The Congressional Black Caucus and the Johns Hopkins
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
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
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