Prof. Asher Ornoy

Professor of Anatomy, Embryology and Teratology , Medical Neurobiology, IMRIC
IMRIC Researcher
Director, Laboratory of Teratology
Head of the Dept. of Child Development and Rehabilitation, Ministry of Health (Israel)

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Why I became a researcher: 

My parents immigrated to Israel in 1950 after surviving the concentration camps of World War II. Once in Israel, they moved to a small village near Petah Tikvah where they continued their family tradition of farming. As a child I helped farm the land, milk the cows and worked in the chicken coop. By the time I was in High School I realized that I did not want to be a farmer.

I excelled in my studies in High School and with the support of my parents I decided to focus on medicine as a career. My dream was to not only be a doctor but to become a researcher as well. I wanted to help people in the best way that I believed I knew how. After my first year in the army I became a student at The Hebrew University's Medical School and remained a part of the faculty to this day.

My main field from the beginning was prenatal and postnatal development of children. I focused on the causes of abnormal development.  By the time I was in my third year of Medical School, I began studying bone and skeleton development which I continued for a number of years. LaterI focused on the development of the brain, with special emphasis on normal and abnormal development of children. After finishing my degree in medicine, I began my training in Pediatrics in Hadassah Hospital. In the US I trained in clinical Teratology and Developmental Pediatrics, which have been the main areas of my research and clinical work for the last twenty years.

Serving as the Head of the Department of Child Development and Rehabilitation in Israel's Ministry of Health, I continue to be heavily involved in the development of policies for diagnosis and treatment of children with ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder). My research in this area focuses on possible prenatal causes of autism: maternal treatment during pregnancy with valproic acid and/or SSRIs or other causes. I also plan to develop experimental models to investigate possible etiologies (causes) of ASD.


2009: Additional training in pediatric neurology, licensef in "Pediatric Neurology and Child Development"

1992: Visiting professor - Clinical Genetics, UCSF Medical School

1987: Visiting professor - Clinical Teratology, Child Development and Pediatric Neurology Dept of Pediatrics, Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, PA.

1982: Visiting Professor - Clinical Genetics, Dept of Medical Genetics, Harbor General, Los Angeles, CA, UCLA

1974-1975: Fellowship - Developmental Pediatrics in the CCDD (Cincinnati Center for Developmental Disabilities), Children’s Hospital Research Foundation, University of Cincinnati, Ohio, and in Teratology

1970-1979: Residency in Pediatrics, Hadassah Hospital, Jerusalem - Pediatric License 7482

1960-1967: Medical School, Hebrew University Hadassah Medical School, Jerusalem, Israel - MD

Selected Awards and Honors: 
2009: Special recognition by the School of Occupational Therapy, Hebrew University and Hadassah for contribution to the School
2008: Special highest recognition by the Minister of Health for extraordinary contribution to Medicine in Israel in the area of Child Development and Rehabilitation
1993: ETS prize for best scientific presentation
1974/75: Fulbright Hay Fellowship in Clinical Teratology, Cincinnati, USA
1968: prize for excellent MD thesis

Autism Spectrum Disorder Research

The prevalence of Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is steadily increasing and is now more than 10 times more common than it was 60 years ago. With that statistic in mind, IMRIC is embarking on new, intensive research in ASD. This research will question whether the maternal use of psychotropic drugs (i.e. anti-psychotics, anti-anxiety, anti-depressives, and other drugs affecting the brain) in pregnancy is associated with Autistic Spectrum Disorders in the offspring.

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