Reflecting on 2019: ASHG Highlights

Leslie Biesecker, MD, 2019 President
Leslie Biesecker, MD

As we approach the end of the year, I’ve spent some time reflecting on a productive and exciting 2019. ASHG has launched new programs like the Career Center, the Genetics Engagement & Education Network, the Human Genetics Scholars Initiative, and year-round digital programming. Each of these will strengthen and reinforce the value of the Society for both members and the larger scientific community. We held a successful Annual Meeting in Houston, full of intriguing new science, professional development events, and opportunities to connect with colleagues and collaborators from around the world.

For me, three moments and themes stood out:

Generating positivity around our field. In our newly released Strategic Plan and in many other settings, situations, and challenges, we made a point to put human genetics and genomics research into a positive frame. The research our members do is astounding and there is no higher priority as a society to trumpet that to anyone who will listen.

Developing professional conduct standards. Developing and introducing conduct standards as an addition to the Code of Ethics was a very challenging but essential shift to ensure that the Society functions as a secure and welcoming venue for every member and meeting attendee. Our strength is primarily centered on the research we do, and an important role for the Society is to facilitate communication and robust debate on the most challenging scientific questions, in an environment that is respectful and supportive.

Launching Human Genetics and Genomics Advances. The scientific publishing landscape becomes more challenging every year. The continuing prominence of AJHG is critical to the Society, and we have been more successful than I could have hoped in working with Cell Press to leverage the success of AJHG and your astounding scientific productivity to expand opportunities for you to publish in an open access Society journal. The vision for our new journal is extraordinarily creative and exciting, and you will soon be hearing from the recently selected founding editor regarding their plans.

As I turn over the mantle of the Presidency to Tony Wynshaw-Boris and President-elect to Gail Jarvik, I can rest easy knowing the Society is in good hands. Tony has great ideas about pushing ahead with making the Strategic Plan into a practical action plan, in close collaboration with the committees and executive director Mona Miller. He also has creative ideas about expanding the base of our partnership with the National Institutes of Health that will be of critical importance to our NIH-funded members.

As I described in my presidential address, every committee and Board duty I have undertaken with ASHG has been a joy. The presidency was no exception to that rule. There was a lot to do and as all of you know, none of us has free time. Thankfully, we have a great executive director and staff who can leverage the board, committees, and task forces to turn your ideas and priorities and our new Strategic Plan into a practical reality. Our field has enormous potential looking forward, and the Society will do everything we can to help you achieve that potential. Thank you for the opportunity to serve – it has been a joy.

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