Stay up to date with the latest from MAKERS delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for new stories from trailblazing women, a big dose of inspiration, and exclusive MAKERS content.

Newsletter Confirmation

Thank you for joining! Please check your inbox for our special welcome letter
with exclusive updates from MAKERS.


Consequences of Knowing Our DNA

Consequences of Knowing Our DNA

More From Nancy

In this video

Neuropsychologist and President of the Hereditary Disease Foundation, Nancy Wexler contemplates both the positive and negative consequences of knowing the composition of our DNA.

Nancy's Biography

Born and Raised: Born in Washington, D.C. and raised in Topeka, Kansas.
Character Building: Got an "F" in a Serbo-Croatian Literature course in college and her dad said "It's good for your character to fail."
Dad's Influence: "He actually encouraged me to go to Radcliffe because, he said, 'If you go there, I'll — if you go to Boston, take you out for lobster.'"
Bad Math: "You don't have to be a math whiz to do science, thank God."

Nancy Wexler, PhD is a neuropsychologist who's devoted her life's work to finding a cure for the fatal hereditary disorder Huntington's Disease. She is best known for her major contribution in discovering the location of the gene that causes the disease. Today, Wexler serves as president of the Hereditary Disease Foundation, a clinic founded by her father, Milton Wexler, M.D., and as the Higgins Professor of Neuropsychology at Columbia University.
Wexler's 20-year study of the world's largest family with Huntington's disease, in Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela, developed a pedigree of over 18,000 individuals and collected over 4,000 blood samples which lead to the identification of the Huntington's disease gene at the tip of human chromosome 4. Wexler herself has a one in two chance of having the disease. Her mother, grandfather and three uncles all passed away from Huntington's.
Wexler received an A.B. from Radcliffe in 1967 and a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Michigan in 1974. She currently holds or has held numerous public policy positions, including Chair of the Joint NIH/DOE Ethical, Legal and Social Issues Working Group of the National Center for Human Genome Research, Chair of the Human Genome Organization (HUGO) and Member of the Institute of Medicine. Wexler has served as a member of the board of directors of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and on the Advisory Committee on Research on Women's Health, NIH. She has received numerous honors and awards including the 1993 Lasker Award for Public Service.

Related Videos

Cady Coleman
Cady Coleman

As a chemist and an astronaut, Cady Coleman boasts an impressive list of accolades that orbit around science and space. The former United States Air Force officer has logged n...

Brandon Holley
Brandon Holley
Fashion Editor-in-Chief

Brandon Holley is the former Editor-in-Chief for Lucky, the award-winning magazine about shopping and style. She began her magazine career as a writer for Paper, which eventually l...

Yang Liping
Yang Liping
Dance Artist

At a young age, Yang Liping was selected to join an ethnically diverse song and dance troupe dedicated to preserving regional dance traditions. Liping was with this group for ten y...

Donna Shalala
Donna Shalala
President & CEO of the Clinton Foundation

As both an educator and political advocate, Donna Shalala’s résumé is impressive. Born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1941, Shalala grew up with an intense curiosity...