Advocacy Conference

The impact on society of our growing scientific knowledge about genetics is the subject of a one-day conference, “Advocacy & Genetics: Arenas of Engagement,” to be held at Sarah Lawrence College on March 31. This second annual Health Advocacy Conference is sponsored by the graduate programs in Health Advocacy and Human Genetics and the College’s Health, Science and Society faculty group, and will feature scientists and social scientists who are grappling with the consequences of advancements in the field of genetics.

”This conference is an opportunity for the public to meet with experts to learn about and discuss some of the most pressing issues that are emerging as genetics becomes relevant to all of our lives,” says Caroline Lieber, director of the Human Genetics Program at Sarah Lawrence College. “Genetic breakthroughs have had far-reaching implications for issues as diverse as: how we define race; genetic discrimination and privacy; genetic identity; and the role of the pharmaceutical industry in advocacy and entrepreneurship.”

Troy Duster, professor of sociology at New York University, will deliver the keynote address “Race and the New Genetics—Biotechnology, Biomarkers and Biomarketing.”

Participants—members of health professions and interested members of the general public—will discuss and debate critical questions including:

  • The role of public discourse in deciding how genetic information and technologies are used;
  • How the public gains access to scientific knowledge in order to engage in informed debate;
  • The connections between what science can teach us about genetics and what we do with that knowledge;
  • How the public can be protected from the risks associated with personal genetic knowledge, while at the same time benefiting from its potential;
  • The role of genetic screening and testing in forming identity, directing resources and interventions; and conducting population-based research and what are the threats to privacy and confidentiality posed by the proliferation of these practices?
  • What are the discrepancies between race as defined by genetic science and race as a social/cultural concept?
  • What does increasing reliance on genetic information and definitions mean for personal identity and family life?
  • What are the economic consequences of the ever-increasing influence of genetics?

“The history of eugenics has taught us that the consequences of genetic information and technologies are too important to be the exclusive province of scientists, politicians and industry,” said Marsha Hurst, director of the Health Advocacy Program whose mission is to educate professionals to advocate on behalf of patients and the public on health matters.

For registration and more information please call (914) 395 2371.