Executive Update: Mona Miller, Executive Director
Happy almost 2020! As we turn the corner on a new decade, Les Biesecker notes in his December column the many achievements the field and the Society realized this year. We enter 2020 with momentum — including ever faster discoveries, novel collaborations, and translational applications; new diversity and inclusion programs; broad interaction with the global research community; statements and conversations on topics like privacy, heritable genome editing, and the duty to recontact research participants; growing NIH funding advocacy; and expanding public engagement.
This is also a special time to express gratitude to those around us. At ASHG, we wish to recognize those who make the Society’s achievements possible:
We always start by thanking ASHG’s nearly 8,000 members worldwide – you are the drivers of scientific and medical progress and you power the Society’s global impact and reach. Thank you for your critical and life-saving scientific research and for your membership. Your energy and creativity are the source of all genetics and genomics progress.
We also give thanks to and celebrate the larger interconnected human genetics community of organizations. More than 70 years ago, ASHG founders recognized the power of connecting across the human genetics continuum, integrating and fostering basic research and medical translation across many fields and specialties. They sparked the Society, the world’s largest and broadest human genetics organization.
Today, ASHG is proud to continue that leadership role, and also honor and value strong relations with many peer organizations and dozens of specialty groups that have emerged over the decades. These include groups like ACMG and NSGC, key partners such as NHGRI, countless vibrant subspecialty societies, and many other funding institutes and agencies. We respect, encourage and need the important perspectives, expertise, and focused conversations all these groups contribute within the expanding genetics and genomics community. ASHG will continue to provide that unifying trans-disciplinary home for all these discussions through ASHG’s field-wide venues, including the ASHG annual meeting and our growing scientific journals, as well as an expanding array of year-round programming the Society seeks to build in coming years.
We also celebrate and thank ASHG leaders. It’s always a fine balance to support the field-driven energy of a group like ASHG members and also provide overarching leadership and direction-setting. As Gandhi said, “there goes my people – I must follow them, for I am their leader.” Seeking input and supporting the needs of members was a big part of the ASHG Board of Directors’ strategic planning journey this year, as was stepping back to look at the big picture and identify needs and opportunities for the broader field. To that end, ASHG’s new Strategic Plan sets the destinations we’ll strive to reach in coming years: envisioning a future in which people everywhere realize the benefits of human genetics and genomics research.
In 2020, the Society will look to the broader ASHG leadership – committee and task force members, as well as other volunteers – to help plan and begin the journeys. We are grateful for the many hundred ASHG volunteers who dedicate their time to ASHG programs and projects like volunteer service, annual meeting abstract review, and DNA Day.
Finally and importantly, I wish to celebrate and thank ASHG staff. Internally, we often say we must remember that ASHG volunteers have five or six other jobs before they get to their ASHG volunteer service – as researchers, clinicians, teachers, mentors, caregivers at home, and many more. These leaders, and the entire field, can feel confident that they are supported by a fantastic team of 24 professionals here at ASHG, who work full-time to help shape Society programs, plan activities, and guide implementation.
That dedicated staff team is working for you every day—passionate about the field’s success and potential and bringing our own diverse skills and talents to the table. Some of us are geneticists or other research professionals, but many of us are not. We are professionals in nonprofit management, meetings management, finance, digital learning, industry relations, advocacy, communications, and much more. Like you, we play roles as mentors, caregivers at home, volunteers, and more. Together, we are inspired every day to support your achievements and vision.
Years ago, I had the good fortune to work for U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski, who used to say, “Each one of us can make a difference, but together we can make change.” It is so true. It is a pleasure for our staff team to participate in these collective efforts for genetics and genomics research, and doing so is high among the things for which I’m grateful this holiday season.
Wishing you and yours a happy and restful season full of light and hope!
Mona V. Miller