Down Syndrome Bill Developed by Alumnus is Signed into Law

October 16, 2008
by Lindsay Hodges Anderson

A congressional bill designed to support parents of children with disabilities, inspired by the words and actions of Brian Skotko, MD/MPP 2006, was signed into law Oct. 8 by President George W. Bush.

The Prenatally and Postnatally Diagnosed Conditions Awareness Act (S. 1810), co-sponsored by Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Sam Brownback (R-KS), will provide parents receiving a pre- or post-natal diagnosis of Down syndrome or other disabilities - like cystic fibrosis and spina bifida - more information and support than has been available in the past. The bill passed the Senate by unanimous consent on Sept. 23, 2008, and passed the House by a voice vote on Sept. 25, 2008.

“The Act will offer grants to hospitals, support groups or medical societies which are trying to provide parents with up-to-date information on Down syndrome,” said Skotko. “Such grants might include funding to train physicians on how to communicate effectively and compassionately with new or expectant parents. Another might defray the costs of a national Down syndrome organization distributing accurate information on Down syndrome to parents.”

A graduate of both Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Medical School, Skotko is a resident physician at Children’s Hospital Boston and the Boston Medical Center. He has devoted his medical career to cognitive and developmental disabilities in children – serving on the board of directors for the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress, the National Down Syndrome Society and Band of Angels Foundation.

Skotko worked collaboratively with Kennedy and Brownback’s offices to draft the initial version of the bill and testified at a Congressional hearing on the issue in 2005 while still a student at Harvard Kennedy School.

“Working on this legislation wonderfully combined all of the skills that I had learned from Harvard Medical School and Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government,” said Skotko.

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Brian Skotko

Brian Skotko has dedicated much of his career to work with children with Down syndrome Photo credit: © 2005 President and Fellows of Harvard College on behalf of HMS Media Services, Photo by Liza Green, All Rights Reserved.

“The Act will offer grants to hospitals, support groups or medical societies which are trying to provide parents with up-to-date information on Down syndrome.”

Brian Skotko, Sen. Ted Kennedy and Beth and Ben Allard

Members of the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress Beth and Ben Allard with Sen. Ted Kennedy and Brian Skotko (left - right) at the 2005 testimony before Congress for the bill. Photo provided.