By Jason Rothstein, MPH

We at the Sarnoff Center are sad this week to be saying farewell to our Senior Advisor, Karen Litwack. Although Karen officially “retired” at the end of 2016, she was generous enough to continue to lend her expertise to our work on a part-time basis for the first half of 2017.

Karen began as the Center’s first Director in 2000. When the organization began its work, the Chicago Center for Jewish Genetic Disorders (as it was then known) was a small program focused on educating Jewish and interfaith couples about Tay-Sachs and a handful of other disorders. Under her leadership, the Center evolved from these humble beginnings to become an internationally known organization covering multiple aspects of Jewish genetic health, and facilitating access for the Chicago community to one of the most advanced carrier screening programs in the United States.

After stepping down from the Director’s role at the end of 2014, Karen remained to take on new challenges as the Senior Advisor for Educational and National Initiatives. In this role, Karen focused on building the Center’s capacity as a provider of professional education for healthcare providers, and on expanding the Center’s presence as a stakeholder in local and national policy discussions about genetic health.

While Karen’s impact on the Sarnoff Center has been both deep and wide, it is her personal impact that stands out for so many of us. Over her long career with the Center, Karen mentored countless staff and interns, who carry the lessons of her leadership and her compassion with them on their careers in Jewish, medical, and other settings. As her successor as Director, I have benefited incalculably from her wisdom, guidance, and leadership, and I am grateful that we had such a long period to work together on these transitions.

This week marks a farewell to Karen, but we hope not a goodbye. With Karen’s passion for the Sarnoff Center’s work and love for our community, we have a feeling we’ll be seeing her in the near future.