Recap: Genomic Medicine at the Population Level Webinar

Posted by: Alissa Ortman, Associate Director of Digital Programs, ASHG

Several large-scale national studies have been launched to collect phenotypic and genomic data on large populations. These studies will form the basis for future initiatives in precision medicine. ASHG and The American Journal of Human Genetics (AJHG) hosted the webinar Genomic Medicine at the Population Level to describe some of the major approaches being used in these studies around the world, and to highlight the progress in assembling the cohort of one million or more participants in the All of Us Research Program in the United States.

AJHG Deputy Editor Sara Cullinan, PhD, moderated the webinar with speakers Kathryn North, AC, representing the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health (GA4GH); and Stephanie Devaney, PhD, Deputy Director of the All of Us Research Program.

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Stephanie Devaney, All of Us Research Program

First, Stephanie shared the overall goals of the All of Us Research Program, including serving as a rich, longitudinal resource, focusing on a diversity of program participants, and building tools and capabilities to support broad diversity of researchers using the data. Stephanie noted, “If we harness the right data and information in partnership with a diverse group of one million of us over many years, we will learn things about human health that will be game-changing.”

The focus on partnership is an important part of All of Us, with a goal to work with participants and meet them where they are, to be able to develop a unique program to answer questions that have previously been out of reach for the genetics and genomics community.

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Kathryn North, Global Alliance for Genomics and Health

Kathryn then spoke about the efforts around integrating genomics data from these types of programs into clinical practice. She noted that millions of samples will need to be collected in order to address some rare and/or complex diseases like cancer. Some of the biggest challenges to this effort are the silo-ing of data by type, disease, country, and institution; and questions about how to approach regulation, consent, and data sharing.

GA4GH is focused on these issues, working to accelerate progress in human health by establishing a common framework of harmonized approaches to enable effective and responsible sharing of genomic and clinical data. The alliance currently has more than 700 partners across 90 countries with a goal of having a virtual cohort of more than 60 million samples by 2025. Programs in the alliance include the All of Us Research Program Stephanie discussed, as well as the Australian Genomics Health Alliance, led by Kathryn.

To learn more about the processes and protocols being used by All of Us, GA4GH, or the Australian Genomics Alliance, watch the full webinar recording.

Thank you to our webinar sponsor, Illumina, whose sequencing and array technologies are fueling advancements in life science research, translational and consumer genomics, and molecular diagnostics. For more information, please visit illumina.com or contact their population genomics team at populationgenomics@illumina.com.

Fill Your Next Opening on the ASHG Career Center

Posted By: Evelyn Mantegani, Public Education & Engagement Specialist, ASHG

ASHG is happy to provide genetics and genomics employers with the ASHG Career Center. This new and improved online job board provides a wide range of opportunities to recruit and attract first-rate talent with a minimum expenditure of time and resources. Easily browse the resumes and post your job openings for a small fee (ASHG members get a discount!).

(On the hunt for your next position? Check out our tips for job seekers.)

Have you wondered what other features for employers are offered? Here’s how to use the Career Center to most effectively fill your next position and find your future colleague.

Save as an ASHG Member

  • If you’re a current ASHG member, you’ll save at least $200 on all job posting rates. Join or renew today!

Effectively Convey the Opportunity

  • Choose from six different job posting options – Posting options include bulk posts and varying lengths to post.
  • Save time creating your post – Use the provided form to make it easy for you to enter and update your job postings, which will get your posting out to candidates faster.
  • Create a video – For an added fee, create professional, 60-second videos to provide key information, brand identification, and a call to action for each of your postings.

Search for and Find Candidates

  • Easily collect applications – Enter your corporate website to the posting form to receive all applications directly.
  • Contact candidates directly – You can reach out to candidates, mark them as interested, forward a candidate to a colleague, or print a job profile directly from the site.
  • Create resume search alerts – Set up a resume search and you’ll receive an email when the right candidate becomes available.
  • Easy outreach to candidates – If a job seeker has set up a job alert, the site will automatically contact him or her if your job is a match. Make sure your job titles and descriptions are as complete as possible to enable this feature.

