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Dr. Zoghbi receiving her honorary degree from Yale President Peter Salovey. Photo by Michael Marsland/Yale University.

Dr. Huda Zoghbi, professor of neuroscience, pediatrics, molecular and human genetics and neurology at Baylor College of Medicine and founding director of the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute at Texas Children’s Hospital, was the recipient of an honorary Doctor of Medical Sciences degree at Yale University’s 2014 commencement ceremony this week. She was one of 12 individuals who were awarded honorary degrees for achieving distinction in their fields.

Zoghbi, who is also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, is best known for her pioneering work on Rett syndrome, a genetic neurological disease that affects young girls (males with the condition usually die in infancy). Girls born with the disease develop normally for one or two years, but then begin to show progressive loss of motor skills, speech and other cognitive abilities.

“As a pediatric neurologist, your compassion for your patients led you to the laboratory and a career as a neuroscientist and geneticist, seeking answers to the mysteries of neurological disease,” said Yale University president Peter Salovey as Zoghbi received her degree. “You have discovered the cause of Rett syndrome, a rare and severe form of autism, and of a neurologic disorder that results in degeneration of the cerebellum. Your work has helped explain brain development and function and offers hope of finding cures for debilitating conditions. You are a role model for conducting translational research — always looking for ways to apply science to understanding disease. You are a leader in the scientific community, and we are pleased to name you Doctor of Medical Sciences.”