News release: Minnesota celebrates 50 years of newborn screening’s life-saving benefits

News Release
February 27, 2013

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Minnesota celebrates 50 years of newborn screening's life-saving benefits

State is first to host laboratory group's traveling exhibit

Margaret Doll was born in Minneapolis 55 years ago with a hidden genetic disorder, PKU (Phenylketonuria). Since nobody in her family or her doctor were aware she was affected until it was too late, Margaret suffered the developmental disabilities and behavioral problems caused by the enzyme defect. Just a few years later, Margaret's uncle, Dr. Robert Guthrie, developed the newborn screening test for PKU that spared thousands of children worldwide the challenges faced by his own niece.

Margaret and her mother, Mary Lou Doll, will join Minnesota professionals in public health and pediatrics, as well as parent advocates and the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL) in celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the start of newborn screening in the US.

"Newborn screening has been one of the greatest public health achievements of the last century," said Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger. "Our continued investment in our public health laboratories and screening programs is crucial to the health of future generations."

To help celebrate 50 years of newborn screening, the APHL is making available to states a traveling display depicting the history and important life-saving role of newborn screening. Its first stop on a 13-state tour, Minnesota will host the display from March 4-15, with several special exhibits and events planned.

The keynote event will be a public celebration and recognition of newborn screening's Minnesota partners on Friday, March 8 from 11 a.m. -12:30 p.m. in the Great Hall of the State Capitol. Special guests will include Jim Koppel, deputy commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Health; Korissa Olson (mother of Everrett, 4); and Evan Hromada (a Marquette University freshman). Both Everett and Evan were born in Minnesota with galactosemia, but thanks to newborn screening were identified early and treated so that they avoided disability.

The APHL exhibit also will be on display:

    • March 4-6 at the Minnesota Department of Health Orville Freeman Building in St. Paul.
    • At the 2013 Early Hearing Screening Detection and Intervention / Birth Defects Conference for Local Public Health Professionals on Thursday, March 7.
    • March 9 –14 in the lobby of the Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul.

The exhibit shows the scientific discoveries that enabled mass, rapid and accurate testing of the newborn population, and recounts the experiences of families touched by early detection of a condition. The display also includes Minnesota-specific information.

Newborn screening started in Minnesota in 1965 with one test for PKU. Today the laboratory at the Minnesota Department of Health offers screening for over 50 serious, life-threatening conditions to Minnesota babies. In January 2013, MDH added Severe Combined Immune Deficiency (SCID or Bubble Boy disease) to its screening panel allowing children who are unable to fight off infections to be identified and treated early. Thanks to Dr. Guthrie's pioneering efforts, other families are spared the life-long challenges that Margaret Doll has faced.

For more information on the history of newborn screening, visit the MDH newborn screening website:


Media inquiries:

Doug Schultz
MDH Communications

Patti Constant
MDH Newborn Screening Program