About the series
This program is fourth in a series of four webinars that brings together educators and researchers for conversations about the ethical, legal, and social implications (ELSI) of genetics. The series is organized by the Personal Genetics Education Project in partnership with the Center for ELSI Resources & Analysis. To learn more, click here.
Beyond Mendel: Leading with Complexity when Teaching Human Genetics
Date: Thursday May 11, 6:00-7:30pm ET
Recording and resources from this program are available here: https://elsihub.org/video/exploring-complexity-biology-classroom-beyond-mendel-leading-complexity-when-teaching-human
Teaching Mendelian patterns of inheritance is a useful way to introduce basic genetic concepts in the classroom. However, this framework can be unhelpful or even misleading if students do not first appreciate that most, if not all, traits in living organisms result from interactions among genes, and between genes and their environments. Providing this full picture is particularly important in classroom discussions about human genetics. It is critical for instructors to avoid reinforcing or creating misconceptions about genetics and health. For example, the treatment of racial or ethnic group identity as representing discrete biological groups can hinder rather than advance impactful approaches for genomic medicine.
In this session, researchers Shawneequa Callier, JD, MA and Eimear Kenny, PhD will share insights to guide teaching about human genetics with a focus on complexity. Presenters will discuss ways scientists are trying to uncover and quantify the contributions of many genetic loci to common diseases, limitations to this type of approach, and current understandings of how genetic and environmental factors interact to produce health outcomes. This session will include examples of how even relatively simple, single-loci genetic variants (e.g., lactose tolerance, sickle cell anemia) can have a range of outcomes across diverse populations, a discussion of common frameworks used by geneticists (e.g., genome-wide association studies or polygenic risk scores) to link genetic variants with health outcomes, and an overview of how genetics intersects with social determinants of health.
Shawneequa Callier, J.D., M.A. Bioethics, is an Associate Professor with tenure in the Department of Clinical Research and Leadership at the George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS). For over a decade, she has also served as a Special Volunteer at the Center for Research on Genomics and Global Health at the National Human Genome Research Institute, NIH. Prior to joining the GW faculty, Professor Callier completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the Center for Genetic Research Ethics and Law, an interdisciplinary center for excellence funded by the National Human Genome Research Institute and located in the Bioethics Department of Case Western Reserve University’s School of Medicine. Earlier in her career, Professor Callier practiced healthcare law as an attorney in Washington, D.C. She also interned at the World Health Organization and the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, examining international health research ethics policies and human genetics laws and guidelines. For full bio, please click here.
Dr. Eimear Kenny, PhD, is a Professor of Medicine and Genetics, and the Founding Director of the Institute for Genomic Health. She leads research at the interface of genomics, medicine, and computer science. She uses data science and massive-scale databases of genomic information to improve human health. Her research spans several different areas, including population and statistical genetics; machine-learning approaches for genomic discovery for rare and common diseases; genomic risk prediction for preventive health; clinical trials in genomic medicine; and digital app development for precision medicine. Her goal is to lead a new paradigm for genomic research embedded in health systems and to enable genomic medicine on a global scale. She is a scientific advisor to many initiatives in government, non-profit and industry arenas.