Pioneers in Microbiology Win Alma Dea Morani M.D. Renaissance Woman Award


Elizabeth Blackburn, Ph.D., and Carol Greider, Ph.D., Nobel laureates who made a groundbreaking discovery in what makes cells age, are the winners of the 2017 Alma Dea Morani M.D., Renaissance Woman Award, an honor reserved for a special group of women dedicated to preserving and promoting the legacy of women in medicine.

"The Alma Dea Morani Award recognizes an outstanding contemporary pioneer in medicine or science who has demonstrated professional excellence and a thirst for knowledge and service beyond her medical practice or scientific endeavors," said Julia Haller, M.D., president of the Women in Medicine Legacy Foundation. "This year, we have the unique privilege of honoring two women, molecular biologists whose discoveries could revolutionize the treatment of illnesses related to aging."

Drs. Blackburn and Greider are trailblazers in molecular biology and genetics. In 2009, they shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Jack W. Szostak, Ph.D., a Harvard professor. Drs. Blackburn and Greider discovered the molecular nature of telomeres, the ends of chromosomes that serve as protective caps that preserve genetic information, and co-discovered telomerase, an enzyme that maintains telomere ends.

It was the first time the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was shared by two women. Since the prize was established in 1901, it has been awarded to 199 men and 12 women.

Drs. Blackburn and Greider began working together in the 1980s at the University of California, Berkeley, where Dr. Greider was earning her Ph.D. and Dr. Blackburn was her supervisor. They discovered telomerase in 1984.

Their work has far-reaching implications in health and longevity. As cells age, telomeres shorten, and shortening can lead to age related degenerative diseases.

In 2016, Dr. Blackburn became president of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, CA. Born in Tasmania to parents who were family physicians, she earned her doctorate in molecular biology from the University of Cambridge in England in 1975. She conducted postdoctoral research at Yale University from 1975 to 1977. Dr. Blackburn joined the faculty at Berkeley in 1978 and the University of California, San Francisco in 1990.

Dr. Greider is director of Molecular Genetics and Biology at Johns Hopkins University Medical School in Baltimore MD, where she has worked since 1997. She was born in San Diego to a PhD biologist mother and a PhD physicist father. After completing her degree at Berkeley, she continued her research at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in Long Island, NY.

Alma Dea Morani was the first woman admitted to the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons and an advocate for humanism in medicine. The Foundation dedicates itself to preserving and promoting the history of women in medicine and the medical sciences.

The awards will be presented on Friday, November 3, 2017, at the Lotus Club in New York. Register to attend today.

The Women in Medicine Legacy Foundation, formerly the Foundation for the History of Women in Medicine, was founded with the strong belief that understanding our history plays a powerful role in shaping our future. The resolute stand women took to establish their place in these fields propels our vision forward. We serve as stewards to the stories from the past and take pride in sharing them with the women of today. To learn more, please read our vision.

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