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Iris Litt

Iris  Litt
Director, 1990-1997
Through her work on young women's health issues, Dr. Iris Litt has helped to revolutionize the care of women in prisons and juvenile detention centers. For over forty years, her research has focused on health problems of adolescents, including substance abuse, prevention of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, and the long-term consequences of eating disorders in adolescent women.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1940, Iris Litt graduated with a B.A. from Cornell University in 1961, and graduated summa cum laude from the State University of New York, Downstate Medical Center, Brooklyn, New York, in 1965. She took her internship and residency in pediatrics at the New York Hospital, and is board certified in pediatrics, with a subspecialty in adolescent medicine.


Dr. Litt was a teaching fellow at Cornell Medical College from 1967 to 1968, then taught pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx from 1968 to 1970. She was director of the Juvenile Center Service of the Division of Adolescent Medicine at Montefiore Hospital from 1968 to 1973, and became medical director for adolescents at Rikers Island Prison Health Services from 1974 to 1976.

Dr. Litt has commented that her early interest in adolescent health led her to help improve health care delivery in prisons and juvenile detention facilities. With her colleague, Dr. Michael I. Cohen, she wrote an article in the American Journal of Public Health in 1974 advocating for the right to quality medical care for adolescents in prison. She's continued her advocacy and dedication to studying the physician's role in treating adolescents, and has written extensively on this topic over the years.

In 1976, Dr. Litt founded the Division of Adolescent Medicine at Stanford, which she led from 1976-2007. In 1990, she was appointed as Director of the Insitute for Research on Women and Gender (now the Clayman Institute), a position she held for seven years, co-terminus with her medical school responsibilities. Her work at the Institute inspired the creation of the Iris F. Litt, M.D. Fund to support two faculty fellowships for research on gender and medicine. She is considered one of the founders of the field of Adolescent Medicine: a Charter Member and past President of the Society for Adolescent Medicine and a member of the first Sub-Board Committee for Adolescent Medicine. Dr. Litt has published in both the scholarly and lay literature. From 1990 to 2004, she was the Editor-In-Chief of the Journal of Adolescent Health. Under her editorship, the journal expanded from quarterly to monthly publications and the impact factor quadrupledred. In a 2002 editorial, she addressed the issue of bioterrorism and adolescents. 

The recipient of numerous awards from professional organizations, Dr. Litt received the annual Outstanding Achievement Award in Adolescent Medicine from the Society for Adolescent Medicine in 1992, she was elected to membership in the Institute for Medicine of the National Academy of Science in 1995, and in 1996 was listed in Best Doctors in America. In 2002, she was awarded the Marron and Mary Elizabeth Kendrick Professorship in Pediatrics by Stanford University. In2007 she became Emerita. Most recently, she served as Director of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, the first woman (and first physician) Director in the Center’s history.