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Dr. Gail Jarvik
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March 3, 2023

Facing our History – Building an Equitable Future

Dr. Gail Jarvik was president of the American Society of Human Genetics in 2021 when the organization launched a year-long initiative to “understand and document experiences of past injustice, as progress toward justice, in human genetics research.”
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Diversity Faculty

The American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) apologized for the participation of some of its early leaders in the American eugenics movement, as well as the Society’s failure to consistently acknowledge and oppose harms and injustices tied to the field, including use of human genetics to feed racism, eugenics, and other systemic forms of discrimination.

The Society also pledged to strengthen diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives; better integrate equity principles in the study and use of human genetics in research and policy; and consistently oppose its unjust use.

The actions stem from a 27-page report: Facing Our History – Building an Equitable Future initiative. The report documents roles played, or support provided by early ASHG presidents and other leaders in eugenics programs and highlights times when the Society actively chose not to speak out when human genetics was used to advance racist ends.

Finally, it highlights moments in recent decades when the field pivoted toward greater inclusion and equity.

Dr. Gail Jarvik, professor and head (Medical Genetics) was president of ASHG when they launched this initiative. 

“I agreed to serve as an ex officio member of the (initiative’s) expert panel because of the project’s importance for the field of human genetics, my support for the Society’s broader diversity, equity and inclusion goals, and my own deep commitment to these efforts...” Jarvik stated. “Scientists have a responsibility to speak out against racist pseudoscience and to support anti-racism. Moreover, greater diversity and inclusion in the scientific workforce and in research participation is crucial to achieving ASHG’s vision that ‘People everywhere realize the benefits of human genetics and genomics research.’”