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Louise Slaughter, Scientist and Congresswoman, Dies

Trained in microbiology, Slaughter championed science, women’s health, and consumer protections as a member of the US House of Representatives.

Mar 19, 2018
Kerry Grens

WIKIMEDIA, U.S. CONGRESSLouise Slaughter (D-NY), a longtime member of the US House of Representatives who trained as a microbiologist, died last week (March 16) at age 88. Among Slaughter’s accomplishments as a lawmaker, she composed the Genetic Information and Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), which provides protections for people with genetic mutations, and advocated against the overuse of antibiotics.

“She had just a wonderful understanding of the scientific process, of what science can create in terms of improving the health of the world,” Mark Taubman, CEO of the University of Rochester Medical Center, tells the Democrat & Chronicle. “And as such she was a great supporter of the NIH (National Institutes of Health), and a great supporter of increasing funding for science.”

Slaughter was born in Kentucky in 1929, and earned a bachelor’s degree in microbiology and a master’s in public health from the University of Kentucky. According to her website, she wrote her graduate thesis on antibiotic resistance.

In the 1970s and ‘80s, Slaughter served in various state government positions in New York before being elected to the US House in 1986. “Early in her congressional career, she successfully fought for the passage of legislation that guarantees women and minorities are included in all federal health trials, established the Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and allocated the first $500 million in federal funding for breast cancer research at the NIH,” according to her website.

The passage of GINA in 2008 was intended to ease patients’ fears of insurance or professional discrimination in an era of growing opportunities for clinical genetics. “We have truly lost a genomics champion,” Eric Green, Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, says in a statement. “Louise Slaughter had the vision that GINA was needed to ensure continued advances in genetics and genomics research, especially for clinical applications—and she was completely right. Our research community will remember her commitment to these important social and ethical issues.”

According to The Washington Post, she is survived by three daughters, seven grandchildren, and one great-grandson.

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