In 1998, Dedra Buchwald, a professor of medicine at the University of Washington (UW), lost her wallet containing her driver’s license. She went to the Washington State Department of Licensing (DOL) to get a replacement. As she filled out the form, she noticed an interesting question: “Are you a twin or a triplet?” It gave her an idea…
Across the nation, the Washington State DOL is unique for its interest in twins. This interest stems from the way in which the DOL creates identification codes for driver’s licenses. Each code is a sequence of letters and numbers based on the applicant’s name and birth date. If two or more applicants share the same last name and the same birthday, as do twins and triplets, the DOL would run the risk of issuing the same code to more than one driver. Hence the need to identify twins.
Dr. Buchwald’s inspiration was simple and powerful. What if she and the Washington State DOL could work with twins in Washington to create a research registry? No such registry existed in the region. After consulting with her colleague Jack Goldberg, a scientist who developed a twin registry for the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, she contacted the Washington State DOL to set up a meeting.
Drs. Buchwald and Goldberg went to the state capital and laid out their plan to form a twin registry before representatives of the DOL. In 1999, the Washington State Attorney General approved the sharing of contact information between the DOL and the UW (both of which are state institutions). With that the UW Twin Registry was born. The Washington State DOL sends the names and contact information of individuals who indicate they are a twin when applying for or renewing a driver’s license or state identification card to the Twin Registry on a weekly basis. The Registry sends letters to these twins inviting them to join the Registry. Thousands of twins have joined the Registry since its establishment, making it an invaluable resource to the research community.
In 2013, Dr. Glen Duncan took over as Director of the UW Twin Registry. We made changes to recruitment to streamline our processes, such as allowing volunteers to join via our web page. Near the end of 2013, we also received approval to begin recruiting twins under 18 to join the Registry, representing an entirely new direction for the Registry.
In the summer of 2015, Dr. Duncan accepted a faculty position with Washington State University (WSU) – Health Sciences Spokane. With this change, and recognizing the great potential for the Registry as a unique research resource, leadership at UW and WSU worked together to finalize a transition plan and the Washington State Twin Registry was born. Although our name has changed, our procedures and mission have remained the same. Dr. Duncan and Dr. Elizabeth Blue, a faculty member in UW’s School of Medicine and Assistant Director of the Registry, are now working together and committed to making the Washington State Twin Registry an exceptional resource for WSU, the UW, and, more importantly, the State of Washington.