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ASHG Launches Program to Increase Diversity in Genetics Research Workforce

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The American Society of Human Genetics has created the Human Genetics Scholars Initiative, a five-year program to support diversity in the human genetics and genomics research workforce.    

The initiative, funded in partnership with the National Human Genome Research Institute and population health-focused genetic testing firm Color, will provide two-year mentoring and skill-building experience for 40 US trainees and early-career scientists from underrepresented backgrounds. Details of the application process will be announced later this year.

The program will also host programs for 200 diverse young researchers and offer a forum for institutions to share best practices for recruiting and retaining a diverse research workforce. There will be year-round engagement events, webinars, and chats, as well as events at ASHG’s annual meeting. A smaller group of scholars will be able to compete for intensive mentoring, travel, and professional support.

"The tremendous value of diversity and genetic variation is an elemental tenet of human genetics, and inclusion is a core value of the [ASHG]," said President-Elect Anthony Wynshaw-Boris. "An inclusive workforce is a scientific imperative – ensuring diverse perspectives, connections, talents, and expertise will enrich the community and its work."

Historically, US and global genetic research databases have largely included individuals of European ancestry and lack diversity, which in turn excludes individuals from under-represented groups in studies that underlie available health interventions. A more diverse workforce in genetics research is a step toward addressing this long-standing problem.

"Effective programs to enhance diversity in genetics research are essential to close the health equity gap, ensuring we all benefit from cutting-edge science," Alicia Zhou, Color's VP of Research and Scientific Affairs, said in a statement. Color has joined as the first-year program partner.

The advisory group for the Human Genetics Scholars Initiative will be chaired by Cynthia Morton from Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital. NHGRI is a core founding partner and will provide advisory support.