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Law Prof Who Wrote of Schizophrenia Battle Wins Genius Grant

Posted Sep 22, 2009 7:05 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A law professor who succeeded despite her schizophrenia is among 24 winners of genius grants by the MacArthur Foundation.

Winner Elyn Saks has been a law professor at the University of Southern California for 20 years and is an associate dean overseeing research and grants. She wrote about her battle with mental illness in the 2007 book, The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness.

Saks recalled in an interview with the Washington Post that, after her first psychotic episode at the age of 18, she was told she would never be able to live and work on her own. She told of an episode at Yale Law School when classmates found her singing on a rooftop outside the law library. "I thought there were beings in the sky controlling my brain," she said.

Saks told the Associated Press she plans to use the money to continue educating people about the lives of people with mental illness. ''I want to make a difference in how people see schizophrenia,'' Saks said. She is working on a second book about high-functioning people with schizophrenia.

A second grant recipient, Rebecca Onie, also has a law degree, according to the New York Times. Onie founded Project Health, a group that seeks to improve the health of poor people.

The 24 winners will each receive $500,000 over five years that they may use as they please.

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