Drs. Giovanni Neri and Juergen Spranger discuss his influence
AJMG founder Dr. John Opitz's keen observations, vision of how developmental errors arise, and talent as an editor have profoundly influenced medical genetics and the research and clinical work of many, say two former colleagues.
Dr. Opitz, is recipient of the American Society for Human Genetics' 2011 Allan Award
Giovanni Neri, MD, Professor and Chair, Medical Genetics at Catholic University Medical School in Rome, Italy, and Jeurgen Spranger, MD, former Chair and Professor, Pediatrics at University of Mainz in Germany explained to AJMG Sequence how Dr. Opitz has influenced their research and careers.
During a 1968 Baltimore conference, Drs. Spranger and Opitz discovered a common interest in syndromology that grew into a fruitful professional and personal relationship. Dr. Spranger worked with Dr. Opitz at the University of Wisconsin in 1970–1971. During that time, the pair discovered and described geleophysic and campomelic dysplasia.
Dr. Neri met Dr. Opitz in 1983, when Dr. Opitz visited Dr. Neri's mentor, Angelo Serra, PhD, in Rome. Dr. Neri had been working with Dr. Serra in a cytogenetics lab, but wanted to know more about the clinical manifestations of the conditions identified by tests. “Dr. Opitz was the person to study with,” says Dr. Neri, who shortly thereafter went to work with him at Shodair Children's Hospital in Helena, Montana. Dr. Neri and Dr. Opitz described Perlman syndrome and the cardiofaciocutaneous syndrome during that period. “Any role I have in this discipline is thanks to John,” says Dr. Neri.
Dr. Opitz is a talented teacher, who instructs even outside of professional duties, imbuing his knowledge with history, says Dr. Spranger. “He's probably the only English-speaking person with in-depth knowledge of the beginning of modern biology in the 19th century,” he says. “He carries the past, brings it into the present, and reaches for the future.”