Dr. Marie M. Tolarova received her Medical Degree in 1965 from the Charles University School of Medicine in Prague. She completed a Ph.D. in 1970 with a thesis on Microforms of Orofacial Clefts from the Human Genetics Program at the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences in Prague. She is Board Certified in Pediatrics and Medical Genetics by the Czechoslovak Medical Board of Pediatrics and Czechoslovak Board of Medical Genetics. Dr. Tolarova completed a D.Sc. Degree in 1986 from the Medical Genetics Research Program at the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences. Her thesis was Cleft Lip and Palate in Man: Epidemiology, Genetics and Prevention.
Dr. Tolarova started her medical career in 1965 as a pediatrician in the Department of Plastic Surgery at the Charles University School of Medicine. She had developed a deep interest in genetics during her medical studies and in 1970, founded the Division of Birth Defects to take responsibility for genetic evaluations, counseling, and follow-up of all individuals with congenital anomalies, children as well as adults, who came to the Department of Plastic Surgery for surgical treatment. Since beginning of her professional career she was interested in understanding causes of cleft lip and palate and especially in prevention of clefts and other congenital anomalies. She established a population-based registry of orofacial clefts in the Czech Republic, containing detailed data on over 10,000 cases; the largest collected sample to date of children with clefts. Over half of these cases had complete genetic evaluations in her Department, including physical examinations of the affected children, both parents, and all siblings; she performed the majority of physical examinations. Since coming to the U.S., she also researched analyzed and published data on the largest population-based sample of orofacial clefts in USA - over 4,000 cases from California.
Dr. Tolarova was involved in orofacial cleft prevention studies in the late 1960’s under the direction of Dr. Francis Burian, head of the Department of Plastic Surgery. She started her own research with periconceptional supplementation by high dose folic acid and multivitamins in the 1970s. The first data showing preventive efficacy of supplementation was published in the Lancet in 1982 and got enormous attention from professionals. The final analysis of her studies, which represent the largest human prospective trial to investigate the recurrence of orofacial clefts after periconceptional supplementation with high dose folic acid and multivitamins, was published in 1995 in Teratology, and showed that the recurrence risk for having another child with a cleft decreased by 65% if “at risk” mothers took multivitamins with a high dose of folic acid.
Dr. Tolarova has over 450 scientific publications and presentations, has been the keynote and featured speaker at numerous scientific meetings, and has held over 20 visiting professorships worldwide. She has 47 years of clinical experience with cleft and craniofacial anomalies patients, thirty years of teaching experience of medical, dental and graduate students. She is Director of Genetic Research and Prevention of the ROTAPLAST Intl., Inc.; project being carried out in South America, India, Asia, and Africa. She participated as a pediatrician and medical geneticist in 50 Rotaplast medical missions all over the world. She is a founding member of the Society of Birth Defects in the Czech Republic and holds memberships in 15 professional organizations. She has received numerous awards, including the 1975 Award of the Medical Research Council, Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences, 1985 Award of the Czechoslovak Literature Council, 2005 Award of the Imperial Gift Foundation (Boshi, Aiiku Kai) Japan, 2007 Rotaplast Distinguish Service Award, 2010 Pierre Fauchard Academy Award, and 2011 Henry Schein Humanitarian Award.
In 1992 Dr. Tolarova relocated to United States joining her husband Mirek Tolar, MD, PhD, who was appointed at UCSF in San Francisco. She joined the Center for Craniofacial Anomalies at UCSF School of Dentistry, held an appointment as a Professor and founded directed the Program for Prevention of Cleft Lip and Palate/Craniofacial Anomalies at the UCSF School of Dentistry UCSF. She also worked for the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation/California Birth Defects Monitoring Program. In March 1996 she organized the first workshop with international participation focused on cleft prevention “Approach to the prevention of orofacial clefts”.
Since July 1999, she is with the University of the Pacific as tenure Professor of Orthodontics and leads the Pacific Craniofacial Team and Cleft Prevention Program. She established there a strong molecular genetics research toward finding causes on cleft in different populations and continues her effort to develop and established the efficient approach to prevent cleft lip and palate anomalies. In 2011 she organized and presided the 3rd ICPF International workshop CLEFT2011 held in San Francisco that was attended by over 250 participants from 30 countries.
Dr. Tolarova has been honored with the International Cleft Lip and Palate Foundation (ICPF) Award of Merit which recognizes her extensive research on prevention of clefts. Tolarova received the award on May 9 during the 7th Biennial World Cleft Lip and Palate Congress hosted by ICPF and held in Mahe, Seychelles.