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Curious about genetics?

You're invited: Public conference on human genetics on Feb. 29

Campus and Community

By Dr. Sevtap Savas

It is a leap year – we have one additional day to enjoy in 2020.

Why not make it a day of learning more about a subject that matters to all of us? Such as, human genetics.

From left are Gemma Giovannini, community partner; Derrick Bishop, patient participant; and Dr. Sevtap Savas, conference organizer.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

Our genetic foundation has a lot to do with our biological development, our physiological functions, wellness, and in some cases, sickness.

Successful human genetic studies have been going on at Memorial University for a long time. Hence, many of the citizens of this province have heard the terms genes, genetics and genetic diseases before.

Many people have also contributed to genetic research or received medical care based on their genetic characteristics.

But, what exactly do all these words mean, really?

Public conference

I have asked Newfoundlanders and Labradorians about their curiosity and information needs related to these topics.

Based on their feedback, I and other fellow experts have designed a full-day and interactive public conference.

“I believe such knowledge has saved my life.” — Derrick Bishop

If you are a general public member, this conference is for you.

The overall aim is to increase the interest and awareness about human genetics, genetic diseases and medical genetics so that the people of this province are informed when it comes to their health and their family’s health.

As a part of this conference, we have organized talks around the following four themes:

  • Genetic Research in Newfoundland and Labrador: What are some of the examples of genetic diseases that researchers study in the N.L. population and their implications for the affected individuals?
  • Clinical Genetic Services: What kind of medical and counselling services are available to the local families affected by genetic diseases?
  • Privacy- and Ethics-related Topics in Genetic Research and Clinical Genetic Services: What are the pros and cons of getting genetic information and undergoing genetic testing? What are the privacy and other points that need to be considered?
  • Patient stories: What is the importance of genetics in patients’ lives? What are their lived experiences when it comes to genetic research and clinical genetic services?

Speakers will include experts and patient representatives. There will also be multiple Q&A sessions to facilitate interactive exchange of thoughts and information between the speakers and attendees.

As Derrick Bishop, one of the patient speakers in this event, says: “It is of utmost importance to educate the general public about genetic issues. I believe such knowledge has saved my life.”

We are confident that we will contribute to this aim with this public event.

Free to all

This one-day event will be held on Saturday, Feb. 29, in the Faculty of Medicine, room 1M102, on Memorial’s St. John’s campus.

We invite all interested residents in St. John’s and vicinity to join us between 8:45 a.m.-6 p.m.; registration is online. The maximum number of participants is 100, so register soon to reserve your spot.

This is a free event; free parking as well as refreshments and a light lunch will be provided.

The conference will be live-tweeted on the @MUNMed Twitter account to increase accessibility.

We plan to organize this public conference annually. Over time, we would like to bring it to other parts of the province for wider community outreach.

Public engagement and community involvement

Members of the organizing team include myself, Dr. Sevtap Savas, and Drs. Jane Green, Lesley Turner, and Bridget Fernandez, Discipline of Genetics, Faculty of Medicine, Memorial University, and our valued community partner, Gemma Giovannini. Speakers include additional local geneticists, genetic counsellors, privacy and ethics experts and patients.

Public engagement and community involvement are among the notable characteristics of Memorial University. This conference is yet another example of how deeply we are connected with our community.

I gratefully acknowledge Ms. Giovannini and other community members who have provided insight and comments that helped organize the contents of this conference; Mr. Bishop and other patient representatives who will talk about their lived experiences related to genetics; and all public member attendees with whom we will exchange ideas and knowledge during this conference.

There are many unique characteristics of the Newfoundland and Labrador population. Let’s talk about this on a unique day itself – please join us on Saturday, Feb. 29.

The main sponsors of this conference are the Office of Public Engagement and the Faculty of Medicine, Memorial University.

If you have any questions or comments on this event, please contact Dr. Sevtap Savas via email or at 709-864-6507. For an updated schedule and other information, please visit here.

Free parking for attendees at area 30 (adjacent to Faculty of Medicine) and area 27/parking garage (levels two and three) between 8 a.m.-7 p.m. 


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