Family History Lesson
The National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC) recognized numerous members of the Sarah Lawrence community at their annual awards ceremony in November. Six out of seven awards went to graduates of the Joan H. Marks Graduate Program in Human Genetics.
The winners are "passionate genetic counselors who have worked hard over the course of their careers to best help people affected by genetic disease," said Caroline Lieber, director of the human genetics graduate program. "They go above and beyond the job of the counselor."
Those recognized include Vickie Venne '78, Joan Scott '78, Lori Correia '95, Heather Hampel '95, and Deb Lochner Doyle '86, who won the Natalie Weissberger Paul Award. This honor is the highest award that can be granted by the NSGC.
In addition, the NSGC recognized two Sarah Lawrence graduates for outstanding abstracts. The Best Member Abstract award was granted to Susan Randall Armel '99 and the Beth Fine Best Student Abstract Award went to Vicki Lyus M.S.'06 for her project on the genetics of schizophrenia. Congratulations, all!
This Thanksgiving, after everyone gathers around the table, counts their blessings, and begins to eat, gently steer the conversation toward high cholesterol, recommends Dr. Alan Edward Guttmacher, the deputy director of the National Genome Research Institute.
Raising a few questions about relatives' recurrent health problems could reveal previously unrecognized patterns of genetically linked disease, he said at his lecture "Family History: The Key That Opens the Genome Era" last December. The lecture was sponsored by the Joan H. Marks Graduate Program in Human Genetics.
Guttmacher helped establish National Family History Day in 2004. Observed each Thanksgiving, it is part of a federal public health initiative to raise awareness about how advances in the understanding of heredity, combined with information on the health of one's family, can improve individual medical care.
Guttmacher, a graduate of Harvard Medical School, has been involved with genetic policy since 1999 and is a leading expert on integrating genomics into medical practice.
He spoke about the benefits of "My Family Health Portrait," a Web-based resource developed by the U.S. Public Health Service and the Department of Health and Human Services. On the site, you can create a personalized chart summarizing the illnesses suffered by parents, grandparents, and other blood relatives, which can be printed and brought to your next doctor's appointment.
When analyzed by a physician or genetic counselor, this portrait of family history can help predict whether you are at risk for a genetically linked illness. Once suspected, regular screenings and behavioral changes can increase the chances that a disease will be diagnosed early or even prevented. Think of it as clinical genealogy.
To learn more about My Family Health Portrait, visit familyhistory.hhs.gov.