatrics and the Medical School are truly exceptional," added Giuseppe Colasurdo, M.D., chair of the Department of Pediatrics. "As a result, she now serves as vice chair of research in our department. This prestigious award reflects her national stature in the field of genetics."
Hecht's research interests include identifying the genes contributing to the development of two common birth defects - nonsyndromic cleft lip and palate and clubfoot - and one type of short stature. She recently received a $1.75 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to continue her studies of clubfoot, a congenital deformity that affects one of every 1,000 live births in the United States.
"This research will lead to a better understanding of the etiologies of these conditions, better recognition and perhaps therapies. This information leads us back to communication with the families and our ultimate goal of reducing the suffering associated with having a genetic condition," Hecht said.
Hecht will receive the award at the 34th annual meeting of the group in San Antonio in April, when she will make a presentation on her career and work.
By Darla Brown, Medical School
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