Maximize Your Reach

  • Become a Featured Employer –This will increase your exposure through enhancing your job posting, banner ads, and logo visibility. The Premium Employer Page also includes branding tips.
  • Use your data to boost your posting – Get detailed information about your job postings, such as views, number of applications, and how any times your job was emailed directly to a job seeker via an alert.
  • Access to the Engineering & Science Career Network – Posting your job on our page allows your opening to be listed and viewed nationwide on relevant Engineering and Science partner Career Centers.

Inspired by DNA Day: 2019 Essay Winner Visits a Lab

Posted By: Fuki Marie Hisama, MD, 2019 DNA Day Essay Contest Judge

This year’s DNA Day Essay Contest winner, high school junior Sophia Chen, wrote her essay on an ethical dilemma in human genetics: whether a father with Huntington’s disease should reveal his genetic diagnosis to his adult daughter.

My lab and colleagues at the University of Washington were all impressed with Sophia’s essay on the challenges of Huntington’s disease (HD), and we invited her and her science teacher, Dr. Devin Parry, to visit our lab to learn more and gain exposure to genetics research. We were thrilled to have them.

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L-R: Devin Parry, Sophia Chen, and Fuki Hisama (courtesy Dr. Hisama)

They attended a working clinical case conference, joined in a discussion of current topics in human genetics, toured several labs to see some of cutting-edge research going on here, and met many geneticists and genetic counselors, including two ASHG presidents: Mary-Claire King, PhD, 2012 President; and Peter Byers, MD, 2005 President. Tom Bird, MD, a leading neurogeneticist and expert on HD, presented Sophia with a signed copy of his book on Huntington disease entitled “Can You Help Me?”, published this year.

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Tom Bird presented Sophia with a copy of his recent book. (courtesy Dr. Hisama)

As one of the ASHG members who volunteer to judge the DNA Day essay contest, I was especially pleased to meet one of the winners of this year’s contest. Sophia has also participated in a NASA project on genes in space. The future of genetics is bright, because of young people like Sophia, and her teacher, who are passionate about science.

A longtime member of ASHG, Fuki Marie Hisama, MD, FACMG, FAAN, is Professor of Medicine (Division of Medical Genetics) and Adjunct Professor of Neurology at the University of Washington School of Medicine. 

Interested in encouraging public and student participation in genetics? Sign up for the Genetics Engagement & Education Network and add your name to the list of judges for next year’s DNA Day Essay Contest!

Using the ASHG Career Center: Tips for Job Seekers

Posted By: Evelyn Mantegani, Public Education & Engagement Specialist

Earlier this year, ASHG launched the Career Center. This online job board connects the innovative and energetic members of ASHG with the newest positions open in the human genetics and genomics community. At no cost, ASHG members can post their resume and search for their next position.

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Visit the ASHG Career Center at https://careers.ashg.org/

Here’s how to most effectively use this resource to find your next position.

Set up Job Alerts. Let the system find new jobs for you: set up your preferred job search criteria, including location, discipline, and level. You will then automatically receive a notification whenever a matching job is posted.

Create Your Searchable Portfolio. Increase your exposure to employers by uploading up to five career-related documents, such as work samples or certification letters.

Preview Your Job Applications. Before submitting your application, you can preview it as an employer will see it.

Check the Commute. Assess a potential commute right from the job detail screen. The Google Map feature will display a map with the distance between your home and the employer.

Save Potential Jobs. Save up to 100 jobs to a folder in your account so you come back to apply when you are ready.

Review Your References. For a discounted fee starting at $79.20 for members, experienced professionals will call your references to learn what they are telling prospective employers. All checks are done with complete discretion and confidentiality.

Have Your Resume Reviewed. The ASHG Career Center provides resume rewriting and critiques, starting at $29.95. This resource is available for resumes and cover letters from entry to executive level.

Find all ASHG Career Resources in One Place. The resources section compiles all career resources provided by ASHG. Browse this page for job application guidance, interviews with professionals across career sectors, and more.

Be Well to Do Well

Posted By: Ann Klinck, Communications and Marketing Assistant, ASHG

Earlier this month, ASHG hosted a webinar titled Resilience and Wellness, which focused on strategies to maintain your mental wellness in the scientific workplace and improve your resilience to the challenges and setbacks we all face.

Sharon Milgram, PhD, Director of the Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reminded webinar listeners that to function at the highest capability, you must take your own well-being into consideration.

