Mount Sinai Researcher Shares 2013 American Society of Human Genetics Leadership Award With Research Partner Wife

Kurt Hirschhorn, MD, and Rochelle Hirschhorn, MD, Receive Victor McKusick Leadership Award

Released: 5-Nov-2013 2:00 PM EST
Source Newsroom: Mount Sinai Medical Center
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Newswise — Kurt Hirschhorn, MD, who launched the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai’s Human Genetics Program in 1966, and went on to shape the department, and lead genetics on the national and international scene, is sharing the American Society of Human Genetics 2013 Victor A. McKusick Leadership Award with his wife, Rochelle Hirschhorn, MD, Research Professor and Professor Emerita of Medicine, Cell Biology and Pediatrics, NYU Langone Medical Center. The Award recognizes individuals whose professional achievements have fostered and enriched the development of human genetics.

The McKusick Leadership Award was given to the husband-and-wife team at the 63rd ASHG Annual Meeting in Boston, Massachusetts, on October 26. Dr. Hirschhorn is Professorial Lecturer of Pediatrics and Human Genetics, Professorial Lecturer of Genetics and Genomics Sciences and Professorial Lecturer of Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Dr. Rochelle Hirschhorn is a Research Professor and Professor Emerita of Medicine, Cell Biology and Pediatrics at NYU Langone Medical Center.

The Hirschhorn’s son, Joel Hirschhorn, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Genetics, Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, introduced his parents for the awards ceremony. Reflecting on the introduction, he said: “I am both proud and moved that my parents' long-standing leadership in many aspects of human genetics was recognized by their receiving the Victor A. McKusick Leadership Award. It was a thrill to be able to introduce them at the ASHG meeting.”

In presenting the award, American Society of Human Genetics Executive Vice President Joseph D. McInerney said: “The enduring leadership and vision provided by the Drs. Hirschhorn have helped human genetics to flourish and assimilate into the broader context of science, medicine and health. They also have helped to improve awareness and understanding of human genetics among policymakers and the general public.”

Dr. Kurt Hirschhorn established the program of Human Genetics in the Department of Pediatrics at Mount Sinai in 1966 when he was recruited from the Department of Medicine at NYU School of Medicine. When he was named Chair of Pediatrics at Mount Sinai in 1977, he recruited Dr. Robert Desnick from the University of Minnesota School of Medicine and turned the Division of Human Genetics over to him. In 1996, he helped to found an independent Department of Human Genetics at Mount Sinai, which was chaired by Dr. Desnick until 2007, when Dr. Eric Schadt was recruited from California to become the new Chair of Genetics and Genomics and the head of the Icahn Institute if Genomics and Multiscale Biology. Dr. Desnick became the Dean for Genetics and Genomics. Dr. Hirschhorrn remains deeply involved in the activities of the Department.

“I am extremely honored and grateful for this leadership award,” said Dr. Hirschhorn.

The McKusick Award honors the combined contributions of Drs. Hirschhorn, who have been members of ASHG for over 40 years and have served in many society leadership positions, including president and member on the Board of Directors and Editorial Board.

Dr. Kurt Hirschhorn has received multiple awards in genetics and pediatrics, including ASHG’s Allan Award and Excellence in Education Award, the March of Dimes’ Colonel Sanders Lifetime Achievement award and the Howland Award in Pediatrics. At Mount Sinai School of Medicine, he was the Chief of one of the first Divisions of Genetics for eight years and Chair of Pediatrics for 18 years. In addition to serving as a mentor to numerous trainees and faculty, he helped establish the first Masters level genetic counseling program at Sarah Lawrence College.

His major scientific achievements include discovery, characterization and application of the mixed-lymphocyte reaction and the early and sustained use of cytogenetics to discover and describe multiple human chromosomal disorders including the Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome, also called the 4p- syndrome.

In 2010, Rochelle Hirschhorn was honored with the NYU Langone Medical Center’s Master Scientist Award. Dr. Hirschhorn, who was the center’s Chief of the Division of Medical Genetics for 24 years, has been a leader and role model in the advancement of women in medicine and genetics. In 1986, she was the first woman elected to the Interurban Clinical Club, founded in 1905, and soon was elected president of the group.

Her major discoveries include delineating the genetic structure and pathophysiology of adenosine deaminase (ADA) deficiency, an autosomal recessive metabolic disorder that causes immunodeficiency. She also described the phenomenon of reverse mutations as a cause of “self-cure” in ADA deficient patients and predicted the utility of gene therapy for ADA deficiency.

The Hirschhorns have been married for over 60 years, and co-authored over 20 papers or chapters published between 1959 and 2011, in addition to several hundred papers on their own.

About the Mount Sinai Health System
The Mount Sinai Health System is an integrated health system committed to providing distinguished care, conducting transformative research, and advancing biomedical education. Structured around seven member hospital campuses and a single medical school, the Health System has an extensive ambulatory network and a range of inpatient and outpatient services—from community-based facilities to tertiary and quaternary care.

The System includes approximately 6,600 primary and specialty care physicians, 12-minority-owned free-standing ambulatory surgery centers, over 45 ambulatory practices throughout the five boroughs of New York City, Westchester, and Long Island, as well as 31 affiliated community health centers. Physicians are affiliated with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, which is ranked among the top 20 medical schools both in National Institutes of Health funding and by U.S. News & World Report.
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