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National Genetics Coalition to Shut Down, ASHG to Maintain Information

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Coalition for Health Professional Education in Genetics (NCHPEG), an interdisciplinary group of leaders from a range of public and private organizations funded by the National Institutes of Health, will shut down next month due to funding constraints, according to the National Human Genome Research Institute.

The genetics and genomics education information that NCHPEG has compileds and made available via its website will be maintained by the American Society of Human Genetics, ASHG executive VP and former NCHPEG executive director Joseph McInerney said.

NCHPEG launched in 1996 after current NIH Director Francis Collins and Kathy Hudson, current NIH director for science, outreach, and policy, began talking with the American Medical Association and the American Nurses Association about the need for educating healthcare providers about genetics and genomics. Those discussions led to the creation of the group, which has been funded by NHGRI, the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, the NIH Office of Rare Diseases, and several other government agencies and non-profit foundations.

NCHPEG is slated to close down on Aug. 31. When the coalition began, there were few applications for genomics-related applications in healthcare that doctors encountered.

"A lot has changed since then," NCHPEG Executive Director Joan Scott said in a statement. "There are many more clinical applications of genomics available and a growing awareness within the healthcare provider community that they need to be thinking about incorporating them into practice. We see more institutions and organizations developing initiatives to bring genomics into the clinic."

The coalition's core aim has been to provide genetics and genomics professional education tools through partnerships with specific communities and collaborations.

To that end, it has developed a number of documents, products, and programs to provide core competencies and educational programs in genetics, genomics, and family history for healthcare professionals.

The group has developed special programs aimed at helping physicians recognize increased genetic risk for cancer, and helping nutritionists, physician's assistants, dentists, nurses, and others understand genetics and genomics.

McInerney said that ASHG will work over the next six months to determine whether the society wants to become more deeply involved in offering educational programs to healthcare providers.

"But we have to be thoughtful. NCHPEG is closing as a direct result of the current funding climate. We have to determine where our funding for education programs would come from if our board decides to take this on," he explained.

McInerney said that during his time at NCHPEG, the group distributed thousands of publications on genomics education.

"Our premise was that healthcare professionals want to be up-to-date on all areas of medicine. Many of them already felt like the field of genetics and genomics was snowballing and they wanted to be ready," he said.

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