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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University September 27, 2004 | Vol. 34 No. 5
African-American Leaders to Meet to Examine Issues in Race and Genetics

The Congressional Black Caucus and the Johns Hopkins University Genetics and Public Policy Center will host a meeting of African-American leaders on Monday, Oct. 4, to examine issues in race and genetics. The conference will take place from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Marriott at Metro Center in Washington, D.C.

Understanding the genetic basis of diseases that disproportionately affect the black community could lead to improved prevention, treatment and cures. Until now, the event's organizers say, there has been too little research to fully understand the role of biological and genetic differences in racial health disparities.

The meeting — titled "IMAGN! Increasing Minority Awareness of Genetics — Now!" — will address the current status of genetic medicine, future directions for genetics research and the potential uses, or misuses, of genetics outside the medical context.

U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus and a speaker at the conference, says, "The assignment of 'race' can be traced through American history as having a direct impact on the current health outcomes and health disparities confronting the black community. The prevalence of diseases such as hypertension and diabetes and the overall state of African-American health constitute a national crisis. It's time to discuss these issues very candidly."

The conference will bring together political, community, business, religious and opinion leaders to examine the challenging questions raised by advances in genetics and their impact on the black community.

U.S. Rep. Donna M. Christensen of the U.S. Virgin Islands, who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust, says, "This conference will be an important step in providing the necessary tools to assist the CBC and other leaders in the African-American community to discover just how advances in genetics can best be harnessed to help alleviate current health disparities." Christensen also will speak at the event.

Others who are scheduled to speak are Tony Brown, host of Tony Brown's Journal on PBS & PBS YOU; Aravinda Chakravarti, professor of medicine, Johns Hopkins; Francis Collins, director, National Human Genome Research Institute; Andre Davis, judge, U.S. District Court of Maryland; Georgia Dunston, professor of microbiology, Howard University; Troy Duster, professor of sociology, New York University; Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell, associate general secretary, National Council of the Churches of Christ; Patricia King, professor of law, medicine, ethics and public policy, Georgetown University; Charles Ogletree Jr., professor of law, Harvard University; Dorothy Roberts, professor of law, Northwestern University; Maya Rockeymoore, vice president, Congressional Black Caucus Foundation; and Carol Swain, professor of political science and law, Vanderbilt University.

The program is made possible by funding from the Pew Charitable Trusts, the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Energy.

The Genetics and Public Policy Center is a part of the Phoebe R. Berman Bioethics Institute at Johns Hopkins and is funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts. Its mission is to create the environment and tools needed by decision-makers in both the private and public sectors to carefully consider and respond to the challenges and opportunities that arise from scientific advances in genetics.

To attend the conference, register by Sept. 30 at


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