Meetings & Education

The Thalidomide Story

A Two-Part Recorded Webinar Available Only to Society for Birth Defects Research and Prevention Members

The thalidomide saga is complex, worldwide in its scope and changed the lives of many children and their families. The intention of this webinar is to inform and educate members of Society for Birth Defects Research and Prevention about thalidomide embryopathy (TE). It will be focused primarily on a study done at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden during the years of 1987 to 1989 involving 86 Swedish adults between the ages of 27 and 29 years. The original study was set up to study ophthalmological aspects of TE, especially unusual types of eye muscular imbalance, while later studies focus on other questions related to TE from different disciplines. We present the history, characteristics of TE, malformations versus exposure time, results from the Swedish thalidomide studies, animal studies, and new usage of thalidomide and show the malformations and function of some individuals with TE.

We are very thankful to the persons suffering from TE who have been willing to share their photos and films with us to illustrate the presentation. They want to contribute to increased knowledge of TE but do not want that the information might be improperly spread outside the website of Society for Birth Defects Research and Prevention. With the greatest respect to these people we want to stress that it is strictly forbidden to copy the photos and films of the webinar and use them outside the website.

Kerstin Strömland, MD, PhD, and Marilyn Miller, MD

The Thalidomide Story – Part One (member login required)   

The Thalidomide Story – Part Two (member login required)  

Speaker Biographies

John Graham, MD, ScD, is a pediatrician and medical geneticist, with over 35 years of training and experience in clinical genetics, dysmorphology, teratology, developmental disabilities, communicative disorders, and public health aspects of birth defects. Dr. Graham completed fellowships in developmental disabilities and dysmorphology, focusing his research on teratogenic syndromes, genetic syndromes, and other factors that cause birth defects. Dr. Graham hold a Professor of Pediatrics Emeritus Lifetime Appointment at UCLA School of Medicine, where he is on the UCLA Intercampus Medical Genetics Training Program Executive Committee. Dr. Graham continues to treat patients at CSMC and Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. He is an academic clinical geneticist whose experience covers a wide variety of clinical problems, including craniofacial disorders, growth disorders, birth defects, intellectual disability, genetic conditions, and teratogenic disorders. Dr. Graham currently serves on the Section of Genetics and Birth Defects and the Section of Child Development for the American Academy of Pediatrics. He has served on the Editorial Boards for the following journals: Teratology, Birth Defects Research, American Journal of Medical Genetics, Congenital Anomalies (Japan), Annales de Génétique (France), European Journal of Medical Genetics, Global Pediatric Health, and Clinical Pediatrics. Dr. Graham is a past president of the Society for Birth Defects Research and Prevention and a past president of the Society for Craniofacial Genetics. Dr. Graham has authored over 240 publications in peer-reviewed journals, as well as over 100 reviews, book chapters and one book. He has been a longstanding and active member of numerous professional organizations and academic societies concerned with the health of children and with the causes and prevention of birth defects, including the American Society of Human Genetics, European Society of Human Genetics, American College of Medical Genetics, American Academy of Pediatrics, Society for Pediatric Research, American Pediatric Society, Western Society for Pediatric Research, Society for Birth Defects Research and Prevention, and the Society for Craniofacial Genetics.

Lewis B. Holmes, MD, has been active in clinical teratology since his internship in pediatrics in 1963.  He has carried out long-term studies on identifying the causes of the malformations identified in a consecutive sample of 300,000 births from 1972-2012 (see Holmes LB Common Malformations, Oxford University Press, 2012). He has also conducted long-term studies of the harmful fetal effects of anticonvulsant drugs. Since 1981, he and his associates have presented an annual three-day postgraduate course “Human Teratogens,” the only such course available in those years. He was President of the Society for Birth Defects Research and Prevention in 1985-1986 and editor of the Society’s journal Teratology from 1998 to 2002. He is Emeritus Chief, Medical Genetics Unit, MassGeneral Hospital for Children and Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School, Boston.

Marilyn T. Miller, MD, MS, is a professor of ophthalmology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She obtained her medical degree and clinical training in ophthalmology at UIC and has been on the faculty there since 1965. Dr. Miller has a long-standing participation in international ophthalmology, especially in educational activities in a number of developing countries including Nigeria and India, as well as several other Asian and South American countries. Dr. Miller has been recognized for her many contributions to international service in ophthalmology, including the Humanitarian Award from the American Academy of Ophthalmology; the Howe Medal by the American Ophthalmological Society; the Park Silver Medal from the Children’s Eye Foundation of the American Association of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus; and the Dr. G. Venkataswamy Endowment Oration Award; and most recently a special recognition by the Society for Birth Defects Research and Prevention “for her hard work and dedication to the Thalidomide Archive Project.” Dr. Miller has served on a number of boards and advisory committees, including the AAO board and advisory committee of the AAO Foundation, Medical Advisory Committee of the Division of Specialized Care for Children in Illinois, Smith Kettlewell Eye Research Institute, Bernadotte Foundation for Children’s Eyecare and the advisory committee of the World Health Organization. Dr. Miller’s research interest in congenital anomalies and teratogens led her to Sweden, where years later she received an honorary degree from the University of Göteborg for her clinical research in thalidomide embryopathy.

Kerstin Strömland, MD, PhD received her medical degree at Gothenburg University, Sweden in 1963. She was trained in ophthalmology at the Department of Ophthalmology, Sahlgrenska Hospital, Gothenburg from 1963 to 1971. In 1971 Dr. Strömland started as a consultant in pediatric ophthalmology at the Queen Silvia Children’s Hospital in Gothenburg, where she initiated the opening of probably the first children’s eye department situated at a children’s hospital in Northern Europe. She worked there as a senior ophthalmologist until 2004. In 1997 Dr. Strömland got the first professorship in pediatric ophthalmology in Sweden. She has written approximately 70 original scientific articles and 20 reviews and book chapters and a number of popular science articles, mostly about ocular teratology. She acts as referee in journals dealing with ophthalmology, pediatrics and teratology and is engaged as supervisor and opponent in PhD theses. Dr. Strömland received the Princess Marianne Bernadotte’s Prize in Pediatric Ophthalmology (first recipient) from Sigvard & Marianne Bernadotte’s Foundation for Research in Pediatric Ophthalmology, Stockholm, Sweden and the Bock Prize and Lectureship in Developmental Biology and Genetics at Alfred DuPont Hospital for Children, Wilmington, De. USA. In June 2016 she received a special recognition from the Society for Birth Defects Research and Prevention “for her hard work and dedication to the Thalidomide Archive Project.”

The Thalidomide Story – References (PDF format )