Our Story

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, Olympia, and laid out their plan to form a twin registry before representatives of the DOL. Then, 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.

Since then, the Washington State DOL has sent the names and contact information of all twins who apply for or renew a driver’s license or state identification card to the UW Twin Registry so the twins can be invited to join. Thousands of twins have joined the Registry since its establishment, making it an invaluable resource to the research community.