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Director of Newborn Screening Program recognized for lifetime achievement

Roger Eaton honored for ‘significant contributions’ to Commonwealth Medicine program

UMass Chan Medical School Communications

November 15, 2021

Roger B. Eaton, PhD, associate professor of pediatrics and director of the New England Newborn Screening Program, an initiative of UMass Chan Medical School’s Commonwealth Medicine division, is the 2021 recipient of the Harry Hannon Laboratory Improvement Award in Newborn Screening, a prestigious international tribute.

Roger Eaton, PhD

The Hannon Award is presented at the Association of Public Health Laboratories newborn screening symposium to a person judged by a selection committee to have made significant contributions to improving the quality of laboratory results for the newborn screening system.

“It is most fitting that Roger receives this prominent award, named for a pioneer in newborn screening, Dr. Harry Hannon,” said Commonwealth Medicine Executive Vice Chancellor Lisa M. Colombo, DNP, MHA, RN. “Roger is a trailblazer as well, and under his leadership of NENSP beginning in 1998, he has advanced our program through innovative thinking and an unwavering commitment to health, resulting in fast and reliable laboratory screening so newborns with treatable disorders can receive immediate and effective care. All of us at Commonwealth Medicine are proud to be Roger’s colleagues and offer our congratulations to him for this well-earned recognition.”

Dr. Eaton is responsible for developing policies, long-range goals, research and development priorities, laboratory quality assurance activities, implementation and use of new technologies, and data system development for the New England Newborn Screening Program. Under his two decades of leadership, it became one of the first state-mandated programs to apply tandem mass spectrometry for screening and has introduced screens for severe combined immunodeficiency, spinal muscular atrophy and many other diseases and disorders.

“I am humbled and honored to receive this award,” said Eaton. “Many thanks to the nomination and selection committees and my colleagues at the New England Newborn Screening Program. I observe the commitment and dedication of this team in action every day, and this recognition reflects their efforts to help babies get the best start possible.”

“Everyone in the New England Newborn Screening Program is delighted that Roger’s hard work and leadership is being recognized with this award,” said Anne Marie Comeau, PhD, professor of pediatrics and deputy director of the New England Newborn Screening Program. “Dr. Inderneel Sahai and I have been attending these symposia over the years and we know well that the competition is stiff across the nation because there are so many dedicated professionals in this field. Roger has ensured the high quality of our program with his keen scientific mind and his determination to bring out the best among all the professionals at the New England Newborn Screening Program. We are very fortunate to work with him. “

The program provides screening services to five states and three countries, helping to identify newborns for immediate treatment to prevent mental and physical disabilities, serious illness or even death. The COVID-19 pandemic brought challenges to these operations, but Eaton’s leadership led to the successful launch of a new laboratory information management system in January 2020, just prior to the worldwide lockdown, ensuring that the team could monitor screening remotely and report urgent abnormal results in real-time.