Developing Resilience

“Those who are resilient prepare to be resilient,” said Dr. Milgram. Developed through education, self-reflection, and practice, resilience can help a person navigate through adversity constructively. Here’s how:

  • People: Find people you can trust, who will give you energy when you feel stuck, and go to them to find compassion, a listening ear, or just companionship.
  • Process: Figure out what wellness practice or resources you can focus on that will help you in that moment.
  • Prepare: You cannot try to discover these things in a moment of crisis; you have to set yourself up for success.

Dr. Milgram also provided this helpful tool to identify characteristics of a resilient person.

Handling Our Inner Critic

To improve the way you view difficult situations or setbacks, analyze your self-talk. Are the stories you tell yourself harsher than they need to be? Consider whether you would say the things you tell yourself to a friend. Are you seeing the broader picture?

Destroying Cognitive Distortions

Dr. Milgram described cognitive distortions or automatic negative thoughts as “Characteristic ways that our mind convinces us of something that is really not true to reinforce negative thinking or emotions.” Some examples are:

  • All-or-nothing thinking: Your performance is either perfect or a complete failure.
  • Catastrophizing: You exaggerate the implications of a setback or mistake.
  • Mind reading: You make assumptions about what someone else is thinking.

Here’s how to tame them:

  • Journal to identify your most common negative thoughts.
  • Talk to mentors and peers.
  • Use your science voice to question them: Where is the evidence that this is the worst thing to ever happen in my life?
  • Be open to counseling when it’s unmanageable.

Never Feel Like an Imposter

Imposter fear is a type of cognitive distortion, qualified as “The feeling of phoniness in people who believe that they are not intelligent, capable, or creative despite evidence of high achievement.” Dr. Milgram pointed out that “If you are working towards a PhD in the sciences, if you are a postdoc, if you have been working as an undergraduate in a high-knowledge research environment, there is much evidence of high achievement already, though we often find ourselves feeling like fakes and phonies.”

Imposter fears include attributing success to luck or discounting your successes. You’re not alone! 70+% of individuals experience imposter fears at some point in their educational and work journey. Fight that feeling by practicing accepting praise and reminding yourself that impostor fears happen to everyone.

To Do Well, We Have to Be Well

Dr. Milgram provided a model of holistic self-care outlining four quadrants of wellness.

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In her shared slide deck, you can find a wellness assessment for each quadrant. While everyone defines these quadrants differently, each needs to be fulfilled to feel well. Dr. Milgram reminded us we can’t fix everything at once, and to take time to work on one area instead of trying to change too many habits too quickly.

Watch the full webinar, or check out our Twitter account to see live engagement from listeners!

DNA Day on April 25: An Opportunity to Engage

Posted By: Ann Klinck, Communications and Marketing Assistant, ASHG

National DNA Day started in 2003 to commemorate the completion of the Human Genome Project and engage communities with science. Last month, ASHG hosted the webinar “Take Initiative: DNA Day Engagement and You,” which covered how to get involved, resources, and best practices.

Listeners were joined by moderator Maurice Godfrey, Incoming Chair of ASHG’s Information & Education Committee; Carla Easter, Chief of Education and Community Involvement at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI); and Christina Vallianatos, Founder and co-Director of Michigan DNA Day.

Importance of Science Engagement

Public engagement with science is imperative every day, but DNA Day provides the opportunity to make it a priority. Christina explained that her organization’s mission helps demystify science for students, and that “Many scientists’ careers aren’t linear. The simple act of awareness can help students know what other fields are out there in science outside of doctors and nurses.”

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Michigan DNA Day has grown tremendously in a short time, showing that not only is science engagement important, but people enjoy it! (courtesy Ms. Vallianatos)

Ways to Get Involved

The speakers outlined numerous ways and resources for involvement:

National Events: Carla described larger DNA Day-related events that NHGRI oversees. Students are able to visit the NIH Campus and go on lab tours, and NHGRI facilitates interactive programming with the Smithsonian Institute, a lecture, and a seminar series. Past events are listed online, and 2019 events should be available soon.

Maurice encouraged listeners to get involved in ASHG’s Annual DNA Day Essay Contest. This year’s contest addresses the disclosure of a genetic diagnosis to one’s family. Participating students can win cash prizes and funding for their science programs at school.

