Message from the President: ASHG 2021 Annual Meeting Continues to Evolve

By ASHG President Gail Jarvik, MD, PhD

ASHG President Gail Jarvik, MD, PhD
ASHG President Gail Jarvik, MD, PhD

One of the most challenging aspects of the pandemic has been the distance from our colleagues during a time when many of us have been eager to share our science and communicate it with each other. While this has been necessary, it has created a sense of isolation in an era when science has taken center stage and is increasingly on everyone’s radars. Restoring connection amongst the members of our community has been a driving force behind the conversations surrounding the ASHG 2021 Annual Meeting.

We look forward to participants engaging in vibrant conversations about their work, as well as opportunities to network with peers in their field and the meeting’s broader participants at this year’s Annual Meeting being held virtually starting October 12-14 with the Professional Development and Industry Forum and then ASHG 2021 officially kicks off, October 18-22 for all the Annual Meeting scientific content. The meeting will highlight the great strides made in our field in the face of the pandemic, showcasing advances in both basic science and clinical applications. With your registration, you can engage with every poster, panel, and lecture available at the meeting without the hassle of travel or lodging. A lab that might only be able to afford to send a single trainee in person can now perhaps afford to have several trainees present abstracts and participate in poster session discussions virtually. Highlighted below are just some of the exciting things that you’ll encounter at this year’s meeting.

About the Scientific Content and Posters

The meeting is organized around topical themes: Overall, this structure makes it easier to find and network with scientists of similar interests. You can join 6,500+ attendees from more than 80 countries who will all come together virtually to enjoy 16 plenary abstract talks, 198 platform abstract talks, 16 invited sessions, 80 rapid-fire poster talks selected from the top scoring posters and 2,000 dynamic poster presentations with a dedicated day on Monday, October 18 for author presentations. Personalized meeting content is recommended to attendees based on scientific interest and topical filters through our Online Planner.

In my Presidential Address, I will touch upon the importance of connections and inclusion and the Presidential Symposium will host a panel discussion on diversity, equity and inclusion in genetics and genomics where leading scientists will discuss how to promote equity in STEM, support scientists from historically underrepresented groups, and identify systemic changes that we can advocate for that will promote more diversity in the field of human genetics research.

About Networking, Engagement and You

The annual meeting will be hosted on a new platform designed for ease of use and social interaction. ASHG has worked to ensure that attendees experience a more intimate type of environment to feel relaxed and comfortable in, rather than being lost in a large virtual reception where you just sort of meander around. This is a very important part of our conference as it is where relationships often are built.

Throughout the meeting, you can enjoy chat channels during all sessions, where you will be able to compare notes on talks and presentations with others in real time. We’re also bringing back a feature the Society introduced in 2019 – Inspiration Lounges, where you can hear from speakers doing fascinating things in the field and sharing their experiences. And on Monday, October 18, there will be a special event entirely focused on posters, with five sessions offered with up to 350 authors providing talks on innovative science presented at the meeting. Also making a return from in person events of years past will be university receptions, awards receptions and industry networking events. All of these events are just a few of the ways we are making this year’s event feel and look a little bit more like the excellent annual meetings that you have come to expect from ASHG each year!

Pre-Meeting Content and Awards

Brand new this year is a new pre-meeting series focused on professional development and industry advances. Access to this special two-day forum, October 12-14 is free with your meeting registration. These special days are dedicated to accelerating your professional growth and providing the latest developments from industry thought leaders on a range of critical genetics topics and products.

ASHG’s 2021 scientific award honorees will each deliver special remarks available throughout the program the week of October 4-8. We will hear from C. Thomas Caskey, Emmanouil Dermitzakis, Neil Lamb, Wiley Burke, Sharon Terry, Alberto Santiago-Cornier, and Cristen J. Willer about their science now and where it is heading. In addition, ASHG 2021 will host the Gruber Genetics Prize Lecture from Stuart Orkin. All talks will also be available OnDemand through the meeting and post meeting.

We also want to acknowledge and celebrate ASHG’s Human Genetics Scholars Initiative winners. Eight scholars were selected this year and will receive complimentary Annual Meeting travel support and registration, a designated mentor, and $1,000 in enrichment funds for approved professional development activities of their choosing. Additionally, ASHG is pleased that 10 Developing Country Awardees will be able to attend the Annual Meeting at no cost. And 18 finalists will be selected to be awarded the Charles J. Epstein Trainee Award for Excellence in Human Genetics Research with each winning $250 prior to the meeting and six selected to receive $1,000 in prize money.

I am grateful to ASHG’s Board of Directors, our volunteer leaders, and staff who have overcome complex challenges to develop this year’s annual meeting connecting our worldwide community during an unprecedented pandemic. The Program Committee led by Chair Jeffrey Kidd has shown extraordinary commitment to hosting our second virtual meeting and creating a new and improved experience sharing innovative content.

Although I know many of us are longing to enjoy the excitement of attending the annual meeting in person, re-connecting with old friends, and meeting new colleagues, the complete virtual program of the ASHG 2021 Annual Meeting will most definitely be something not to miss this October.

I hope you will join us!

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