Genomics Forum Blog

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A new year for the Forum and public health genomics

With the completion of another successful APHA meeting, we enter the third official year of the Genomics Forum. First and foremost, there are thanks in order. Jody Platt, now Past Chair, played an integral role in the birth of the Forum and led its expansion to a successful organization of more than 800 members. I was struck this year by the immense presence of genetics and genomics, where little existed as recently as four years ago. The difference is staggering. The challenge before us is to continue the Forum's growth, both in terms of membership and also in collaborations and idea generation.

Truly, we must ask the question, “what is public health genomics?” To answer this question, we need to be good listeners. We must listen to each other, to our colleagues in public health, and to the individuals, families and communities we serve. This will prove to be a year of decision-making for the public health genomics community. With major projects such as GAPPNet and GEDDI laying out paths before us, we must decide what our role will be. The first step must be to take an honest look at our strengths and the challenges before us.

We have many strengths in:
  • Early disease detection and diagnosis
  • Understanding relationships between genetics, lifestyle, and environment
  • Prevention and risk assessment
  • Integration of services

We also have many challenges, such as:
  • Health and risk communication
  • An unclear future of our workforce and competency
  • The relationship between the hype and reality of new technologies
  • Reimbursement and regulation
  • Access to services and disparities

What challenges do you face in your work? Your experience will help guide the direction of our forum and of our work for the year to come.

Monday, December 14, 2009


The Annual APHA meeting is one of my favorite times of year. It is by all accounts the time that – ready or not- we get to look back to see how far we’ve come, and aspire towards new goals for the future. While we are still a young, loosely-knit, organization with unmet goals, we’ve come a long way. We’ve grown exponentially, our program is unique among genetics and public health conferences bringing together diverse presentations, scholars, practitioners, and stakeholders, and we have a good time. Dean has recently posted two blogs to this site that adeptly speak to this looking ahead and looking behind that comes this time of year. Adding to that, whether you participated this year in person, by phone, or in spirit, Thank you.

On a personal note, I’d also like to thank you for providing me the opportunity to Chair this group for the past two years. I often get caught at the end of a Forum conference call saying that “This committee, or this type of call, or the people on the call, are my favorites...” While logically, this can never be (there can be only one favorite), it’s a true statement nonetheless. The Forum is (one of) my favorite(s) because of the members, because of you.

Another reason I’m so fond of the Genomics Forum is that it is a space to develop what an acquaintance of mine once called the ultimate skill in public health: The ability to speak with and to the head, the heart and the pocket. I believe the Forum membership does just that – From the head, we are deep in the knowledge and intricacies of genomics and public health having members who study and work in genetic epidemiology, behavioral sciences, genetics education, public health practice, nursing, and medicine (just to name a few).

And we know the language of the heart: Debbie Klein-Walker, a past-president of APHA, and supporter of the Forum as it was being officially reviewed by the APHA governing bodies, described APHA as a volunteer organization of many passions making it at once a vibrant and exciting place to be, as well as challenging waters to navigate. The Forum, happily, is one of those passionate groups adding vibrancy to the world’s largest and oldest public health professionals organization. Over the past two years I have heard from many of you about where your passions lie – in your concerns and hopes for what genomics and public health might do together, in your drive towards assuring genomics helps in eliminating health disparities, in a diverse and competent public health genomics workforce, in policy development that supports the vision of public health of healthy people in healthy communities.

And, thankfully, we are a group that has a commitment towards looking into our pockets to bring what we can to the table. Whether you have reviewed abstracts, led a working group or committee, sent an email to find out what exactly it is that we do, or are still hoping to find some time for the Forum later this year, it all contributes to where we are, and where we might end up at this time next year. And the year after that.

I’m looking forward to what our heads, our hearts, and our pockets come up with next.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Nicole Exe- the new Genomics Forum Secretary

Please help me welcome Nicole Exe to the Genomics Forum leadership team. Nicole Exe is the Secretary of the Genomics Forum. She is currently a research associate at the Center for Behavioral and Decision Sciences in Medicine (CBDSM) at the University of Michigan Health System. Her work focuses on how patients understand, react, and make decisions about their health care including genetic testing. She has a Master's in Public Health in Health Behavior and Health Education with a concentration in Public Health Genetics and a Bachelor's in Biology both from the University of Michigan. She has previously been an intern at Genetic Alliance, worked for the Center for Public Health and Community Genomics on the Midwest Genomics Forum, and also taught genetics through the University of Michigan biology department. Genetics has been a passion Nicole has been pursuing for many years.

Nicole's current work for CBDSM includes a project studying communication methods and decision making around genetic tests with veterans and their families.This research is one of the necessary steps to make genetic testing for common diseases in the general population a reality.

As the Secretary of the Genomics Forum Nicole’s will be responsible to assist committee chairs to schedule committee calls, send out call information, and take meeting minutes. If you have any questions about the Forum or related activities please feel free to contact Nicole at She can either answer your question or find someone who can.