Message from the President, November 2019
Louise E. Wilkins-Haug, MD, PhD
In Memorium: Laird Jackson, MD, FACMG
ISPD was saddened to hear of the passing of Laird Jackson, MD, age 89. He was influential in the creation of ISPD in the early 1990s and was a founding member and a frequent attendee at meetings through the decades. During the 1992 International Conference on Early Prenatal Diagnosis of Genetic Diseases, he presented his seminal work on CVS and limb defects. At this pivotal meeting, he and other pioneers developed a vision for an international society focused on the growing niche of prenatal genetics.
Laird was a professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and medical genetics at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He spent his time in clinical care and research and he recognized the diagnostic possibilities, but also potential complications of CVS in a 1989 New England Journal of Medicine article. To examine these concerns, he led a multicenter clinical trial to monitor CVS outcomes and complications during the 1990s. He continued engaging in research collaborations when new prenatal genetic modalities entered the field such as chromosome microarray and noninvasive prenatal diagnosis with fetal cells. His work with Cornelia de Lange syndrome was extensive, and he served as the medical director for the CdL Foundation. He was a continual advocate for genetic counseling and the need to include these perspectives in patient care and research. As a consummate collaborator, he was always enthusiastic about new ideas, different approaches, and the sharing of information. His passions included education and mentorship, and he promoted early trainees, always remembering their work and engaging them in new studies. I owe Laird immeasurable gratitude for his inclusiveness and enthusiasm; he was one of my role models. For these many talents, in 2017, Dr. Jackson received the ACMG Foundation for Genetic and Genomic Medicine’s David L. Rimoin Lifetime Achievement Award.
Always one to explore new ideas, he was the first chairman of The Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) Foundation. Known as “Doc” to many members, AMA is the world's largest model aviation association whose foundation supports charitable donations to model aviation chapters, works to promote model aviation as a sport, and provides scholarships to youth for Camp AMA.
Laird is survived by his wife, two sons, and two granddaughters.
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The ISPD Board is discussing the best way to honor Dr. Jackson's contributions to the organization and will make an announcement soon.