Local Events: Christina’s program is localized to Michigan, but many other states offer events like it. If your state does not have an organization in place, scientists could simply reach out to their local schools and offer to speak with them for one class period. Teachers should also not be hesitant to reach out to professors at local colleges. Christina said, “Keep it simple! If you just make one contact at one school, it was worth the effort, because it will have an impact.”

Resources & Best Practices

The speakers provided several resources, including:

An overarching theme was to make your interactions as hands-on as possible. Christina says that when engaging with students, it should be “less about teaching and more about the interaction with science.” If students are given something physical to do, it’s more likely to stick with them.

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Michigan DNA Day’s scientists out in a high school classroom.(courtesy Ms. Valliantos)

Similarly, Maurice kept activities hands-on and interactive when developing a DNA Day program for the Omaha Zoo and Aquarium’s “Key to Diversity in Animals and People Festival,” a larger event that lasted a whole weekend.

Want to get involved or find more resources? Email ASHG at dnaday@ashg.org, NHGRI at dnaday@nih.gov, or Michigan DNA Day at midnaday@gmail.com.

Submissions for the ASHG DNA Day Essay Contest are due March 8, 2019! If you’re a member of ASHG and interested in getting involved in science engagement, sign up for the Genetics Engagement & Education Network or contact education@ashg.org.

Announcing: The Genetics Engagement & Education Network

Posted by: Alexis Norris, PhD, Member of ASHG Information & Education Committee

I’m pleased to share that the ASHG Information & Education (I&E) Committee has revamped the previous Genetic Education Outreach Network (GEON) program as the Genetics Engagement & Education Network. The purpose of this program is to create a network for ASHG members to engage and educate. Members of the network will receive a quarterly newsletter, have access to a toolkit of educational resources vetted by the I&E Committee, and have their name added to the Network directory. The directory can be used by ASHG members to find speakers and collaborators, and by the public to connect with members about human genetics-related questions. Questions often range from visiting a classroom, to hosting a field trip, to offering academic and schooling advice.

In our world of wide-reaching, fast paced, and bite-sized communication, we are faced with communicating our science to many audiences, from fellow scientists in our field to the lay public. It is challenging to share information in a way that it is both approachable and understandable. Engaging in education outreach can improve your science communication, through the experience of deconstructing complex concepts into their digestible parts, and identifying what sparks the audience’s interest.

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Hands-on activities using real world examples, such as this one on identifying fish species using DNA sequences collected in Atlantic Ocean, help students understand genetics and genomics concepts. (courtesy Dr. Norris)

The toolkit and newsletter will also give members access to new ideas about how to communicate and educate. ASHG members can enroll in the Network through the ASHG portal indicating their geographical region and outreach audiences of interest (e.g., high school, college, or general public).

For teachers, inviting an ASHG member to their classroom has immediate and clear benefits for their students. First, the activity can be timed to coincide with genetics lessons, thus reinforcing concepts and their applications. The ASHG member also provides a tangible example of a career path in genetics, and a potential resource and networking connection for the students.

Why I Find Genetics Outreach Rewarding and Impactful

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Students at Fort Hill High School in Allegheny County, MD, participate in an outreach activity. (courtesy Dr. Norris)

I got involved with genetics outreach during my graduate training. Over the last eight years of outreach in high schools across the state of Maryland, I have found that I have the biggest impact on students in rural regions that are far from research institutions, where the students have limited exposure and access to genetics research. At the ASHG Annual Meeting in San Diego last fall, I spent two days before the meeting in Ms. Heather Gastill’s biology classes at the local Mission Bay High School. I had the students identify fish by DNA sequences on paper slips, using real sequencing data from Thomsen et al. For thirty minutes, the students helped each other decode the 100 sequences, creating a barplot of the frequency of different fish species on the classroom whiteboard.

My favorite moment was when each class: (1) calculated the time it would have taken them to go identify the full dataset (millions of sequences), (2) laughed at the absurdity of how long it would take them, and then (3) was mesmerized by my slide that showed how I did it in a couple of hours on my laptop with just a few sentences of bioinformatics code. After each class, a few students would ask me how they can become a bioinformatician. That is why I love genetics outreach.

Ready to join the Genetics Engagement & Education Network? Learn more on the ASHG website.

Alexis Norris, PhD, joined the ASHG Information & Education (I&E) Committee during her postdoctoral training at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. She is currently a Bioinformatician at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).