Profile

Sally E Shaywitz M.D.

The Audrey G. Ratner Professor in Learning Development

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As a physician-scientist Dr. Shaywitz both carries out the cutting-edge research to advance the science of dyslexia while also devoting herself to caring for children and adults who are dyslexic; her studies provide the basic framework and details for the 21st century scientific understanding of dyslexia. Dr. Shaywitz’ ongoing neurobiological and longitudinal epidemiological studies track a population-based cohort from kindergarten entry to mature adulthood and have provided contemporary knowledge of the prevalence, gender composition, universality and precursors, persistence and long-term outcome of dyslexia. Dyslexia is highly prevalent, affecting one in five and represents over 80% of all learning disabilities. Dr Shaywitz’ more recent studies have provided the long-sought empiric evidence for the unexpected nature of dyslexia. Dr. Shaywitz is currently studying reading and dyslexia in a disadvantaged population attending a charter school system and in disadvantaged students attending a public charter school specialized for dyslexia. In a recent paper published in the November, 2015 issue of Journal of Pediatrics she found that the “Achievement Gap in Reading is Present as Early as First Grade and Persists Through Adolescence.” Another recent study focuses on the development of vocabulary in dyslexic children and still another examines the economic consequences of dyslexia in adults. She has developed a new instrument, the Shaywitz DyslexiaScreenTM (SDS, Pearson) for use by teachers to efficiently and reliably screen kindergarteners and first graders for dyslexia, which was released October 2016. A study in progress examines the relationship between measures of adult literacy and the reading of those same adults as children. Additional studies in progress use fMRI to investigate the effects of a pharmacological agent, atomoxetine, on reading and attentional mechanisms in dyslexia. Dr. Shaywitz is the author of over 350 scientific articles and chapters, as well as the award-winning, best selling go-to book on dyslexia, and now the up-to-date second edition of Overcoming Dyslexia (Knopf, Vintage, 2020), which incorporates the latest breakthroughs in science, educational methods, technology, and a major step forward in legal accommodations. Dr. Shaywitz is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine within the National Academies. She is annually selected as one of the Best Doctors in America. Her awards include, among others, an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Williams College; the Townsend Harris Medal of the City College of New York; the Distinguished Alumnus Award of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine; the Achievement Award in Women’s Health from the Society for the Advancement of Women’s Health Research; the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry’s Sidney Berman Award;, along with Dr. Bennett Shaywitz, the Liberty Science Center 2019 Genius Award “in recognition of your inspiring accomplishments and your pioneering work in advancing our understanding of dyslexia;” a 2018 profile in the Scientists at Work section of the New York Times; featured speaker at the GoogleX conference on the Future of Reading and lead story on CBS Sunday Morning with Jane Pauley. Dr. Shaywitz is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine within the National Academies. She is annually selected as one of the Best Doctors in America. Her awards include, among others, an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Williams College; the Townsend Harris Medal of the City College of New York; the Distinguished Alumnus Award of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, the Achievement Award in Women’s Health from the Society for the Advancement of Women’s Health Research, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry’s Sidney Berman Award, and, along with Dr. Bennett Shaywitz, the “Genius Award” from the Liberty Science Center in New Jersey for their groundbreaking work on dyslexia. Dr. Shaywitz has served on the Congressionally-mandated National Reading Panel and the Committee to Prevent Reading Difficulties in Young Children of the National Research Council and, by Presidential appointment (President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama) on the National Board of the Institute for Education Sciences of the U.S. Department of Education. She has also spoken at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Dr. Shaywitz testified in May 2016 before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) on the topic of “Dyslexia: An Explanation and Potential Solution to the Reading Crisis in Education” and in September 2014 before the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space and Technology on the “Science of Dyslexia.” She presented at a Congressional briefing sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in September 2015 and to U.S. Senate field hearings in October 2015. In her testimonies, Dr. Shaywitz points out that while we are always seeking new knowledge, in the case of dyslexia, we have sufficient knowledge to do more. Rather than a knowledge gap, in dyslexia there is an action gap. We must take action to implement the deep knowledge we have of dyslexia and ensure that this knowledge is translated into policy and practice. She also co-chaired the National Research Council Committee on Gender Differences in the Careers of Science, Engineering and Mathematics Faculty; served on the WISC V advisory panel; is a Trustee of the Park Century School and serves on the Advisory Board of the Kortschak Center of USC, the Laurel School and the Westmark School. She currently serves on the New Haven Blue Ribbon Reading Commission, on the Advisory Board of the Adult Literacy X Prize, Chicago Public Library Early Learning Advisory Group, on the Dyslexia Guidelines Work Group of the California Department of Education and on the Board of the Louisiana Key Academy Dyslexia Resource Center. She has served on the Advisory Council of the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke (NINDS), the National Research Council Committee on Women in Science and Engineering and as Chair, Steering Committee for AXXS Workshop; Committee on Women in Science and Engineering Policy and Global Affairs Division, National Research Council; and the Scientific Advisory Board of the March of Dimes. Dr. Shaywitz received her B.A. (with honors) from the City University of New York, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and her M.D. from Albert Einstein College of Medicine. She completed her pediatric training, including a fellowship in Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics, at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.