Human Genetics Program Named for former Director Joan H. Marks

Joan Marks

Sarah Lawrence College is pleased to announce that the College’s graduate Program in Human Genetics, the first of its kind in the nation to educate genetic counselors, will be named for its longtime director (1972-1998), Joan H. Marks, considered to be the mother of the field.

A special presentation by world-renowned stem cell expert, Dr. Irving Weissman—the first scientist to identify and isolate stem cells in any species—will be held in honor of the event on Tuesday, April 4 at 4 p.m. in the Donnelley Lecture Hall of the College’s Heimbold Visual Arts Center. Dr. Weissman’s talk, “Stem Cells: Science, Medicine & Politics,” is free and open to the public. For reservations, please call (914) 395 2412.

Over the course of nearly three decades as director, Joan Marks developed the Sarah Lawrence Human Genetics Program into a national model for education in genetic counseling. The master’s degree program remains the largest of its kind, and has graduated over one-third of all genetic counselors in the United States. About one-half of the programs that have followed are directed by graduates of the Sarah Lawrence program.

In 1979, Marks founded the Graduate Program in Health Advocacy at Sarah Lawrence, the first graduate degree program to train advocates who work within the health care industry to ensure patients’ rights. Retiring in 1998 from the College, Marks has continued her career by serving on a number of advisory groups in medicine such as the American Board of Internal Medicine, the American Academy of Physicians and Patients, and the Women's Health Initiative of the National Institutes of Health. Additionally, Marks has served as co-director of The New York Breast Cancer Project. She is the author of The Genetic Connection: How to Protect Your Family against Genetic Disease. In 2003 Marks became the first woman and first non-MD to receive the Excellence in Human Genetics Education Award, presented by the American Society of Human Genetics.

Dr. Irving Weissman is a professor in the departments of pathology and developmental biology and director of both the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine and the Comprehensive Cancer Center at Stanford University Medical Center. He has authored and co-authored numerous articles, including "Stem Cell Research: Paths to Cancer Therapies and Regenerative Medicine."