Message from the President: A Golden Era for the Field and ASHG

By ASHG President Gail Jarvik, MD, PhD

Gail Jarvik, MD, PhD President-Elect
Gail Jarvik, MD, PhD

We are continuing to experience a golden age in the field of human genetics. Each day we are making advances in technologies that are ushering in exciting opportunities. These are exciting times. The role of genetics in the evolution and treatment of cancer is being recognized and this new knowledge is benefitting patients. Rapid genome sequencing allows earlier identification of the underlying disorder for neonates in an Intensive Care setting.

Researchers are using CRISPR, a gene-editing technology, to advance gene therapies. And as we have seen over the past year, rapid sequencing of viruses allowed the speedy development of messenger RNA (mRNA) derived vaccines to combat COVID-19 and allows the tracking of new variants. The advances keep coming and the public is learning about a multitude of ways that genetics and genomics impacts them in their day to day lives and our field continues to prosper as a result of this.

As members of ASHG, we are all also experiencing a period where more benefits are being offered than ever before. Take ASHG Connect, the Society’s new portal for members-only that allows geneticists to communicate directly and privately with peers within and across disciplines. This is an exciting opportunity to discover something new and create threads and discussion groups around journal articles, events, or simply to share research.

This is just one example of benefits that Society members enjoy year-round. In addition to the significant value members receive through our annual meeting and scientific journals, the Society serves the professional development needs of its members with a growing array of career development opportunities, including an online Career Fair. Scientists looking to take the next step in their career path can peruse ASHG’s Career Center for openings or participate in one of the many enriching webinars or podcasts held year-round. But even more important, ASHG is leading important discussions in our field around inclusion, equity, and diversity – not only does this increase the vitality of the organization, but it also enhances the societal relevance and impact of our research.

ASHG also serves as a strong and growing voice for its members in the advocacy arena by engaging with agencies such as NIH, legislative bodies, and the public. ASHG continued to expand these critical efforts through events like its first-ever Virtual Hill Day held back in April. Our advocates worked to communicate the importance of funding research by informing legislators and other policymakers about new scientific discoveries and developments in genetics and genomics and their implications for public policy, society, and continued scientific progress. In addition, we are so proud to support public awareness efforts through the development of our new website Discover Genetics, which will serve as a wonderful resource to educators from around the globe. This page is a curation of content created by ASHG and member-vetted resources from leaders in science education, such as the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) and PBS’ “The Gene” documentary.

In short, your ASHG membership benefits you and supports all aspects of the field’s efforts to understand genes and the science of our collective heredity. All this activity is designed by your peers, with dedicated volunteer members behind the decisions that guide the development of ASHG’s programs and events.

One of the most important benefits of ASHG membership is the Society’s ability to connect geneticists from all over the world. There is no greater example than the ASHG 2021 Virtual Meeting, where I look forward to “seeing” many of you from October 18-22.

There are many reasons to attend the ASHG 2021 Virtual Meeting, but I will offer a few items you may not have thought of when considering your attendance at this must attend event:

Share and Discover Research

Participate in live interactive scientific sessions, poster presentations, and more. I really enjoyed hearing from experts in a number of areas and listening to the questions asked from people at all stages of their careers. The benefit of attending the virtual meeting is the ability to watch concurrent sessions OnDemand so you don’t miss the latest in research across all disciplines represented. I especially enjoy attending sessions in areas that are not my expertise so I can continue to learn and understand all that is happening in our field. Although, I missed the in-person component, it was wonderful to gain access to cutting-edge research at my own pace over the course of one week.

Connect with Your Peers

Networking is critical at any meeting. The annual meeting has always been incredibly valuable for forming lifelong relationships and engaging with people. The meeting has been really important in different parts of my career and I have made connections with people who have provided support, and who have experienced the same struggles and successes over the years. The social component is incredibly important and although the meeting is virtual again this year, ASHG is hosting networking events throughout the event to help you connect and share ideas with your peers from around the world. In addition to improved chat and messaging features, video options will be available throughout the meeting for stimulating conversations and social events.

Opening Session, Lectures, and Awards

Some events are too good to miss! We’re bringing the in-person events you love right to your home office. More than at any time throughout my career, last year at the virtual meeting, I was able to watch a lot of the sessions and be a participant in the content being shared. I got to attend the meeting and learn about things I don’t know about and I really came away with a great deal of information and I enjoyed every minute of it. Join us for the exceptional talks planned for the Opening Day starting with the Presidential Address, abstract-driven plenary and platform sessions and exciting invited scientific sessions on broad array of topics.

The ASHG 2021 Virtual Meeting will also host a full day of poster programming and industry events showcasing the latest in technology solutions as well as OnDemand award lectures honoring you and your colleagues.

Even as we plan for this unique event, it’s worth observing how much ASHG offers to our field year- round and how committed ASHG’s Board of Directors is to doing even more in the years to come. I’d like to thank you for your membership and remind our field of the great value that you gain from ASHG and also what you enable through your membership. The sky is the limit, and we invite you to be part of what is most certainly a critical year for human genetics and genomics. Don’t forget to register now to attend the meeting and receive special rates if you do so by July 10!

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