Confronting the Past – A Necessary Path to Equity

ASHG's recently launched new initiative is a critical first step

To chart a path toward an equitable future, ASHG’s Board of Directors considered and approved in April 2021 an updated Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force Action Plan that recognizes a key strategic focus area, which is to acknowledge and reckon with a history of past harms linked to racism, eugenics, or other systemic forms of injustice in the human genetics research field and the Society. This ambitious, yet necessary action demonstrates ASHG’s commitment to informing and untying ourselves of inequities rooted in the Society’s past.

ASHG recently announced the launch of the project, titled “Facing our History—Building an Equitable Future,” as a critical first step to understand and document a history of injustice as well as identify progress toward justice. The project will be undertaken by an expert panel of human geneticists, historians, clinician-scientists, social scientists, and equity scholars, who will review findings, convene dialogues, and produce a final report which will provide insights that can shape future field-wide priorities.

The Expert Panel’s composition is:


  • Neil Hanchard, MBBS, D.Phil, National Human Genome Research Institute, Clinical Investigator, Center for Precision Health Research; Head, Childhood Complex Disease Genomics Section (Group Facilitator serving ex-officio)
  • Katrina Claw, PhD, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Assistant Professor, Medicine-Bioinformatics
  • Tshaka Cunningham, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer, Polaris Genomics Inc.
  • Evelynn Hammonds, PhD, Harvard University, Chair, Department of the History of Science
  • Gail P. Jarvik, MD, PhD, University of Washington, Head and Professor, Division of Medical Genetics; Arno G. Motulsky Endowed Chair in Medicine; Joint Professor of Medicine and Genome Sciences (ex-officio)
  • Rick Kittles, PhD, City of Hope, Associate Director of Health Equities, Comprehensive Cancer Center; Professor and Director, Division of Health Equities, Department of Population Sciences
  • David L. Nelson, PhD, Baylor College of Medicine, Cullen Foundation Professor in Molecular Genetics
  • Robert Nussbaum, MD, Chief Scientific Officer, Invitae
  • Charmaine Royal, PhD, Duke University, Robert O. Keohane Professor of African & African American Studies, Biology, Global Health, and Family Medicine & Community Health
  • Timothy Thornton, PhD, University of Washington and Senior Director, Statistical Genetics and Machine Learning, Regeneron Genetics Center
  • Sarah Tishkoff, PhD, University of Pennsylvania, David and Lyn Silfen University Professor in Genetics and Biology, Director of the Penn Center for Global Genomics and Health Equity
  • Digna Velez Edwards, PhD, Vanderbilt University, Division Director Quantitative Sciences, Director, Women’s Health Research
  • Ambroise Wonkam, MD, PhD, University of Cape Town, professor of medical genetics, Director of GeneMAP (Genetic Medicine of African Populations), and immediate past Deputy Dean Research at the Faculty of Health Sciences

ASHG President Gail P. Jarvik, MD, PhD, affirms that “we must pledge to confront eugenics, racism, and other systemic inequities and its effects on the genetics and genomic community.” By undertaking this project, the Society will reckon with past harms and underscores its commitment to greater diversity, equity, and inclusion as a vital element of ASHG’s vision that people everywhere realize the benefits of human genetics and genomics research.

Updates on “Facing our History—Building an Equitable Future” will be provided on ASHG’s website and other communications channels. Opportunities for member engagement will be scheduled in 2022.

ASHG uses cookies to provide you with a secure and custom web experience. Privacy Policy